Potato Power: From Chuño to French Fries.*                                                                

The following project has been part of an ongoing Nomomente community engagement since 2018.

Last May took place the 10th World Potato Congress in Cusco, Peru, I did not know the global  importance of such crop and its meaning in the Peruvian heritage. In fact potato is an international crop, it is consumed in 163 countries, with a production of more than 400 thousand metric tons per year and it is the third most important crop worldwide, after wheat and rice, and due to its high nutritive content in potassium, vitamin C, B-6, fibre, magnesium and antioxidants nearly 1.3 billion people include it in their daily diet.

Peru is at the origin of the modern potato. Historically from the pre- Incas culture, potatoes have been the “queens” of the table. The earliest archaeologically verified potato tuber was found on 800-500 BC near the Titicaca Lake. Later, between the 1500s and 1600s, potatoes were introduced and exported in Europe and Africa. More recently, in the 1700s, it was diffused in Asia and North America. Nowadays, Peru has nearly 4000 thousand potato varieties and it is a global reference in innovative agricultural initiatives, such as the international potato seed bank, biocultural

products associated with potato, traditional knowledge and biocontrol’s trials above regular altitudes to face climate chance.

In conjunction with its history and its economic importance, potatoes have been adopted as a landmark for the communities surrounding the sacred valley of Cusco. As a result six Indigenous communities, comprised of nearly 7000 people have become the potato guardians and built the Potato Park.

The potato Park is one of the best references of Indigenous rural innovation in the world. It is located in Pisaq, the Peruvian Andes. This project uses knowledge, practices, customs, and pre-hispanic technologies

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typical of the Inca civilization, and adapts them to the context of contemporary society by using the collective work of their communities, the biogenetic conditions of their natural resources and the "sumak kawsay,” a lifestyle founded on the Quechua cosmology of respect and balance with “pachamama”, or mother earth and nature.

The Potato Park is an example of where traditional knowledge and new innovative technologies work together, not only to bring development to the communities through the production of byproducts derived from potato such as shampoos, soaps, medicinal inputs and tourism, but to face climate change issues that threats such as food sovereignty on the region.

 

Looking at the potato park experience and taking into account the exhaustive work from the communities behind this crop, we can set forth the main recommendations to create sustainable systems to enrich the potato production and its quality, as well as the improvement of the livelihood of the people surrounding this crop such as:

 

  • Promote small farmers opportunities to access to high-value markets.

  • Building an inclusive supplier chain.

  • Implementing smart agriculture practices (soil- regeneration, bio-based products – bio-fortification)

  • Climate change varietal development (Genomic selections).

  • Farmer education via their kids.

  • Innovative tools to add value to the product.

  • Promoting potato entrepreneurship in younger generations.

  • Market integration, and reduction of asymmetric information.

 

We invite you to reflect where does the potato come from? We have the responsibility to be another link of the “sumak kawsay”. Let’s support our Indigenous fellows in this journey.

*Chuño: is a freeze-dried potato product traditionally made by Quechua communities.

French Fries: are batonnet-cut deep-fried potatoes dish famous around the world.

Photography and text by Miguel Eduardo Monroy

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