Dialogue 8: Covid 19 - Potato Park: Defending the past to envision the future

Este contenido esta disponible en Español | This content is also available in Spanish.

This is session is part of the Webinar "Dialogue on Alternatives in the Time of Global Crises".

Dialogue 8: Covid 19 - Potato Park: Defending the past to envision the future

with Ricardina Pacco (traditional seeds expert); Aniceto Ccoyo (traditional Sumac Causay expert); Mariano Sutta (traditional native crops and wild relatives expert); Lino Mamani (traditional Curator of Potato Park Gene Bank); along with members of Association of Communities of Potato Park

The Potato Park is a community-managed Biocultural Heritage Territory established as “Food Neighborhood” by six Quechua communities in Peru in 2000. It conserves a unique mountain agroecosystem, its indigenous biocultural heritage including one of world’s richest potato diversity landscapes. The webinar will describe the history and challenges of the community’s holistic management approach based on sumaq kausay or buen vivir, response during COVID pandemic, and visions for the future.
  • Date: Friday 31st July
  • Time: 13:30 (UTC/GMT)
  • Duration: 120 minutes

Download: [ Video ] (1100Mb) | [ Audio only ] (93Mb)


Ashish: Good morning, good evening everybody, we are looking forward to a very exciting session with our indgenous friends from the Peruvian Andes. Before we give them the floor, or the mountains so to speak, I’m going to give a quick introduction to this series of webinars and the Global TapestryThe weaving of networks of Alternatives of AlternativesAre activities and initiatives, concepts, worldviews, or action proposals by collectives, groups, organizations, communities, or social movements challenging and replacing the dominant system that perpetuates inequality, exploitation, and unsustainabiity. In the GTA we focus primarily on what we call "radical or transformative alternatives", which we define as initiatives that are attempting to break with the dominant system and take paths towards direct and radical forms of political and economic democracy, localised self-reliance, social justice and equity, cultural and knowledge diversity, and ecological resilience. Their locus is neither the State nor the capitalist economy. They are advancing in the process of dismantling most forms of hierarchies, assuming the principles of sufficiency, autonomy, non-violence, justice and equality, solidarity, and the caring of life and the Earth. They do this in an integral way, not limited to a single aspect of life. Although such initiatives may have some kind of link with capitalist markets and the State, they prioritize their autonomy to avoid significant dependency on them and tend to reduce, as much as possible, any relationship with them.. My name is Ashish Kothari, I work in India with the core team of the Global Tapestry. To give you a quick orientation to what this is, it is a dialogue on radical alternatives in times of global crises, we all know this and I don’t think that this is something that needs to be spoken about to this audience but, we are of course in the middle of the Covid crisis and multiple other crises that pre-exist Covid, whether it’s climate or biodiversity pollution or inequality or conflicts, authoritarianism, right-wing facism, across the the globe, and alongside that of course the very long process of colonisation or post-colonial hegemony, domination of certain cultures and knowledge systems across the world and all of this of course relating to our own personal crises, whether it’s alienation from nature, from each other, depression, a sense of meaninglessness, hopelessness and so on.

So it’s in the context of these multiple crises that we, and of course currently the Covid crisis which is closely linked to all these others, that we decided that we should respond through this webinar series to showcase both the kinds of resistance movements to these global crises and the underlying structural factors, whether it’s capitalism or state domination, patriarchy, racism,in the Indian context casticism, so wherever you are, the different structures of operation, of marginalisation, unsustainability. The resistance to those which shows that the modern capitalist system is not the only system around and that there are alternative ways of being, knowing, working dreaming, of doing things, but along the process of resistance, across the world there are tens of thousands of attempts to construct alternative realities, either sustain things from the past which are still relevant, which are equitable, which are just, or create new ones especially from within industrial systems or the so called developed systems of the world. So to actually provide alternatives by which people can meet their needs and aspirations in ways that are ecologically sustainable, which are just, which are equitable and continue the search for human dignity amidst saving nature and communities and cultures.

