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Biodiversity at the core of the interconnections of the food system

Promote human and economic development through a systemic investment in biodiversity seen as a powerful and strategic tool for development

Photo of Gabriel  Chaman
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Red de Agroindustria Rural del Perú

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Asociación Huarimarka

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Lima

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Peru

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

The province of Huari, in the region of Ancash Peru at 3200 metres above the sea level. The province has a total area of 2771,9 km^2

What country is your selected Place located in?

Peru

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Red de Agroindustrial Rural del Peru (Agroindustrial Rural Network of Perú) also known has REDAR was founded in 1994 by a young group of professionals who had the opportunity to spend their college years abroad to then come back to Peru eager to make a positive change in their society by bringing opportunities to rural people.

The NGO runs many different projects throughout Perú but it is especially devoted to the one in the province of Huari because of the emotional bond that links it to the place and the undervalued potential of its natural resources that is mainly due to the presence of Antamina,the 2nd largest copper mine in the world is found within the province’s jurisdiction. Apart from being a highly pollutant activity that uses up a lot of natural capital, the presence of the mine has focused all the interests and investments on this capital intensive activity, not providing a more widespread and democratic development that can be shared by all the people.

Since 2009 REDAR runs a Training Centre in what used to be an old hacienda that provides local high schoolers that most of the times live in precarious conditions and don’t have access to higher education with practical know-how that arises from the use of local biodiversity and the promotion of the traditional knowledge that for centuries has been associated with its use. The educational programme not only makes the students more aware of the importance of consuming biodiversity but it also provides useful skills than can help them to start their own little entrepreneurial activity in the food sector or to find a better job. 

Feeling the need to promote even more the development of the area and seeking its financial independence from international funds REDAR PERU was able to build a semi-industrial processing plant that was inaugurated in march 2019 and with which began a whole new chapter for the organization that now has to find its balance between the educational part and the commercial one. 

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The province of Huari is part of the Ancash region located in the Andes of Peru, less than 500 km away from the capital Lima. Though the not so long distance that separates it from the capital, due to the lack of infrastructure and the morphology of the land it takes between 10 and 13 hours to reach it. Because of its geographical isolation, like many other rural areas of Peru, the Huari province tends to be forgotten by policymakers, leading to a general underdevelopment that causes people to migrate. The Ancash region is the 3rd at the national level for number of people who permanently leave their hometown, and the population of Huari has decreased by 0.6% in the 2007-2015 period (INEI, 2018). 

As far as climate there are only two seasons, dry season and rainy season both becoming really abrupt and harsh in the past couple of years due to climate change, that poses challenges to the crops and to food security, that need to find ways to be managed in a more efficient way.  One of the possible solutions being the use of undervalued local varieties that better adapt to the physical conditions of the land. 

In the area monetary and extreme poverty are above the national average, with 35% of the population being monetary poor and 7.9% living in conditions of extreme poverty (CEPLAN, 2017). 

Even though for some people that live in Huari agriculture is not the first source of income the majority of them do own some land where they grow food for the family and where they can keep a bond with the land and nature. This is a really important data, in fact, family farming undoubtedly contributes to a large extent to world’s food supply. Out of 570 million farms in the world, about 500 are family owned (FAO, 2014). This means that the agricultural activities are reliant mostly on family labour, where the family and the farm are linked, and combine economic, environmental, social and cultural functions (FAO, 2014). This is particularly true for the peruvian case where 70% of the agricultural holdings are in between 3-5 ha (FAO, 2014). 

Around 30% of the population speaks quechua as a first language, that is the old Inka’s language that is nowadays an intangible heritage, whose importance needs to be acknowledged and passed on to new generations in order to keep the ancient tradition alive.

Huari is also the place that gave birth to the millennial Chavin de Huantar Kingdom, one of the first populations to be found in Peru, considered as the starting point of the peruvian andean culture. For this reason, even though nowadays Huari is going through a though period its people are really proud of their origins and they really hope that in the future there will be a chance of living a decent life there without having to be forced to migrate. 

