Parque de las Papas: Intersection of Development and Sustainability

Parque de las Papas, translated to Potato Park is a collection of communities located at 14,000 feet altitude in the mountains. The six communities are inhabited by people who have lived there for their whole lives. Some people do move but there is a relatively constant population in these communities. The potato is the most heavily farmed crop in the area, 3,600 of the 4,000 potato types are edible and are widely consumed in this area. Potatoes in this area are adapted to grow at these altitudes. Of these many potato species they grow in different conditions just like the other crops harvested on the mountainside.

Just a few of the 3,600 varieties of potatoes grown in Parque de Las Papas.

Just a few of the 3,600 varieties of potatoes grown in Parque de Las Papas.

The communities that developed in this challenging terrain are telling to the types of people that inhabit them; self sufficient and resourceful. The agricultural based communities developed around two major lagoons which formed after a glacier melted creating a freshwater source for irrigation. One question I continued to ask myself while there was how sustainable are these practices, after just one day of rain we saw the more prevalent impacts of erosion and small landslides. The communities could hardly be defined as developed as their mud brick homes and buildings are at the mercy of Pacha mama, the God of Mother Nature. You could say that anywhere I suppose but when I think of developed I picture Baltimore city or a small urban neighborhood. They have developed the land though. They have taken from it and continue to use its resources.

Our our way up to potato park though there was a great amount of animals. Cows were seen on small landings on the steep slope of a hillside tearing out grass and it’s stabilizing roots. The animal work force and similarly their potato harvesting techniques are undoubtedly contributing to the erosion of sediment down the mountain side. How much longer will these people be able to live and cultivate the land if they are unknowingly contributing to its deterioration?

I think that the potato harvesting of the communities will be sustainable for future generations, their practices have been adapted over time to work with the unique landscape. While their communities are not what we would consider as developed it is clear they are functional communities that are dependent on each other and also on the land from which they sustain themselves. The mountainside is divided into different regions to promote the highest crop yield. The divisions are an adaptation to the land and help maintain a certain level of sustainability.

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The highest part of the mountain side is where potatoes are grown, the middle section is where yuca or the Peruvian sweet potato grows best and around the lower base of the mountain that is where cereals and grains like maize and quinoa are grown. The food agriculture of potato park are undoubtedly what drives the livelihood of the people within the communities. The people are reliant on the seasons for the success of their crops. In Peru there are two seasons a dry season and a rainy season. The rainy season historically begins in the second week of November, this year it has started early and last year it did not begin until December. The Peruvian people contribute the unpredictable weather pattern due to environmental changes like global warming. It is very possible that the 8 million people that inhabit Lima, may be slowly contributing to the decline of the communities in the mountains. In the mountains and in communities that make up potato park they are using relatively harmless practices which are mediated things like their lack of cars, and imports. For now potato park is a sustainable community in my eyes and the use of natural resources to develop their lives speaks to their isolation and resourcefulness.

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