By 2035, Lima will be a regenerative and nourishing food oasis, as green as the Lima discovered by Francisco Pizarro 500 years earlier.
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Grupo Alimenta & International Potato Center
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Large company (over 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.
Soroush Parsa, Lead Innovation Scientist, CIP, a CGIAR Research Center, Stakeholder type: NGO, Scientist, Food Innovator, Policy Maker (https://www.linkedin.com/in/sxparsa/) | Vasco Masias, President, Grupo Alimenta, Stakeholder type: Food Innovator, Producer, Processor, Investor (https://www.linkedin.com/in/vascomasias/) |Gonzalo Villaran, Resident Advisor, Able, Stakeholder type:, Policy Maker, Food Innovator (https://www.linkedin.com/in/gonzalovillaran/) |Da Sanchez, Community Manager, Domestika, Stakeholder type: Cultural influencer (https://www.linkedin.com/in/dasanchezsuarez/) | Henry Juarez, GIS & Systems and Data Management Officer, CIP, a CGIAR Research Center, Stakeholder type: NGO, Scientist (https://www.linkedin.com/in/henryjuarezsoto/)
This “Core Team” also produced a Food Systems Vision Global Event convening 39 stakeholders representing Academia, NGO, Food Innovators, Large Food Corporates, Investors, Policy-Makers, Producers, Waste Recoverers and Chefs.
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
Metropolitan Lima, covers an area of 2,819 km².
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
Escaping religious persecution in his native Iran, Soroush moved to Peru at the age of three, settling in a desert city four hours south of Lima. As a life-long immigrant, he relates to the challenges faced by the millions of people who came to the Peruvian capital with dreams of a better life.
Vasco’s family has lived in Lima for 17 generations, a claim reserved for only a handful of families in this vast megacity. He is one of Peru’s best known food innovators, and the foremost national ambassador of the zero hunger SDG.
Gonzalo is a fourth generation Limeño. Growing up in Lima during the 80s, in the face of hyperinflation, electric outages, food and water scarcity motivated him to pursue a career in public policy. He’s recognized as one of the chief catalysts of Peru’s budding innovation ecosystem.
Also from Lima and the youngest among us is Daniela (“Da”), one of the most familiar faces in Lima’s creative community. She was the co-Founder of Domingo, a creative lab that transformed one of Lima’s most iconic movie theaters into a third place bringing people together through art and culture.
Native from the Andes, Henry moved to Lima in the 1980s in search of opportunities in the face of a 3,000% hyperinflation in Peru. His research demonstrated that Lima’s major source of water, the Rimac River, was highly contaminated. This motivated him to implement a simple, low-cost way of improving water quality at the household level helping more than 12,000 poor Lima residents access safe water.
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.
Set in the northernmost tip of the Atacama Desert, Lima is the driest megacity on Earth. With only 6.4 mm of annual rainfall, this coastal city is four times drier than Cairo. Human life in this otherwise inhospitable environment is made possible by three seasonal rivers born in the Andean highlands, more than 200 km away. The Rimac, the largest of these rivers, flows at a rate of 29 cubic meters per second, roughly 1% the flow of Cairo’s mighty Nile.
Despite its notorious dryness, Lima has been continuously occupied for over 7,000 years, and served as home to the first civilization of the Americas, the Norte Chico peoples. The unrivaled productivity of its marine ecosystem, much in contrast to the barrenness of its lands, provided the impetus for early settlements. The arrival of agriculture from nearby centers of domestication in the Andes and Amazon diversified and boosted food supplies, enabling the evolution of more complex societies. These pre-Columbian civilizations progressively transformed much of Lima’s desert into a fertile valley watered through a sophisticated system of irrigation channels. By the time of the Spanish conquest, Lima had become a human-made oasis with more than 23,000 hectares of irrigated farmland. Its 225,000 inhabitants thrived on an unparallel diversity of wild and domesticated food species from both the sea and the land. This highly-developed coastal metropolis captured the imagination of Francisco Pizarro, who founded the city of Lima on January of 1535, choosing it as his home. Lima was to become the jewel of the Spanish Empire, capital of its most extensive Viceroyalty.
For four centuries since its Spanish foundation, Lima’s population grew at a modest rate of less than 1,000 people per year. Beginning in the 1940s, the arrival of millions of indigenous farmers escaping rural poverty in the Andes multiplied Lima’s population 18 times over to reach 10 million people shortly after the turn of the century. Over this same time period, squatter settlements expanded Lima’s urban area by more than12-fold, covering over 50,000 hectares of land and claiming most of Lima’s millennial farmland, in addition to its hills. In less than a century, Lima’s famed green landscapes receded to give rise to an interminable horizon of desert slums which today house nearly 40% of its population. Tragically, Lima’s informal new settlers are no others than the cultural descendants of the most advanced indigenous society of the new world, the Incas.
