Who Are Campesino Communities?
In order to understand where we work and who campesino communities are, it is important to know the history and the impacts of colonization that have resulted in the communities becoming self-sufficient and continuing traditional practices. During colonization, in order to not become enslaved by the colonists, locals escaped into the Andes, settling at high altitudes reaching up to 14,000 ft (4500 meters). Centuries later, these campesino communities continue to be experts in growing potatoes, corn, and grains, making the Andes one of the five global cradles of agriculture. However, due to the high elevation, they face challenges growing nutrient-dense produce that thrives in warmer climates or greenhouses. This produce also tends to be more profitable with quicker yields and less labor than traditional Andean crops. Our work is focused on helping campesino farmers incorporate new produce and techniques into their existing practices, ensuring that campesino communities continue to be rooted in sustainability and tradition.
Today, they still practice traditions such as ayni which is a Quechua word for a reciprocal act between community members helping work each other’s food plots. This exchange creates minka which is the Quechua word for a sense of community.
Depending on the size, communities range from 15 to 400 families total. They are self-governing communities with no involvement from the national police and form their own protocols and solutions.
Through traditional knowledge and their connection to Pachamama, campesino communities understand their local landscapes and how to utilize their immediate surroundings – making them experts in weaving, livestock, and agriculture.
Why does the AASD work in campesino communities?
It all comes back to food sovereignty. The AASD partners with campesino communities to confront these challenges: amplifying their voice, innovations, and resiliency. We work at their pace and build trust, and we work where they need it. We’ve helped communities build greenhouses and workshops on agroecological production, post-production, and commercialization.
This map shows the current communities where the AASD works in relation to Calca and the Sacred Valley.
Want to learn more about Campesino Communities?
In 2017, the AASD co-founder, Aaron Ebner, and his brother, Eric Ebner, made a documentary about the Potato King, Julio Hancco. Peru has over 3,000 varieties of potatoes alone and Julio knows how to grow over 300 varieties himself. Julio lives in a campesino community, Pampacorral, which is still a community where the AASD works. Over the years, the AASD has built a long-lasting relationship with him. Julio is a guardian of biodiversity, traditional knowledge, and Apus (mountain gods). Watch the full documentary in Spanish below or to watch documentary in English follow this link.