Cusco was the historic capital of Inca empire, around 1500 ad J-C, and an important Inca agricultural experimental place with a wealth biodiversity. The sacred valley, near the city, was the crops breadbasket of Inca empire. However, this valley is located in the middle of Andean mountains where the weather and the altitude make the crops difficult to grow. These hard conditions required the adaptation of agricultural techniques, and led to prioritize the development of endemic species. Thus, local people collected lot of knowledge linked to their ecosystem.
Unfortunately, today this ancestral knowledge is getting lost for the benefit of industrial food production. In answer to this fact, Claudia and Roberto decided to raise awareness and act to recover that knowledge. They are getting prepared to the potential future food crisis, related to the global warming, by experimenting traditional methods to grow endemic species, collect local seeds, wild edible plants cooking, food conservation… Their house, La Canasta Solidaria, is a place to show the people that ancestral methods can be adapted to the current agriculture and are efficient alternatives to the industrial system.
La Canasta Solidaria Mihuna Kachun is a self-managed initiative created in 2016 by Claudia and Roberto in the suburbs of Cusco. Mihuna Kachun means in Quechua “no lack of food”. Before launching this independent project, they both worked for the municipality of Cusco in the agricultural development. That is when they realized the necessity of developing resilient food systems. Thus, they started to change their habits for 3-4 years by experimenting and learning from ancestral techniques. In this context of behavior transition, they develop La Canasta, a project promoting local food autonomy.
The project bears on food sovereignty, health care and social inclusion thanks to the use of ancestral Andean practices. La Canasta develop, with its garden full of local species, a seed bank and plenty of food jars… The objective of La Canasta is to prove the efficiency of familiar and traditional methodologies by sharing knowledges on endemic species growth.
To meet this goal, Claudia and Roberto decline different projects. One of the first goals is to keep experimenting and investigating continuously on endemic and good for health species, including wild ones, with agroecological field work. The spreading of this knowledge is insured by seed trading and by workshops, group wild forages, eco-friendly gardening, lectures…
La Canasta’s team makes also some products with forgotten food from raw materials of local farmers who use ancestral agricultural methods, in respect of the nature.
Another activity is comics drawing for children and articles writing for adults. Different subjects related to healthy and local food consumption are evoked, but also relationship with lands and livings beings or the way to become resilient and autonomous.
Social inclusiveness is as well important for La Canasta. When we met them, it was the “Ayni” week-end. It is a traditional form of mutual aid, during which people are gathering to harvest, select and conserve plants. Family members providing an assistance may benefit from the help of the other family for another work after. Several students were in La Canasta to participate at this “Ayni” and also benefit from a workshop on edible species.
WHAT NOW ?
La Canasta is a proof that reusing ancestral techniques to grow food and to store it can be a positive economical and environmental alternative. Everyone can come in this experimentation house to learn about traditional methods. The next steps for La Canasta are to multiply harvest events and workshops, in order to have more and more people aware of these stakes and who duplicate these habit changes in their houses.
La Canasta Solidaria is not the only alternative of its kind in Peru and takes part in a national network to promote ancestral agriculture. Indeed, in this country wealth of its biodiversity and indigenous communities, the current trend is the multiplication of these alternatives but their development is still very slow. The future challenge is to coordinate all these initiatives in the country to reinforce their influence and fight destructive food industrial systems.