The Lima of today is a place of startling inequality. Nearly 1.5 million of its residents lack access to running water. They depend on private water trucks that can charge them up to 20 times what affluent neighborhoods pay for their city water. At the same time, Lima’s wealthiest residents use a daily average of 448 liters of water per person, 4.5 times the maximum amount recommended by the World Health Organization, and 29 times the consumption of Lima’s poorest residents. A monumental symbol of Lima’s inequality is a 10 km “Wall of Shame,” a herculean barrier separating its wealthiest neighborhood from some of its poorest new settlers.
What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
For millions of settlers of Lima’s desert slums their present environment in many ways resembles an image of a futuristic sci-fi dystopia. Studies of subjective wellbeing rank Peruvians as one of the unhappiest people in Latin America, mainly driven by the conditions of life of Lima’s urban poor. Distant from the city’s economic center, hampered by the third worst traffic congestion in the world, it is common for them to spend up to four hours a day in commute to derive their livelihood from Lima’s vast informal economy. A typical household from these settlements earns $600 per month. Food is its single largest expenditure, accounting for 50% of living costs. If delivered by truck, water will be its second largest bill, accounting for an additional 18% of expenditures. Under these fragile living circumstances, a health crisis for any of the household’s members will push the entire family further into poverty and nutritional insecurity. The implications are particularly serious for Lima’s children, 36% of whom suffer from iron deficiency anemia.
Given the millions of people living in its desert slums, it is hardly surprising that the quality of life in Lima ranks as one of the worse in the world. Two independent analyses of global city health placed Lima at the bottom of their rankings (on spots 92/100 and 78/89) based on a comprehensive suite of indicators that included life expectancy at birth, adult obesity, the quality of its air and water, and the availability of public green space. To elaborate on the last of these indicators, Lima has 3,100 hectares of green space, mostly concentrated in its wealthier neighborhoods. But even if evenly distributed, this area corresponds to roughly a third of the 9 square meters per person recommended by the World Health Organization. Still, municipal authorities deploy over one billion liters of potable water per month to keep Lima’s parks green, equivalent to the water used by its poorest 2 million residents over the same period. Given Lima’s notorious water deficit, access to green areas is a rare luxury aspired by the great majority of its residents, but most acutely by the poor.
Despite contributing only 0.4% of the world’s greenhouse gases, Peru is expected to be the third-worst affected country by climate change, after Honduras and Bangladesh. This extreme climate vulnerability is due to the concentration Peruvians along the desert coast; especially in Lima, home to a third of the county’s population. Human existence in this fragile ecosystem would be impossible without rain and glacier meltwater from the Andes. But Peru’s glaciers have already lost an average of 40% of their volume since the 1970s. Volume loss for the glacier at the Rimac’s headwaters is 65%. Once Andean glaciers disappear, dry-season streamflow to the Peruvian coast is expected to fall by 30%, a catastrophic outlook for millions of Peruvians.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Without universal access to clean water for drinking, for preparing food, and for personal hygiene to keep food safe; no food system can be healthy. Our vision for Lima’s fragile desert environment thus rests on a foundation of securing climate-resilient running water for all. But given their acute vulnerability, we emphasize the goal of bringing holistic wellbeing to the millions of people populating Lima's desert slums.
Making the price of water progressive: According to the WHO, a person needs 50 to 100 liters of water per day to meet all her basic needs. Lima’s average per capita consumption rate is 250 liters per day, but can reach up to 448 liters per day. We thus call for a policy establishing a premium charge for city water consumed in excess of basic needs, discouraging its wasteful use, and generating municipal revenue to bring running water to Lima’s most marginal settlements.
Harvesting water from lomas: The cold waters of the Humboldt Current create a thermal inversion trapping evaporated ocean water into a dense fog, with droplets too fine to form rain. This phenomenon explains why Lima is a desert. The fog travels inland until it reaches the foothills of the Andes, where droplets condense into drizzle and mist, giving rise to a unique ecosystem of fog oases, which we know as “lomas.” Informal settlers near these areas have demonstrated the feasibility to harvest water from fog using nets elevated into the air, each of which can yield up to 600 liters of water per day. Inspired by their frugal proof of concept, we call for a global prize competition to enable a technological breakthrough optimizing fog harvest from lomas. Despite significant urban-led deforestation, this ecosystem occupies 13,746 hectares of land today. If properly reengineered, lomas hold an extraordinary potential to make Lima both water-resilient and green.