As far as cultural trends most of the traditional culinary preparations are linked to holidays and festivities. When asked people in Huari are still really passionate about their traditions, you can see it from the light in their eyes, they just need to be pushed to stand out and not being ashamed of their past nor their traditional know how. In the other hand that’s exactly where lies their potential for development.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

63100

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Peru is characterized by a high vulnerability to natural hazards with 7 out of 9 of the characteristics that make it prone to natural related disasters (WB, 2017). The consequences of climate change will exacerbate even more these phenomena with real GDP losses by 2030 in between 5.7 and 6.8 percent and 20-23% by 2050 (WB, 2017), with the area of Huari being among the ones that are most prone and exposed to severe consequences in terms of food security (WFP, 2017). 

It is estimated that around 27% of the population works in the primary sector (WB, 2019). Nevertheless, policy makers don’t see family farming and agricultural activity in general as a productive and worth investing sector. Thus said most of the times it is left out, ignoring its potential and its key role in feeding people. Situation that is made even worse by the fact that the province of Huari is located near one major mine that on one side is an important driver for employment but on the other has a limited life span estimated to be at the latest 2036. 

Referring specifically to the case of Huari the semi-industrial processing plant promoted by REDAR and Asociación Huarimarka is so far the first and only attempt that promotes innovation in the area, which has suffered from a general lack of investment, so that farming still is mainly at the subsistence level and it’s not seen as a potential source of income. This lack of attention and investment caused the percentage of people employed in the sector to drop down, with an increase in the rural-urban migration, mainly of heads of household or young male that leave their rural communities in search of better opportunities in the cities. This causes women to be left alone, providing for the whole family while also having to work in the fields. Furthermore because of their lack of professional skills these people most of the times aren’t able to find a good job that can really improve the family’s income.

Coming now to cultural aspects traditional know-how related to farming practices is undervalued and it is no longer passed on to new generations due to the fact that it is considered of minor importance. At the same time people are starting to change their lifestyle to one that is more similar to the western one, traditional culinary preparations and local biodiversity is often replaced by processed or staple food, high in energy but low in essential micronutrients content. Thus losing the connection with nature that for centuries has been essential to ensure stability and use of resources that prevents environment degradation and promotes its conservation.

From a nutritional point of view this relates to the so called triple burden of malnutrition where chronic malnutrition coexists with nutritional anemia and obesity. Referring specifically to Huari 24.7% of children under age of 5 are chronically malnourished, 45.4% suffer from nutritional anemia (Gobierno de Ancash, 2019) and 14.8% are obese (WFP, 2017). If we do not face the present challenges with a consistent and systemic investment that goes well beyond the simplistic economic aspect by 2050 the province of Huari will most likely still be underdeveloped if not abandoned. 

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

From an environmental point of view our aim is to improve the resilience of the mountain ecosystem that together with its  biodiversity play an important role in providing resources and ecosystem services that are vital for people. We’re doing so by promoting the cultivation and consumption of local varieties of foods, especially fruit that are underused. These are very important from an environmental point of view because they easily adapt to the land and respond to changes in climate while growing without the need of external factors. They are also essential from a health point of view because they are highly nutritional especially in content of vitamin C that can enhance the absorption of iron thus contrasting anemia. 

From a nutritional point of view the transformation of local products and the consumption during the trainings  is raising awareness among people about the importance of consuming locally-sourced and traditional foods that are little by little getting rid of their lower/poor people status and that can help reduce malnourishment related problems by better balancing the energetical intake with the nutritional one. 

Culture is another key factor in our vision because the conservation and use of local agrobiodiversity comes with the enhancement of local knowledge, practices and culture because it is the human activity of agriculture that shapes and conserves this biodiversity. Local knowledge and culture are integral parts of agrobiodiversity management. In fact, many components of agrobiodiversity would not survive without this human interference that throughout the centuries has undergone a joint development and evolution. 

As far as economics we are determined to improve people’s income in three different ways. By educating young generations in the training centre to gain practical and theoretical skills that they can later employ to aim for a better job. By sourcing locally the raw materials for production we pay farmers a price that is above the market’s average. By employing local people both in the training centre and the processing plant we give them a decent and formal job with full benefits. 