So the GTAGlobal Tapestry of Alternatives is a global process attempting to bridge or create a sort of weaving process between these different radical alternatives across the world, an attempt to create exchanges, dialogue, to create more of a critical mass that can also affect larger change at a macro level. It attempts to create platforms for sharing like this series of webinars and many other activities, it attempts to also create a platform for collective visioning and dreaming of a just world, giving more visibility to the alternatives that we have around us and especially to dispel the gloom and doom that surrounds us and to offer solidarity where on the ground initiatives are facing threats from the dominant system. You’ll see more on this website of what the GTA aims to do. This series of webinars is also held in association with the Global Dialogue for Systemic Change which is a process of trying to create a platform of dialogues of movements from across the world and at the moment they’re also very much involved in creating assemblies or helping assemblies like 2 weeks back there was an Amazonian assembly of Indigenous peoples and others working to save the Indigenous peoples and the forest of the Amazon.

The particular dialogue today is of our indigenous friends of the quechua community, the Andes of Peru who have been involved over the last three decades or so in a very exciting and interesting process of conserving and sustaining their own livelihoods over a very large landscape where the potato originated and I think for all of us who are fond of potatoes, or even if we’re not, we know about the potato, it’s incredibly exciting to be able to see the landscape even if virtually in this webinar and the people who have been conserving this landscape. The quechua community here, if I’m not mistaken, is conserving more than 1300 varieties of potato. For those of us in India who are used to 2-3 varieties, this is pretty astounding. So, you will hear much more about them.

We have 4 speakers from the community itself, Riccardina Pacco, Aniceto Ccoyo, Mariano Sutta, Lino Mamani and there are many other members of the association of the 6 communities that make up the Potato Park. They’re all with us in their own native habitat, you will soon see the landscape behind them. We have given them very simple questions - How did they start this process? What motivated them to start this process in their own traditional area? To actually start an active process of biocultural heritage conservation. How did they do it? What methods were used? What hurdles did they face? And in the current time, how have they coped with the Covid crisis? And emerging from all of this both the history and the present, what do they think about the future, not just about themselves but also how do they think the world should behave? With that, I’m going to request one of the local people, maybe they can do a round of brief introductions, and then we will share a film with you on their initiative. I also wanted to introduce to you three members of a civil society organisation that has been working with the parque de la papa for a long long time. This is the group called ANDES which is based in Peru, and we have with us, Alejandro, Kas and Jessica, and they are also helping us do the translations. The local people will speak in quechua and those who need translations please go to the Spanish or English room.

We start with a ceremony which is very important for the local community every time they start a process.

Voice 2: We are in the potato park and we will start the ceremony of the quintu which is the way we ask permission to the mountain Gods so that we can start with this session and this is the traditional way we start the ceremony. We will ask the sacred mountains so that we can start the day blessed by our protectors and get up with respect to our mountain gods when we start a meeting like this or any other activity, we show respect, this is what we learnt from our grandparents and this is what we teach our kids. We use the coca leaves and we direct this to the 4 directions to where the main sacred mountains are located, and we ask for permission to start the day. We collect quintu, 4 coca leaves which represent the corners of the world and with this we blow our message to the mountains.

This is a tradition that we have, and we have maintained it for generations and is done in a way in which sacredness is always respected. To the main protector of the land, this is for you and now to the female Apu which also protects our life and to all the other Apus which are our authorities in this land, we ask for permission. Similarly to all the other authorities, the mountains, we ask for permission and to be blessed and that this can also go to all our friends who have joined us. So this is a way to connect through the cocoa leaves to the mountains and the land and among ourselves. This is the call to initiate this session.

And now, the cocoa leaves are going to be taken to make sure that Pacha Mama can also know that our respect is deep for our land so now we will finish this ceremony so we’re going to get up and we all have to put our effort, our best spirit so we can defend this pandemic with the help of our mountain protectors. So we are all together with the mountains, the land. To everyone that has joined this webinar, we thank you for your solidarity and for being with us and so the blessings of the mountains are also for you. With that, we have finished the ceremony.

Ashish:Thank you to everybody, would you like to start your presentation? Can you tell us about the parque de la papa and the history?

V2: I think we’re going to first show the video.

A: So we’re going to start with the video which shows the landscape and it’s also very interesting that the community is part of a network of mountain communities.


A: Thank you. Can we now request the community to tell us about their experiences?

