The guardians of the Andean potato
Date Written: 2017-03-28
Publisher: Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20544
More than 2,800 types of potatoes are known to have originated in Peru. The existence of these varieties can be attributed to the high value the Quechua people place on their cultural traditions and biological diversity.
The Pachamama or Earth Mother is the most sacred place for Andean farmers. Sixty-five-year-old Jose Palomino from Andahuaylas was initiated into the world of potato growing as a child, working alongside his parents. The people of this Peruvian province, set at an altitude of 2,995 metres, are dependent on the harvest of the most prized native product, the Andean potato or “papa” as they prefer to call it in Quechua.
Palomino produces hundreds of varieties every year: red, purple, pink, yellow and even blue. His collection of 800 native potato varieties, with over 60 different colours and pigments, attracts geneticists and farmers from around world.
"The potato is Peru’s heritage and one of our country's greatest contributions to the world," says the man who succeeded in making his farmlands a model of conservation.
Whilst recognising that they enjoy food sovereignty, he is concerned about the vulnerability of Andean farmers in the current context: "Climate change is affecting potatoes. Many diseases are appearing that never used to exist at high altitudes." He believes in the wisdom of nature and, like all the local farmers, takes great care of his resources: "Our way of combatting climate change is to keep to the calendar and respect the phases of the moon, sowing in October to start harvesting as of May, until August."