Holistic and Sustainable Development in Peru

Before coming to college, I took a gap year and lived in Peru to work in an orphanage and on a farm for six months. I was able to experience an alternative lifestyle which opened wide my world. The farmers I worked for were deeply in tune with the land and nurtured her with the love of a child. All around me, I saw alternative ways of being that de-prioritized material consumption and alternately focused on a return to the earth.

In my current class on international development, we are learning a lot about economic development and traditional development policies and strategies. Looking back on my experiences with rural peoples and indigenous cultures in Peru, I can’t help but wonder if consumption and export driven development is the right kind of development. I hope to use these five posts to deepen my knowledge of alternatives to consumption-based, Eurocentric economic development and how traditional, economic development affects the Peruvian indigenous Aymara and Quechua peoples. I also hope to grapple with whether economic development is compatible with human development in the holistic.

In this first post, I will provide some background information on sustainable development, the Peruvian economy and on some current development projects taking place. Sustainable development was notoriously defined as the ability “to ensure that it [development] meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” by the Bruntland Commission in 1987. An article by Kates, Parris and Leiserowitz looks at this definition and seeks to further determine what exactly sustainable development is. They write that sustainable development is an expression of values, that it is measured by indicators, and is defined by practice but ultimately is malleable. While some believe that sustainable development represents a compromise between economic development the environment, many argue, and I agree, that it is an oxymoron and still prioritizes development over sustainability. For a real life example of what climate degradation is doing in Peru, we can turn to an article by the world news agency Inter Press Service, which tells us of rural Quechua farmers who are having an increasingly difficult time planting their traditional crop of potatoes due to climate change and decreased rains.  As one community leader interviewed for the article heartbreakingly states, “Pachamama [mother earth, in Quechua] is nervous about what we are doing to her. All of the crops are moving up the mountains, to higher and higher ground, and they will do so until it’s too high to grow,” he also adds “Nature used to let us know when was the best time for each step, in farming. But now, Pachamama is confused, and we are losing our reference points among the animals and the plants, which don’t have a flowering season anymore.”

According to an article from 2013 in The Economist, there has been increased economic productivity among the poor living in the highlands of Peru. These peasants cannot compete with cheap prices of imports however many have taken jobs outside of the agricultural sector to augment their income as farmers. Annual average income in these rural areas has risen by an average of 7.2 percent each year since 1994 which is believed to be in part due to better roads. A Policy Report of the World Bank, published in 2014 and entitled “Peru: Investments for Environmentally Sustainable Development” describes a current policy (funded by the World Bank) which aims to “enhance environment management through (i) increase[ing] the quality, availability, and reliability of environment data…(ii) improve[ing] mechanisms to identify and address environmental priorities…and (iii) improve[ing] mechanisms for opening up decision making.” All of these are to be attained through investment of capital. According to this same brief, extraction of resources is at the heart of the Peruvian economy and the annual cost of degradation falls between 3.5 and 5 percent of GDP.

One example of a holistic approach to development that is going very well is Corazón Viviente (Causac Sonqo in Quechua, Living Heart in English) which was established by a 76-year-old British woman in 2007 with the help of the local community in Ollantaytambo, Peru. As Heather Buchanan, a volunteer, wrote in the Peruvian magazine Que Pasa this effort was developed in true collaboration with the local Quechua people. Corazón Viviente focuses on providing nutritious food, family planning services, education, disability support and agricultural support to the inhabitants of the area surrounding Ollantaytambo.

Going from here, I hope to explore alternative development in environmental sustainability and in cultural and human sustainability with a special focus on rural and indigenous Peruvians and policies in Peru.


Works Cited:

Buchanan, Heather. “Living Heart Nutritious Food.” Que Pasa Peru. July 2011. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <https://issuu.com/quepasaperu/docs/quepasaperu-july2011>.

Kates, Robert W., Thomas M. Parris, and Anthony A. Leiserowitz. “What Is Sustainable Development?” Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development 47.3 (2005): 8-21. Web. <http://www.hks.harvard.edu/sustsci/ists/docs/whatisSD_env_kates_0504.pdf>.

Ortiz, Fabíola. “Climate Change Threatens Quechua and Their Crops in Peru’s Andes.” Online news posting. Inter Press Service News Agency. 29 Dec. 2014. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/climate-change-threatens-quechua-and-their-crops-in-perus-andes/>.

Peru: Investments for Environmentally Sustainable Development. Rep. Vol. PIDC4399. World Bank. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/LCR/2014/09/30/090224b08279672d/1_0/Rendered/PDF/Project0Inform0evelopment000P147342.pdf>

“The Andean Collection: Diminishing Distance, Falling Poverty.” The Economist: The Americas. The Economist. 13 Apr. 2013. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21576116-diminishing-distance-falling-poverty-andean-connection>.