V2: We welcome you, all of our friends from all over the world, especially our friends who are interested in our work. We, the communities of the Potato Park welcome you with all our heart. We would like to share our experience with you, who we are, our history, our people, we have representatives here also from other communities who work with us and we would like to tell you how we live and why we are speaking to you in quechua - we are speaking this because this is the language we hear from the land and with other languages we cannot express ourselves in the way in which we want. We will tell you how we formed the potato park, where we come from originally as native peoples here. We have a history here from the pre-Inca times that we want to keep and the past for us is also the future and we would like to continue to live as peoples of the land, peoples keeping our food and culture. We would like to also tell you about our principles, objectives and values which are also connected to the past and how we have responded to the Covid pandemic as communities. This has been done through our principles of reciprocity and solidarity which has been important for us in responding to this pandemic. We will also tell you about some of our activities around this and how we have used our traditional knowledge and we will tell you what our future looks like, as an association, and also how we are connected to other communities in the world - particularly due to our objective of sumak quasay, and buen vivir which is important for all of the communities that are members of the Potato Park. For that, we will start with how the potato park was established.

V3: Good morning everyone, I want to ask for permission to speak to you and then we will tell you about our history. We are 6 communities that have come together to form this association and while the communities were once separated we have come together, to join our territories, to form a common area so that we can manage it in a more holistic way as our ancestors would do it. We have always managed our land as a unity, the humans, the wild and the sacred together, and have looked for a balance among them. Mother Earth is at the centre of this vision, for she provides our food, our livelihoods, so we have in this mountain environment a very diverse livelihood, it depends where you live, the upper part of the mountain, or the lower part. So in this unity of the landscape, the humans, the wild and the sacred have to be in balance. 20 years of working together, we have come together to manage as a single unit and all of our activities are done in a way which reflects what our ancestors have created. Different tools, technologies, crops, in ways which are connected to the traditions, principles whereby women, men, children can work together.

We have different animals, from lamas to alpacas, a high variety of native crops that need to be maintained but also we respect the wildlife because we live in reciprocity with them and they provide us with indicators of how we do agriculture so if we want to do agriculture we also depend on the indicators that the wildlife provides us with. The mountains provide us with knowledge, protection, water, medicinal plants and they are connected with a higher world where there are the suns, the stars, the moon and the mountains can connect with them. This way of collective work has to be balanced and has to be regulated in a way in which the rights of humans are also similar to the rights of the wildlife and the sacred. This system is called Ayllu and comes from our ancestors so that our practices, the way we do things therefore comes from this old way of organising. This is the way we come together, how we have always lived, and when we established the potato park we used this model to bring together these three worlds; the 6 communities and the wild and sacred elements over which humans have no control. We all work together and the potato park was brought together on these principles.

There are three ayllus and we have to be in balance and we always emphasise this, that the potato park is not only potatoes, mother earth is at the centre and it’s this big respect that we have. We come to the sumak quasay, the buen vivir because it’s the balance between these communities that leads to holistic living. It’s not just work of humans, it’s work of the mountains, of pachamama, of the sacred, the whole community, that works in reciprocity, solidarity, so food production is dependent on the respect that you have on all of these elements of life. So our governance, our authorities reflects this kind of organisation. Our governance reflects this type of organisation because we also elect mountains as authorities so they can participate in the governance of this landscape. And that reflection, including mountains as authorities, may make our governance stronger because this is co-management between the sacred mountains, the laws that govern biodiversity and the laws that govern the human communities. And this is what I can share with you about the history and how we have established the potato park in a way which shows how our communities have evolved. My sister will now share how, under these principles, our activities are being implemented. So now our brother Mariano has told us about our story, the story of the mountains, the wildlife, how we live in reciprocity. But the reciprocity of the potato park not only lives inside the communities, it is also in solidarity and reciprocity with our brothers and sisters who may be in need. So to tell us about how we have responded with those principles regarding the Covid pandemic, I will ask my sister Ricardina to tell us about our response to this pandemic which has hit the whole world, and particularly in Cusco, the impact has been big and now in Peru we are going through very difficult times. But we think that with solidarity we can respond in a better way.