Harnessing synergies between architecture and agriculture: At the heart of our vision is the design of an innovative housing model tailored to the needs and talents of Lima’s informal settlers. We envision houses that symbiotically integrate architecture and agriculture, unlocking synergistic benefits to its dwellers and the environment. This strategy brings into value the unique skills of Lima’s poorest newcomers, most of whom are self-builders and have a background in farming. It also leverages the talent of Lima’s architects, who are globally-recognized for their mastery of contemporary earthen architecture. Using digital modeling software, we demonstrated the potential of a desert house of 100 squared meters to yield abundant produce and animal protein for a family of six. An innovative element of its design is the integration of crop and animal agriculture in small spaces, afforded by the deployment of Andean guinea pigs. This livestock requires very little space and can upcycle yard trimmings, food scraps and food waste to yield a nutritious meat that is highly appreciated by Peruvians.
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.
The year 2035 marks the 500 anniversary of Lima’s Spanish foundation. Given its cultural significance, we adopted it to set a goal nothing short of a moonshot: By 2035, Lima will be a regenerative, nourishing and inclusive food oasis, as green as the Lima discovered by Francisco Pizarro 500 years earlier. We were initially daunted by this grand challenge: how might we reach this vision in the face of unbounded urban sprawl, severe inequality, acute water insecurity, and extreme climate vulnerability, for a population 48 times larger than that of 1535? After no less than 400 hours of research and consultations, informed by over 150 stakeholder interviews, we are gaining confidence our vision falls within reach.
By 2035, Lima will demolish the walls that today separate its richest and poorest children. The crumbling of the “Wall of Shame” will foreshadow the end of Lima’s water and food inequality. On top of the hill where the wall stands today will be the city’s crown jewel, an urban park spanning 1,350 hectares of restored lomas -four times the size of New York’s Central Park. At least ten hectares of land will be set aside for a community learning center, a living laboratory that connects people to food, the land, and each other. The center will feature community gardens and five model homes that exemplify a new standard of desert-living for Lima’s informal settlers, one that integrates earthen architecture and urban agriculture in beautiful harmony. Visitors of this community center will also learn about breakthrough technology spurred by a global competition to maximize water harvest from fog. With the help of this technology, lomas will become the second most important source of water for Lima, after the Rimac river. A 10-km aereal cablecar will bring the park within minutes reach from Lima’s metro system, offering the best panoramic view of the city’s growing rooftop farms, all while slashing commute times for tens of thousands of people living downhill.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
The future we envision for Lima is one of a regenerative, nourishing and inclusive food oasis, as green as the awesome indigenous metropolis discovered by Francisco Pizarro on 1535. The previous section described the most symbolic elements of our vision, with language that brings us to reflection, captures our imagination, and inspires our collective action. We believe the world needs no more walls separating its peoples; and in our city, food and water inequality are the greatest of these walls. In this section, we will expand upon how our vision might break through them, enabling the transformation of Lima’s food system. For practical purposes, we have chosen a “Questions and Answers” format, which equips us better to address the technical requirements of the Food Systems Vision Prize. Some of the questions were elicited via an informal peer-review of our vision by four local food system influencers.
How will your food system vision promote environmental regeneration?
Our vision emphasizes rebalancing Lima’s hydrologic resources to increase water available for food while generating positive environmental spillovers. Charging more for water consumed in excess of human needs will incentivize a more rational use of this precious resource. This policy will yield a notable reduction in residential turfgrass, given its exorbitant water demand of 250,000 liters per hectare, which accounts for a large proportion of water bills in Lima. We thus envision the birth of a landscaping renaissance in our city, transforming residential gardens with desert-adapted flora, including native species of trees and cacti that have been displaced by urbanization. Native flora and fauna will benefit even more directly from restoring Lima’s lomas to enable water harvest from fog. Given their location on hillsides above urban development, loma-harvested water will have the added advantage of storing gravitational potential energy. These two measures alone could bring water-resilience to Lima’s 10.7 million inhabitants while protecting and regenerating the environment.
How will your food system vision promote human health?
Without universal access to clean water for drinking, for preparing food, and for personal hygiene to keep food safe; no food system can be healthy. Our vision for Lima’s fragile desert environment thus had to rest on a foundation of securing climate-resilient running water for all. But given their notorious vulnerability within our food system, we placed a premium on addressing the unique challenges of the millions of people living in Lima’s desert slums. Deploying the Vision Prize Toolkit to that end helped us reveal an insightful leverage point: Lima’s slum dwellers embody more than one food system stakeholder. Indigenous to the Andes, they carry a millenary cultural legacy as food producers. But devoid of natural resources in their precarious new settlements, they become Lima’s poorest consumers, not able to properly meet their basic needs for housing and food. The vision of a culturally-appropriate housing model that symbiotically integrates food production into architectural design thus emerged as a Human-Centered (as opposed to food-centered) solution to their challenges. Given that food currently accounts for half of their expenditures, this holistic solution should yield disposable income to meet other needs, including better access to healthcare.
What’s the feasibility of the envisioned house satisfy household needs for food?
