Rural campesino communities in the Sacred Valley of Peru often rely on agriculture as a livelihood. This can be a challenge for the populations who live high in the Andes Mountains, where climate and altitude prevent the cultivation of diverse, nutrient-rich crops, and isolated locations and historical social marginalization impede market access and governmental support. The AASD uses a highly participatory approach to address this that focuses heavily on relationship-building and collaboration. This deeply rooted development philosophy is reﬂected in the way in which we engage with the communities and the student groups that we work with.
We do not accept funding from sources whose philosophy is not congruent with our own, so we never have to balance the interests of the communities with the demands of our funders. It is our social enterprise model that allows us to continue operating, supporting communities and expanding our reach. Program fees from our experiential learning programs are allocated to cover our operating and administrative costs, with residual profits, donations and mission-aligned grants funding our community projects.
The AASD has worked with campesino communities since 2010. Campesino communities are identified as small, self-governing farming communities in the highlands of the Andes who can trace their ancestry back to the Inca dynasty. The vision of our agricultural initiatives is that these communities, their rich culture, and surrounding environment all thrive. We have chosen agroecology as our agriculture methodology for that reason: It relies on utilizing traditional knowledge to work with, instead of against, the environment, while ultimately lowering labor and input costs. Agroecology is complemented by our campesino-a-campesino (farmer-to-farmer) education model that allows farmers to be teachers, showcasing their expertise and conveying the necessary respect to them and their profession.
The vision of the AASD experiential learning programs is that they are mutually beneficial for campesino (farmer) communities, participants, and the AASD.