Ricardina: Good morning brothers and sisters, I greet you in the name of our communities and give you all good morning from this part of the land. And also, we want to show you how sumak quasay, buen vivir, is part of reciprocity, that the knowledge we have must be practiced and is not just about speaking but it’s about how these principles are practiced, this traditional knowledge. We see when reciprocity is practiced in our communities, when we support our families in need, the elders, when we support the children, that’s reciprocity. But we also have reciprocity with the sacred. We do our ceremonies to give respect to the mountains because we are farmers, we produce food, the way of practicing reciprocity, solidarity, is sharing what we have and even in this crisis when we see people that are sick and stranded in the streets of Cusco, we have to share our food, our crops with those people. We show solidarity because in times of crisis, money doesn’t have any value. Solidarity is the currency that we have to use to be connected, to respect the mountains, mother earth, we have to show that we are in solidarity with the rest of the population. It’s not just about the potato park and the communities but how we join together to support the people so we went to Cusco and we took a ton of potatoes to share with the elders, the people who were stranded and didn't have food. We took them to mothers who didn’t have shelter, food, so we practiced the principles of the potato park. This makes us feel more connected, more united, so if we want to show that the potato park is functioning, the best way is through our solidarity. In the work we have done over the last 15 years we have created a system that is localised, we have an agricultural production where we have plenty of food, we farm what we want and farm what we think is important and because we are known for our potato diversity, we took those potatoes, we collected from all of the communities and from the families who understand the needs of other mothers, so we practice this solidarity because we know that other women, elder, fathers, mothers, in this crisis need food. This is not philanthropy, this is not charity, this is solidarity, this is reciprocity, this is saying thanks to the land, to the apus, this is a way to celebrate the work we do and we reflect with the women, the elders, with the children so that these values can be passed on so that when there is a crisis, there is solidarity, reciprocity so if we are farmers, if we produce food, the best response, the best solidarity is sharing our food. And even if we are poor farmers, we have plenty of food to share, we produce the type of food that we believe can create more health and that’s why we took, the women personally, because we are very concerned, about the children in the city, the mothers and their babies and the people without food in the streets so that was our main concern and the people we wanted to share with and so our message is to other communities not to forget to be in community, to be united, we have to also practice solidarity, reciprocity, respect for the land because then we will have enough food.

We have received thank yous from people in Cusco and we feel content, good, that we can do something for other people in need because if we have sumak quasay, buen vivir, good living because sharing also means being in solidarity. And now we will pass onto our brother who will tell us what all this work has helped to achieve. What the creation of the potato park has meant. Those achievements that we consider important for our communities are various but we want to share only some of them, especially on food and afterwards we will listen to our sister who went to Svalbard with a committee of the potato park to take the seeds to Norway to deposit the seeds in the seed vault so that our seeds can be protected from climate change.

Voice 3: Brothers and sisters good morning, I greet you and thank you for this sharing of these experiences and I ask for permission from the mountains to address you. We are 6 communities in the potato park and here we work together, we work collectively, each president of every community, the head of the village also becomes a member of the organisation, for the governance of the potato park, they form the authorities of the potato park. Then we have an administration, a group that manages the economy of the potato park, then we have microenterprises, our administration works together with each one of the microenterprises, then we have experts on traditional knowledge that work under the association who belong to each one of the communities. We also have all the economic collectives, microenterprises focusing on handicrafts, weaving, pottery, jewellery. They form groups within each of the communities and all these groups form a micro-enterprise. They also work with alpacas, they use dyes from wild plants, so that our connection with the land is very strong. We also have a group on gastronomy as we have a large variety of potatoes and other crops and so they know very well how to cook them and our culinary tradition is very rich so we have a group that is dedicated to protecting that tradition and how they use wild plants for cooking. We have a medicinal plant group and they produce medicines and mix them also with potatoes to create soaps, shampoos, and other products. So those products are protected by a trademark of the potato park so these products can be commercialised and protected. They also have a small store in the main town.

We have a group of agro-ecotourism which is a collective which manages the visits to the park. We receive students and people interested in the work we do. Then we have another collective who focus especially on potatoes because that’s our main crop so we have an expert group on wild relatives and potatoes. From January to December each one of these groups has to contribute 10% of the benefits they receive into a communal fund which is divided between all of the communities at the end of the year. These funds serve to manage the park, these funds are used to maintain the infrastructure and each community divides the benefits during the year and receives according to the efforts they made during the year in maintaining the potato park. Each village assembly will decide how the funds will be used. Usually the contribution of the microenterprises to the communal fund serves to support the school or the elders, so the benefits of the microenterprises that operate in the park not only go to individuals but also extend to all the members of the communities and supports the management and administration of the potato park. So that’s the way our organisation works and I want to emphasise that in activities in tourism, it’s not our main activity but a complementary activity.

