Climate change has been hammering farmers in Peru’s Andean plateaus. For these people, some of the world’s poorest, it’s not an abstract threat or a dire warning to be “liked” on Facebook in between cat pictures and musings on breakfast menus.
There’s not as much rain as there used to be. On the other hand, it’s windier. But most importantly, the weather, thanks to the accelerating greenhouse effect, is less predictable, as documented by villagers in the mountain village of Pumatalya who are participating in a weather monitoring project developed by the Peruvian ministry of the environment and the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation (SDC).
“The changes impact the life of shepherds, despite them being used to extreme conditions. There is no longer enough water to keep the pasture in a decent state all year round nor to allow subsistence crops. With shorter, more violent showers, the degraded soil no longer stores the moisture,” says Victor Bustinza Urviola, Pacc’s deputy-co-ordinator.
The models produced by Peru’s National Meteorology and Hydrology Service (Senamhi) show that these trends are going to accelerate in the coming decades. The eastern part of the Cusco region could see a 15% to 30% drop in rainfall by 2030, one of the most severe forecast for the whole country.”
Faced with a future of water shortages and increasing variability, the villagers are resorting to ancient water-management technologies dating back to Mayan times:
To build the structure, a copy of the rain-fed qocha reservoir system used by the Incas, Bernarbe received technical assistance and some funding from the Pacc, after winning a competition on water management.
About 100 qochas have been built, but it would take 1,000 more to meet the needs of the whole plateau, home to some 10,000 people and in recent years an even greater number of cattle, llamas and alpacas. The Brown Swiss breed of cow, which can withstand harsh weather and high altitudes, was successfully introduced in the 1970s enabling dairy cattle to replace llamas. But the amount of water the cattle require is becoming a problem and milk yields are falling.
Water is now the prime source of conflict between stock-breeders.
Kala Marka performs “Atahuallpa”
An excellent resource site for Andean traditional music is here.
Extraordinary work is ongoing in Peru by researchers allied with the National Museum of the American Indian. Their Inka Road blog is a fascinating read.
Peruvian punk rockers Zcuela Crrada:
Area 7, an all-female Peruvian rock band:
Here’s a link to a source page for Peruvian rock music.