To maximize productivity per unit area, while harnessing the synergy potential of integrating crop and animal agriculture, we digitally designed an elevated garden box that would enable Andean guinea pig production underneath a vegetable bed. Its dimensions are 2.4 by 0.6 meters, occupying a floor area of 1.44 square meters. This area matches the standard size of a raised bed under the Square Foot Garden method, which typically achieves a five fold productivity improvement relative to field horticulture. Water demands are minimal, given reliance on a soil mix with high organic matter and excellent water holding capacity. Square Foot Gardeners generally meet all their per capita requirements for vegetables with 2 of these beds, covering less than 3 square meters. Leveraging this popular gardening method, it would take 12 garden boxes covering an area of 18 square meters to provide sufficient vegetables for a family of six. Raised at the recommended density of 6 per square meter, these same garden boxes would simultaneously allow the production of 100 Andean guinea pigs, more than enough to address anemia in children, meet household protein needs, and even generate some supplementary income. Our digital model illustrates the potential of rooftop agriculture using these elevated garden boxes in a conceptual house the size of a typical informal dwelling in Lima (100-120 square meters). The house also features a rooftop pergola and an internal garden that could enable some production of vine and woody crops (e.g. passion fruits, grapes, blueberries,) while offering plenty of green leisure space for its dwellers. A design competition bringing together architects, agronomists and future residents of these houses should yield significant improvements to this conceptual prototype.
What’s the feasibility to make fog a meaningful source of water for Lima?
Lima’s fog-covered lomas span an area of no less than 13,746 hectares. This area more than doubles every four years due to an El Niño–Southern Oscillation event. Therefore, there is a great potential to harvest water from this vast ecosystem. Makeshift fog harvesters yield water at a rate ranging from 9 to 19 liters per square meter of mesh per day. Despite very little research attention to fog harvesting, a 2018 Science Advances article reported a new material able to multiply this yield by a factor of 100. Specialized in brokering open innovation through prize competitions, the XPRIZE Foundation has recently completed a challenge resulting in a device that can harvest water from “thin air” at a rate of 2,000 liters per day. A global challenge to harvest water from “thick air” is thus highly likely to yield the breakthrough needed to turn lomas into Lima’s second source of water.
How do food systems themes interact in your vision?
The six themes of our food systems vision interact through numerous tradeoffs, but also synergies. Given all factorial combinations possible, the space provided can only allow for a discussion of the most salient of these interactions, nonetheless touching upon all six themes. Harvesting fog from lomas (technology) to provide water for people (diets), will impose a tradeoff on the full restoration potential of this ecosystem (environment). But given their current state of degradation, the net environmental effect of reengineering lomas will be positive and will spill over to provide much-needed public green space to boost people’s wellbeing (culture). On the other hand, imposing a premium cost for water above maximum human needs (policy) will synergistically result in revenue to bring water to Lima’s poorest consumers (economics, diets) and a reduction in water-thirsty residential gardens (environment). More expensive running water will also provide the economic incentive to make water use in urban agriculture as efficient as possible (environment, technology, economics), but not without elevating the cost of the food produced at home (economics). However, by symbiotically merging home and farm (culture, diets, environment, technology, economics) much of the water consumed domestically could be easily reclaimed for plants. For example, innovative cleaning products could be developed so that water used to wash dishes and clothes is safe –even beneficial– for vegetable gardening (technology, economics, diets). Finally, an important synergy unlocked by our systems approach is afforded by the upcycling potential of Andean guinea pigs, which can turn household organic residue (environment) into a highly-valued source of protein (culture, diets, economy). Lima generates over 10 million tons of solid waste per day, of which no less than 30% is organic material. A good proportion of it could be fed to Andean guinea pigs turning “trash into cash” while offsetting methane gas emissions from Lima’s landfills (environment).
How will your vision account for the ocean as a source of food?
The seascape off the shores of Lima is one of the most productive in the world, and the most abundant fish in it is the Peruvian anchovy (Eugraulis ringens). In the late 1960s, Peru landed more of this single fish than the combined total of all other fished species, both marine and freshwater, landed by all other countries of North and South America together. Roughly 90% of anchovy catch is suitable for direct human consumption, offering a valuable source of protein rich in omega-3 fatty acids. But anchovies are notoriously absent from the Peruvian diet. Instead, they are processed into fishmeal and fish oil that are exported away from the country. A vision for Lima’s future food system will be incomplete without addressing this tragedy. For eight years in a row, beginning on 2012, the World Travel Awards recognized Peru as the Best Culinary Destination in the world. Transforming Peruvian anchovy into a delicious healthy meal falls well within the capacity of our world-renown chefs and home cooks. Our vision for the future of Lima’s food system thus calls for a gastronomic innovation that can drive a meaningful demand of Peruvian anchovies, not only in Lima, but all around the world.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?