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Agro-biodiversity in Vicos: growing crops in an animated world

The Peasant Community of Vicos is located in an ample Andean watershed in north-central Peru called Callejón de Huaylas. Vicosino territory covers 46,000 acres and extends from 9,000 to almost 15,000 feet above sea level. Because of the varied topography of the area only 25 % of the total area is either cultivated or used as pasture lands. Vicosinos use the different altitudinal zones to produce a wide variety of tubers, corn, gains, roots, legumes, and other crops.

Potato: the main Andean crop

History: Potato (Solanum tuberosum) originated in the highlands of South America, where it has been consumed for more than 8000 years. It is believed that the potato was first domesticated more than 6000 years ago near Lake Titicaca where the greatest diversity of wild species is currently found. Spanish explorers brought the plant to Europe in the late 16th century as a botanical curiosity. By the 19th century it had spread throughout the continent, providing cheap and abundant food for the workers of the Industrial Revolution.

Nutrition: A single medium-sized potato contains about half the daily adult requirement of vitamin C. Other staples such as rice and wheat have none. Potato is very low in fat, with just 5 percent of the fat content of wheat, and one-fourth the calories of bread. Boiled, it has more protein than maize, and nearly twice the calcium.

Global production: Today, potato is the fourth most important food crop in the world, with annual production approaching 300 million tons. More than one-third of the global potato output now comes from developing countries, up from just 11 percent in the early 1960s. The International Potato Center (CIP for its abbreviation in Spanish) maintains the world's largest bank of potato germplasm, including some 1500 samples of about 100 wild species collected in eight Latin American countries and 3800 traditional Andean cultivated potatoes. The collection is maintained under the auspices of the FAO and is available to plant breeders worldwide free upon request.

Source: CIP (

Quebrada Honda, a deep valley at the upper level, is both a productive and venerated space that provides sustenance and protection to Vicosinos: Pachamama (Earth Mother) and the Apus (the Mountain Deities) guard and defend Vicosinos. The natural grasslands or jallqa of Quebrada Honda, besides being owned by Vicosinos, are located within the limits of Huascarán National Park, created in 1975 and administrated by the Peruvian State

Vicosinos families depend primarily on agriculture and herding for subsistence. On average, each family cultivates 6.5 acres of land producing corn, potatoes and other root crops (such as oca, olluco and mashua) as well as cereals and grains (such as quinua, wheat and barley). Also, the average family has 5 cows, and a total of 24 animals including oxen, sheep, horses, pigs, and donkeys.

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