And now I would also like to tell you about some of the things that are important to us. One of those is the repatriation of potatoes that we brought back from the International Potato Centre (CIA). Right now we have 1347 different varieties of potatoes, these have been collected from each community, we have also received from other communities and we also went to the CIA, knocked on their doors and asked them to give us back the potatoes they had collected from here. So we see this repatriation as a very important activity because when the potatoes came back, the intellectual property that was invested on those potatoes also came back to the communities. So we wrote an agreement with the CIA in which they respect the rights of the communities. The potatoes came back and the potatoes were distributed to all of the communities, so we can keep all these varieties so now we have sovereign rights over the potatoes. The potatoes belong to all of the communities of the Andes and we share with all of them. We clean the potatoes and we share the seeds, the seeds are distributed to other communities. We have a community seed bank where we conserve the seeds but are also very active in multiplying traditional plant breeding to create more plant varieties that can be resistant to climate change. All of these varieties are shared with other communities and we have implemented infrastructures of conservation, greenhouses, a seed multiplication centre and a seed bank so we feel capable of conserving a large number of potatoes in situ. The greenhouses are to do more experimentation but we keep it in the field so the potatoes can evolve and grow with the land, be acquainted with the wind, the rain, the water because potatoes are strong if they live with all the elements. So this is our focus, this is the work we do in the potato park with the 6 communities.

Our production is agroecological. Each one of the communities has banned the use of pesticides and tried to be truthful to an agroecological production because we know that especially now in times of crisis, we have to go organic, we have to be healthy, so this is what I wanted to share with you. I’d also like to recognise our friends from the maize park here.

Because time is running out, we will ask our friend to tell us a little bit about the other work that we have done here.

Voice 4: Brothers and sisters, good morning to all of you. I would like to add to what my brothers and sisters have said, because we have one of the highest diversities of potatoes in the world and maintaining this diversity especially in times of climate change is very challenging and using the crops is important because if you don’t use your crop, you’ll lose it. So, working together with the gastronomy group who know how to use each variety, in festivals, in rituals, in food, is very important. But the pandemic is just one more crisis, climate change is also a big crisis and in the face of climate change we need to have a strategy to conserve all these rich varieties. We also have another crisis of biotechnologies and transgenics which the national government wants to bring, so we need to defend ourselves against these threats because they are also a big pandemic. So what we have done is work with the regional government to defend this diversity and we have worked towards declaring Cusco and the regional government of Cusco as a GMO free region and we were the first region in the world to declare themselves a GMO free region and this effort came from the potato park. We lobbied our regional government that we have to conserve and protect ourselves from contamination and transgenics. We marched through Cusco and pushed our government in 2011 to create a regional ordnance declaring Cusco as a GMO free region. Also, we have a high number of biopiousy cases so we worked with regional federations, with peasant federations and with the regional government to develop an ordinance declaring biopiousy a crime. So transgenics and biopiousy are also like the pandemic and we have to protect the health of our lands which is connected to human health. I will now pass to my sister.

Our work is not just conserving potatoes but also being organised against biopiousy and contamination from transgenics. The health of the pacha mama is similar to the health of humans. Before we collect any questions I would like to ask my sister to tell us how we took our seeds to the Svalbard seed vault in Norway.

Voice 5: Brothers and sisters I welcome you, I greet you and I thank my brothers and sisters who have spoken before. What I want to add is that because we are losing many seeds to climate change, this is our biggest challenge, in our work we have many women, children, men so protecting our potatoes is a work of everyone but how do we respond to all of these challenges? Particularly to climate change? To our food sovereignty? With this crisis of climate change which we have been seeing for the last 20 years, we have been producing botanical seeds of all of our varieties of potatoes and so for our food security we decided to take them to the seed bank in Svalbard to protect our seeds because these seeds are like our children as we are children of the potatoes we have to be aware that if we lose them we may lose them forever. So we decided to travel to Svalbard and deposit our seeds so that if we lose them, we can bring them back and our children can have access to all of these seeds because we have no way of protecting them for a long time and for our food sovereignty it’s important for us to have this kind of strategy.

