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Traditional Knowledge
Traditional Farming
Andean farmers harvest potatoes on their chacra, or family farm.
Andean farmers harvest potatoes on their chacra, or family farm.
Photo by Enrique Castro Mendívil, courtesy of PROMPERÚ

In the Andean foothills of Ayacucho, farmers cultivate potatoes, quinoa, fava beans, corn, wheat, and barley in their chacras (fields) for subsistence and the local market. They also raise guinea pigs, cattle, sheep, and pigs. Families maintain craft traditions such as pottery, weaving, and woodcarving to produce items for home use and for sale.

Domesticated in Peru approximately 6,000 years ago, quinoa has long been an essential part of the Andean diet. The Inkas called it “the tears of the sun.” During the early colonial era, the Spanish discouraged quinoa consumption, introducing instead European wheat. Today, quinoa has been rediscovered as a marketable organic product, though its popularity in the United States and Europe makes it unaffordable for most Peruvian families.

The Servicios Educativos Promoción y Apoyo Rural (SEPAR) launched the project Jóvenes Emprendedores de Huamanguilla to take advantage of these market opportunities and empower young farmers from the Huamanguilla region in an effort to attain organic certification for quinoa exports.

While young farmers Rene Quispe, Ana María Berrocal, “Johncito” Sayas, and “Sandra” Gálvez learn new skills for growing and marketing quinoa, they use traditional farming practices for subsistence crops. For example, they plant complementary crops together—corn or peas with fava beans and potatoes with quinoa—on terraces in the foothills.

Beyond Farming

Many farmers are also storytellers, woodworkers, potters, and weavers in their spare time. They make utilitarian crafts for the home and to sell at local markets. Many are talented musicians and dancers who contribute to community agricultural ceremonies and traditional festivities.

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