Mullapata: Soul of the Terraces
Young People Investigating Traditional Knowledge and Technologies
WORDS ANDREA JORGE LIMAYMANTA, ARTURO CORNEJO SALDARRIAGA, CATHERIN ALVA MONTOYA, KATERIN PEREZ SANCHEZ, INDIRE ALVA ALVARADO, JHOAN CHANCAFE ALBERCA, JOSE ALBURQUEQUE PASTOR, LIZETH MORANTE ESCOBEDO, SANDRO MARTINEZ, AND WILLIAMS MEDINA RAMIREZ
Peru is one of the world’s ten megadiverse countries. Strong mining policy has allowed the country to develop economically and become wealthy, but has also contributed to the country’s status as a developing nation strongly dependent on external markets. Peru holds huge potential for agro-ecological resources, biodiversity and ecotourism attractions that would encourage development of artisanal markets. The country’s real problem is the inability to make better use of energy resources available in the territory as an engine of development. Despite the current situation, Peru’s rich rural culture challenges current patterns of overexploitation and short-term systems by instead functioning with a long-term management view that is more consistent with maintaining biodiversity and environmental variability in Peru. Recently, archaeological discoveries have revealed methods used in rural areas that allowed the rural and indigenous communities to meet their needs while maintaining high environmental variability. These discoveries enforce the importance of working with rural culture and tradition in agriculture to both understand current agricultural systems and to support these systems into the future.
While the topic is extensive, this article focuses on the agricultural method of terracing in Peru. Terraces are a stair-like system of platforms above vertical walls that can provide relatively flat land for agriculture in areas of sloping topography. This is an ancient technology that is suspected to have been utilized for more than one thousand years. The revaluation and promotion of its current use on a larger scale would bring many benefits, starting with the improvement and development of the agricultural sector, to contributing to the preservation of productive land on the slopes of the valleys and foothills of the Andes, and finally to helping mitigate against climate change concerns and prevent environmental disaster.
In recent decades, the state, with the help of different companies, NGOs, and volunteer organizations, has been promoting research and initiatives on the recovery of terraces in the country. Recently the Ministry of Agriculture, through the Productive Development Program Agricultural Rural (AGRORUAL) created the Terraces Program in the Highlands of Peru, which launched the project “Recovery of Terraces” in early 2010. Students and graduates in natural resources and rural studies from the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM) formed the group “Mullapata”, meaning “Soul of the Terraces.” The group motto is “Young people thinking and building the future” and the main objective is to promote research on traditional knowledge and technologies to retain these useful principles for the purpose of ecosystem management. Among the secondary objectives the group seeks to share the importance of traditional knowledge and technologies with young people to motivate them to study and reappraise, and also seek to strengthen the link between farmers, technicians and researchers.
Currently the group has participated in several important events for the development of terrace technology research, such as “Workshop: Water, Terraces and Agrobiodiversity Lima Region in the Context of Climate Change and Food Crisis” in October 2013. Mullapata also participated in the “Second International Congress of Terraces” in the city of Cusco in May 2014 as assistants and collaborators in the organization. The group’s dedication to the topic has allowed group members to become aware of the state of research and work in the field and to discover that information gaps exist. Members have not only gained information, but have also created valuable ties with other actors such as technicians, researchers and agriculturists with whom we can work together. Since the beginning a key objective of the group has been sharing opportunities for disseminating knowledge, for example in November UNALM held a conference to share knowledge by specialized panelists, and in May conducted talks in college on the subject of research platforms with the participation of leading researchers. These spaces allowed the senior researchers to transmit their knowledge and to motivate young people. This shared learning space also has allowed the group to invite more young people interested in the subject to integrate into the group.
It is necessary to promote research on the platforms, which must combine technical procedures with customs and conceptions of territory. Universities should raise the exchange of technical knowledge with ancestral knowledge of communities who are the ones that know the territory the best.
As a group, we believe that a plan should be formulated for the recovery of platforms as part of a national strategy against the current context of climate change and food crisis; a plan that responds to each situation in a participatory manner with all institutions, economic and social actors who are willing to believe and support the change in the country.