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Traditional Knowledge and Adaptation to Climate Changes in Sunimarca , Perú

September 24th, 2010

By: Dr. Sonia Salas Domínguez, Dr. Ana Maria Ponce and Redar Peru

The community of Sunimarca is located in the High Andean Plateau at 4.100 a.s.l. in Peru. It belongs to the hydrographic basin of the Ramis river, tributary to the Titicaca lake, the highest navigable freshwater lake in the world. The annual mean temperature is approximately of 9 degrees Celsius, with pluvial precipitations of 700 mm.

Using ancestral techniques, this community preserves its biodiversity including crops and quinoa varieties which are unknown for the rest of the world, as well as valuable traditional knowledge and technologies. They live under extreme climatic variability, a condition under which they have adapted, since thousands of years, through their biological diversity, technologies and knowledge.  However, the extreme heat and frost affecting them is more intense than before, causing lung diseases on children and elder people. Pastures are drying, vegetation cover is diminishing. This became even more evident since the introduction of foreign livestock in places where there were only Andean camelids in the past, causing overpasturing and desertification.

The community has applied diverse agricultural practices with the aim of improving resilience of their landscape against harsh weather conditions. A communal map and individual models of familiar plots called “mapas parlantes”, have been elaborated by the farmers. These maps shape both the individual and the group aspirations of the people. Reforestation with native trees have been conducted in the plots, and improved farming livestock practices are being promoted through annual and bi-annual livestock fairs organized by the community of Sunimarca with the participation of hundreds of farmers from diverse communities around the Ramis river.

Sunimarca is a model for the rest of the world for the methods they are using to adapt to climate changes through their traditional knowledge. It is important to raise the attention of the international scientific community in order to seek ways to assist them in the application of modern tools and technologies, allowing them to improve and implement future community development plans, improve their living conditions and protect their valuable biodiversity from the harsh environment and extreme weather conditions in the Andes, similar to those of the Himalayas.