We thank our sister for sharing how we took our seeds to this far away land of Svalbard. We now proceed with questions and answers.

A: We have a lot of questions. So there were 2 questions about the links to the International Potato Institute and also the introduction of genetically modified potatoes but I think our colleagues from the park have also addressed that but maybe you want to add something? There is also a question on how the pandemic impacted the 6 communities? Was there any significant impact of the virus?

Here we have our brother who will respond to the relationship between the international potato centre and the potato park.

Voice 6: Our relationship with the CIP goes back to our repatriation agreement, we work with them commercially but they respect how we work. In the 70s they came to the park and collected our potatoes so when we approached them we signed this agreement to repatriate 450 varieties and there we initiated our collaboration because they have a true benefit from those potatoes and as a way of providing benefits back to the communities they have been supporting our work and we have brought back the potatoes and have the support in terms of implementing a seed bank, multiplying the potatoes that have been repatriated because they came in an in vitro tarantule and we’ve been working with them but our relationship is just one of collaboration. The park doesn't have an institutional affiliation with the CIP, we are not part of them, we are an organisation made up of the communities. We appreciate having been able to bring back the potatoes and the support for the research we do and the support we have for sharing with the other communities, and the seed multiplication centre and seed bank allows us to share with the communities, but they are not owners of our potatoes, we are. We are against the work of the International Potato Centre and GMOs and other biotechnologies, we arrange the work of the Potato Park as it’s our intellectual property, and our seed bank and the way we work is traditional, this is our science, our own way of doing. I would like to focus on the work we do with the CIP and climate change because we know that we have this big challenge with climate change and their support has been important but there are things we don’t agree with and reject and we have recently formed an alliance with communities in Uganda and Rwanda where CIP is working to develop a GMO potato so we have joined with farmers in Africa to work against these GMOs. So for us, for all farmers, our seed sovereignty is more important. So the conservation of biodiversity is done for farmers. So this association, this collaboration has its own issues and now with this pandemic we see that when you are locked down and you live in the countryside you have this possibility to have food for your family. The government has forced everyone into a lockdown and the communities have reacted immediately. We have implemented our customary laws to implement our own lockdown to maintain a strict control of the number of entrants and although as communities we collaborate, we have had no covid case. But we continue to maintain the health protocol and so responding to the pandemic is a responsibility of all the communities, all the families and all individuals. So we have to respond as a people, as ayllu, as a traditional community. But we have people coming back from the cities and that’s dangerous because infections in the city are high so they have to quarantine because we are concerned. And because of this crisis there is no food in the city and so our families are coming back, and so we have more demand for food, for seeds and because of the way in which our park is organised, because we have been multiplying seeds, we have to support all of those families. And now each family is implementing medicinal plants, plants that are used for colds and respiratory problems so we are using natural medicines to respond. This also has its difficulties, we need more production, more seeds, but because we have infrastructure we can respond. We have to do agroecology, organic farming to make sure that our food is healthy. If we have well fed children and elders, they will be in better health to respond to any health problem.

A: Thank you, this reminds us that we’ve had a webinar with women farmers in India who have visited the potato farm and I think the people from the potato farm have also visited them and they have also reported that they have had no covid case in their villages and have had full food security but of course they also have to be careful about people coming to their communities. Perhaps some of you were part of that exchange programme some 20 years back.

I have 2 or 3 questions from Nadia. She wants to know how the decision making takes place in the potato park, for example how to use the land and what is the whole structure of decision making among the 6 communities? And maybe linked to that, here is a question - do you have full control over the landscape there or does the government also control some part of the landscape?

Thank you for these questions. How, as an organisation with a governance based on customary laws, do you make decisions?