Our goal for the future is to expand and differentiate the production and create a micro-cluster of rural innovative enterprises that rely on the best type of technology that fits their needs and the environment and that can promote rural inclusive transformation through the development of the non-agricultural sector. Field that has been identified by the FAO (FAO, 2017), as one of the best investment in the rural areas because it is labour intensive and is a source of demand of agricultural products that can be sold with an added value.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Overall Peru is now considered an emerging economy whose goal is to be an high income country within the next 20 years. Though, we’re very concerned about this statement, because what might happen in the future is that social differences might increase even more creating a situation where a relatively small amount of the population owns a lot of money, while the remaining part will still struggle to earn a decent living. Furthermore the development process needs to reach all parts of the country and not just the capital which already suffers from problems such as congestion, pollution, criminality and food security, due to the presence of over 10 million inhabitants. 

Thanks to our vision we provide a solution of viable local development that sees its propulsion in the promotion of a sustainable food system that not only consumes local foods, but also encourages a way of doing farming that is more eco-friendly and the generation of income starting from a different range of activities related to the food system.

The lives of people will be different because thanks most of all to the effort put into the educational programme individuals not only will have skills that are in line with the specific needs of the place, but will also understand that they have the right to stay in their hometowns living a decent life. 

The acknowledgment of their right to stay comes with cultural pride regarding practical know-how related to farming, food practices and culinary preparations that will be taken into account, promoted and adopted by all people as a way of remarking the beauty of differences and biodiversity and their potential to promote a type of development that is intrinsic to the ecosystem and that belongs to all people. 

The place will reflect this human development being an example of how a rural area can be productive and self sustain itself and its population in a way that doesn’t hurt the environment that is therefore valued and seen as a vital ally in the process.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

As REDAR, we truly believe that an holistic investment in biodiversity, that is not seen just as a biological concept, but turns into a tool for development, we can face the challenges that nowadays the province of Huari has to deal with and we can make a positive change that creates awareness, it makes the food system more sustainable and at the same time improves people’ lives.

Seeing biodiversity from a systemic point recognizes the importance of relationships that can arise between different actors that operate directly or indirectly in our system as an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves a common goal. 

Specifically our vision aims to be as democratic and inclusive as possible embracing the three main phases of the food chain: production, transformation and consumption with some common characteristics: 

- Circularity which comes from observing how natural system works. It is the property of one system to be able to maximize the use of all the components on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems;

- Sustainability which is strictly related to circularity by promoting a system that can self sustain itself, knowing its limits by making sure that current use of resources doesn’t alter future biological balance and opportunities for generations to come; 

- Raising awareness among beneficiaries through a constant investment in education, the main channel through which we can contribute to create a better society where people can actively take part in the decision making regarding their lives, and the wellbeing of both people and the planet.

- Biodiversity implied in different ways at the different stages of the process.

As far as production, we are picturing a future where all of the farmers in the Huari province will understand the importance of sustainable regenerative agricultural practices as a way to feed themselves while taking care of the environment. Specifically we plan on adding to our educational activities a course in agroecology. We see agroecology as a powerful tool able to provide viable pathways to the future needs of agriculture while guiding the transition to sustainable food and agricultural systems. Our course in agroecology will be extremely participative and interactive because we believe that the best solutions arise from bottom-up and territorial approaches where academic/technical knowledge combines with local/traditional knowledge of producers to co-create and shape the future we want. To get more into details agroecology relies on the simultaneous growth of different type of biodiverse crops that cooperate one with the other through a complex set of mechanisms of autoregulation that can ensure the stability and the resilience of the system, improving at the same time environmental wellness.

Producers will not only adopt more sustainable agriculture practices that can provide healthy food for the whole family, but will also be able to become suppliers of the processing plant selling their products at a fair price and thus having a monetary incentive to keep on producing. 

As far as transformation our goal is to create a cooperative that can incorporate different producers, small local enterprises, young graduates of the training centre and all the different stakeholders that can somehow contribute to the creation of a local industrial micro-cluster that can foster innovation and economic development. To do so the processing plant will need to grow, acquire new machineries and equipment that will able to satisfy the needs of the different members that will have access to the plant in order to develop their products thanks to the supervision of one of the experts of REDAR. All new products will go through a incubating phase during which people are asked to participate actively, sharing their opinions, new ideas and ways to improve it. The new products could then be sold in the local markets with an added value demonstrating that there’s a high productive potential in the area that arises from the use of local biodiversity. The micro-cluster will represent a productive and local alternative to working in the mine Antamina, hoping to be able to absorb at least part of its workforce once its concession expires.

