On October 15, 2019, on World Food Day, Peru’s Minister of Environment, Fabiola Muñoz, and the Deputy Minister of Agricultural Policies of the Ministry of Agriculture, Paula Rosas, declared the country’s first ever “agrobiodiversity zone”: the “Andenes de Cuyocuyo.”  The new designation protects traditional agricultural terraces – some thousands of years old and important for cultivation of traditional crops – along with critical habitat for wildlife.

More than 200 varieties of tubers and corn and 81 varieties of cultivated medicinal plants grow here. In addition, at least 11 wild relatives of these domesticated plants have been registered, which are important for genetic diversity. Also found in Cuyocuyo are queñua forests (Polylepis pepei) and emblematic fauna such as pumas, Andean bears, condors, and Andean cats, the latter recently recorded by a WCS camera traps.

The Cuyocuyo agricultural terraces are part of the most extensive terrace complex in the south-eastern highlands of Peru. They are the living record of an ancestral andenería farming technique still used by rural Quechua communities to cultivate a great diversity of Andean tubers.

The incredible terrace system, the agricultural techniques in use, and the variety and rotation of crops for the maintenance of soil fertility, are evidence of how Cuyocuyo farmers still maintain their cultural practices and customs, inherited across generations.

In this context, the municipality of Cuyocuyo and six rural communities, with the support of WCS Peru and the Regional Government of Puno, requested to declare the Agrobiodiversity Zone Andenes de Cuyocuyo. This official recognition would allow for better incentives for the conservation of the genetic diversity of native crops; promote the use of a trademark to help identify products and goods on sale at fairs, restaurants and stores; and help in establishing Payments for Ecosystem Services.

Said Loyola Escamilo, Director of the Madidi Tambopata landscape of WCS in Peru: “The Cuyocuyo Agrobiodiversity Zone is an important milestone for Peru, valuing the work of rural communities in preserving the great varieties of Andean crops that feed our cities. This formal recognition will allow for greater support from the government in technical assistance, organic fertilizers, among others. We are committed to keep working on the conservation of the agrobiodiversity zone and its surrounding ecosystems, together with the communities and the government.”