Voice 7: In each community we have our own governments, which are elected by each village assembly so each community establishes its own constitution, its own rules so that it is the joint committee of the heads of the communities which take decisions for the whole of the potato park and within each one of the communities it is their own governments who make the decisions inside the community but for the potato park it is this committee which is made up of the heads of all of the villages that will take decisions. So the project or the the activities of the potato park are decided in common by all of the governments so this committee, this assembly is also in charge of the administration of the park and they also oversee the work of the microenterprises, they see for instance how the quarantine is implemented in the whole park though each of the communities can make their own rules and adjustments for their own communities but for the whole park it is the committee of village leaders and now with the pandemic of course we cannot go to the market, we cannot sell our products, we cannot have an external income through tourism or handicrafts so we have to confer together how we have to respond. And this is our relationship to the government. The government does not have control over our land, it is a collective land owned by each one of the communities and managed collectively but because of the pandemic and other issues we have a relationship with the government to get support and especially now during the pandemic.

A: Thank you very much, can I go onto the next question?

V7: The higher authority of the potato park is the assembly and then this assembly is formed of the association of head villages and then any decision they make, they have to take to the village assembly where it is debated and accepted for any decision for the potato park to be valid. So there has to be communication between each village assembly and what the committee decides and for that we have an intercommunity agreement to share the benefits but also to regulate how the governments operate. This intercommunity agreement was developed in work with the IIED which has allowed us to have some rules to operate in terms of governance and benefit sharing.

A: Thank you very much, can I go onto the next question? Ok, so there’s a question about links with the other indigenous peoples and communities in the region. Not only in terms of sharing seeds and so on but also living, cultures, and ideologies. So what are the kinds of linkages across the larger landscapes?

Here we have our brother Victor. He comes from Lares, he’s not from the potato park, he is from Lares, another region close to the Amazon and he has come to join to tell us about how he collaborates with the potato park.

Victor: Greetings to everyone and to my brothers and sisters in the potato park, I bring my greetings from the maize park which is another initiative where we are trying to replicate the potato park. We are 8 communities and the different communities have joined and are looking at the potato park to see how they are working and we have brothers and sisters from the potato park coming to Lares to exchange experiences, knowledges so that we can also create this type of area so we can conserve the high diversity of maize that we have. We have around 52 different types of maize in Lares and we also have the objective to do sumak quasay, buen vivir, to conserve our crops, especially maize. So this type of relationship is not just the transfer of seeds, of potatoes but also of knowledge, the experiences and also we exchange culture. We share with them our own experience. It’s an exchange, it’s support. We are also working against mining, the mining operations that are menacing our communities and the water conservation so we teach each other and also now with the pandemic we are looking at how the protocols are being implemented and so we can adjust our protocols and we can tell them how our protocols are being implemented in our communities and so we can learn from one another and respond better. And also, we have our sacred mountains, our sacred sites so that in this exchange we can offer experiences and we can share the ways in which we relate to our sacred mountains and how we do our ceremonies because this is very important for our livelihoods. This is reciprocity work. Work of reciprocity and solidarity.

Thank you Victor for sharing with us how the work of the maize park is being done and how you are sharing with the potato park.

A: Thank you, can I go onto the next question? So the next question, is the community self-sufficient in most, are all of its needs? Food, clothing, energy etc? Or does it need resources from outside?

Daniel: Good morning everyone, I’m Daniel, I will talk about how we sustain our livelihoods in the potato park. We have enough, plenty of food for our self-sufficiency, most families produce enough, we keep good relationships with the mountains so we have water and pasture for our animals. But with this pandemic, because some of our economy comes from the outside, from tourism, from selling our handicrafts, our crops, this has stopped and in this case we have new challenges. We will see how we respond to these new challenges but before the pandemic we were self-sufficient.

As Daniel has mentioned, we are self-sufficient but now with the pandemic especially our organisation is looking at how to operate in this crisis. We have needs now as an organisation because of this crisis but we hope to solve these problems as they come.

A: Gracias. So the next question, what is the kind of participation of young men and women in all of the communities of the potato park? And also how do they see their future in this? And what is the main challenge that the potato park faces right now?

Youth Representative: Good morning, I’m going to speak because I’m representing youth. We youth are men and women and are very involved in the activities of the potato park. It is important to work with our elders, if youth don’t get involved with the elders and with the rest, our communities won’t have a future so as is custom for us, we try to get involved in the microenterprises and the different activities of the potato park, from food production to handicrafts, to other activities. The girls and the children are also involved in different activities.

