Food Production and Climate Resilience in Peru: Past, Present and Future

About the GCRF – Royal Academy of Engineering Grant

Despite steady economic growth nationally over the last 15 years a high percentage of the rural population in Peru (44% in 2017) continue to live in chronic poverty. The agricultural system in these rural areas has its foundations in pre-Hispanic cultural development, and transformation of the landscape and environment through sophisticated, highly organised engineering. However, the apparent lack of investment in properly engineered water management together with partial abandonment of formerly agriculturally productive land makes rural communities highly vulnerable to climate change. Climate change has seriously affected productivity of important staple crops, such as potato and maize, causing substantial annual agricultural losses. Growing insecurities over climate change are exacerbated by lower educational and economic opportunities in rural areas. We believe that the promotion of sustainable and resilient agricultural practices, utilising cultural and historical knowledge of social, economic and environmental interactions, will improve the quality of life, health and welfare of rural communities. To address this issue, our project has two main goals.

Goal 1. The improve knowledge and understanding of the challenges faced by rural farming communities living with climate change, the opportunities afforded through appropriate adaptive strategies, and the inherent resilience of people and mountain environments to natural shocks and disasters caused by climate variability. (Obj.1) Characterise the challenges and opportunities afforded by climate change for past and current communities practising traditional agriculture. (Obj.2) Evaluate the implications of the findings for future adaptive management strategies to enhance resilience to climate change, and assess the wider consequences for mountainous areas in Peru and other OECD-DAC countries.

Goal 2. To develop a framework that integrates agro-economic data with climate change scenarios and water and ecological resource quantification and analysis, and aims to reconcile competing approaches to building capacity for learning and adaptation in the Peruvian Andes. (Obj.1) Create an agro-economic model of local food systems from production to consumption to evaluate resilience and adaptive capacity. (Obj.2) Generate climate change scenarios from regional climate model experiments and statistical downscaling to evaluate the impact on water availability for agro-ecosystems. (Obj.3) Measure the success and efficiency of past and current water management systems, and evaluate their impact on livestock and small-scale irrigation farming. (Obj.4) Measure the ecological (biodiversity) and hydrological (water storage) status of peatlands (bofedales), and evaluate the impact on livestock and small-scale irrigation farming. (Obj.5) Develop an agent-based model (ABM) to aid decision-makers to better understand and debate future adaptive management strategies.