As far as the last stage of the food chain we will start a course of traditional gastronomy whose primary participants will be women and mothers, those actors that feed the world by growing and transforming food, thus ensuring food security and also the conservation and reproduction of biodiversity. Despite of their fundamental role in the society women are most times left out, living in vulnerable conditions, working many hours in the fields without being paid and in general living their lives based on the will of the husband. That is why the side goal of the course is to empower them, provide them with leadership skills that can help them making their own decisions, standing up for themselves. Because by investing in women we’re actually investing in the whole community, with positive benefits also to kids, their health, their nutrition and their chances to living a success life. The idea of adding a course in traditional gastronomy comes from the observation of the changes in lifestyle that the province of Huari in undergoing. Due to the spread of globalization western and urban habits reached the rural remote communities, together with highly-processed and standardized foods that are replacing traditional preparation with negative consequences for people’s health, small scale agro-activities and also to the sense of belonging to the community. What we’re hoping to see as a result of the classes is the adoption of sustainable diets by all people, which respect biodiversity and ecosystems, are in line with the specific cultural habits, they’re fair and accessible from an economic point of view, are a good source of nutritional-intake and they optimize the use of natural resources. To achieve all of the things listed above we’ll go through three main steps: nutrition education, circular cooking and waste free practices and promotion of traditional culinary dishes. 

Thanks to our systemic investment in biodiversity we will be able to pursue multiple objectives at the same time, whose ultimate goal is to improve the sustainability and the resilience of the food system thanks to the cooperation of multiple stakeholders. 

The above mentioned objectives are: 

- To accomplish the right to life that can only be accomplished within healthy ecosystems that can ensure the prosperity of humankind through the provision of food. Through ecosystem services biodiversity sustains the web of life. While thanks to its diversity it represents the source of the evolutionary potential and the resilience of the system as a whole;

- To let communities the power to make decisions regarding what type of crops and what type of food best fit their needs in a way that doesn’t hurt the environment and the surrounding ecosystems while also being coherent with socio-cultural traditions. This will lead to the possible achievement of both food security and food sovereignty;

- In order to achieve food security and food sovereignty agriculture needs to be re-addressed towards regenerative practises that grow different local varieties depending on the seasonality and at the same time respecting the natural rhythms of the Earth. Regenerative agricultural practices such as agroecology can contribute in making the system more resilient to climate change in two different ways. By not depending on high levels of external chemical inputs they do not alternate the natural execution of ecosystem services thus mitigating it. And thanks to their intrinsic diversity and due to the fact that they have co-evolved through time together with the environment they are more flexible and can adapt easier to changes. 

- The adoption of healthier and more sustainable diets that rely on the availability of nutritious and diverse foods that can ensure them the needed daily nutritional-intake thus contributing to human health without damaging the environment. 

- The fact  the biodiverse food is simultaneously nourishment for the bodies and for the brains of all those people that throughout centuries have been able to create a resilient environment that can reiterate itself thanks to agrodiversity. There’s a huge need to keep on doing so, passing on the traditional knowledge and all the socio-cultural strategies that have enabled people to take out the resources they needed without undermining the possibilities of the generations to come. 

Thanks to our systemic investment in biodiversity and the promotion of a sustainable food system we will be able to reach other major goals such as: reduction of migration due to the local availability of decent jobs, innovation thanks to the micro-cluster, economic development through the creation of new opportunities starting from the promotion of what is already available, empowerment of the community and especially of women and education to sustainability that will raise awareness and create a new mindset regarding the urgent need to switch to a more sustainable lifestyle where each person is a key actor and fundamental interconnection that can start and promote a change.  

In the past years the passionate work of REDAR and Asociación Huarimarka have impulsed great changes, the processing plant being the last achievement that proves the viability of productive activities in the area. Activities that now need one more last help from the outside before they can be self-sufficient, demonstrating how rural development can arise from the inside of the community, from the redemption of local biodiversity and local traditional knowledge that can work together to create human, environmental, cultural and economic welfare based on the specific needs of the area.

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ElCentrodeCapacitacinenAgronegociosparaJvenesRurales.mp4

Video that shows the work done in the Training Centre for young rural people managed by the organization REDAR

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