And now I will ask our sister who is an elder how the elders pass on the knowledge to the children and why knowledge transfer is important especially to keep our crop diversity.

Elder Representative: Thank you brothers and sisters for allowing me to share with you. I will tell you for example how we pass on our knowledge of medicinal plants to children, to youth. In our houses we all keep medicinal plants, depending on the health problems we have, all the households have medicinal plants. So since they are children, our kids know to manage each one of them, how to use them, how to take care of them, because they will use them in the future so with them we prepare different types of medicines, we help them to know how to combine different types of plants for different kinds of health problems and that’s a way, through practice, to transfer knowledge. Each mother, each grandmother like me has to work with the kids, to teach the kids how to use the plants, to select seeds, to care of the animals so it’s a process that begins at home.

A: Gracias. So I think we have one more question and then I think we can start winding up. All the work that you people have done there, all the incredible work, has been done without thinking about gene research so do we really need to think about going in the direction of gene research or genes? Or can we continue in the traditional way of looking at potatoes and other species?

Voice 8: Brothers and sisters thank you for the question. If we see the pandemic, no research is going to solve this in terms of food. It’s more important to know how we use our medicinal plants, how we use our crops, what do we have in nature? So that we have in hand how to respond to this type of crisis. First is our food, here in the potato park we are more interested and give more importance to the traditional way of learning, of managing seeds, to medicinal plants. If we are strong, if we know about traditional medicine then we are sure that we can respond with more strength because the government won’t provide any type of health support. In the cities, all the hospitals are crowded, here the best response has been to have a strong food system. Any research that is done only serves the big cities, the rich people, our own research, our own work, our own conservation of seeds and good crops will give us good food. I don’t see this kind of research as necessary. We collaborate with the International Potato Centre and we see it, that that research doesn’t come back to the community but we are the ones who are keeping those 1300 varieties and we are the ones who know how to use each one of those, we are the ones who know what kind of soil they use. So while that research is important and we can collaborate, we don’t see it for us, for the communities, we see that our own work, our own research of traditional knowledge is what is giving responses. With this research, we are doing participatory plant breeding for better food and this is a good collaboration and where traditional knowledge is leading. But more important for us is to have food sovereignty, to have enough food, healthy food, nutritious food, and that is the product of traditional knowledge, that is the product of our research. Researchers don’t know the type of medicinal plants that we have, they don’t know how to use them, so rather than teaching us, we teach them, so we have to put more strength, more effort into our own research and if there is any type of collaboration, it has to respect our traditional knowledge. We don’t want to lose our knowledge, but also we don’t want people coming and appropriating it, our potatoes, our medicinal plants or our knowledge. Any collaboration has to respect our own views, we don’t want transgenics, if anyone wants to work with us, they have to respect that this is a GMO free area, people who want to share have to respect how we see our crops and here in the potato park it is our united organisation that is more important. The strength of our research and organisation has taken us to different places, to share our knowledge with other communities around the world, to share our knowledge and experiences with our brothers and sisters who are trying to combat globalisation and oppression. Let me add, research is not only what scientists do, we farmers, we indigenous people are always doing research, we are always experimenting, observing, trying, we are always doing research so it’s not about doing or not doing research. What scientists do is their job, it’s good to collaborate if we want to appreciate the diversity of potatoes here. We welcome collaboration, support from scientists but they have to respect that any type of research cannot be used to produce GMOs or transgenics so in that way what we keep here is free, and healthy. Local research is important, our methodologies are important, our traditional knowledge is important. This has to be kept and is the basis of all that we have achieved with this work and we don’t want this to be lost. We don’t want transgenics.

A: Wonderful, this is so inspiring, a big thanks and gratitude for this.That’s the end. They will dance and play music. Thank you all. Let’s end with a dance by our friends in the Andes.


The session included a ceremony called “Despacho”. It describes the Andean practice of making offerings to the mountains (apus), Mother Earth (Pachamama), and other spirits of nature in reciprocity, reverence, and thanksgiving. A despacho is an act of love and a reminder of the connections we share with all beings, elements, spirits, and sacred places. At the deepest level, it is an opportunity to enter into the essential unity of all things, the living energy of the universe.

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