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‘Unsung potato heroes’: Indigenous peoples hold the past and future of food in their hands

August 9 is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples – a celebration of the uniqueness of the traditions of Quechua, Huli, Zapotec, and thousands of other cultures, but also of the universality of potatoes, bananas, beans, and the rest of the foods that nourish the world. These crops did not arise out of thin air. They were domesticated over thousands of years, and continue to be nurtured, by Indigenous people. On this day we give thanks to these cultures for the diversity of our food. Yes, even in a globalized world and food system.

This is the view of Alejandro Argumedo, Director of Programs and Andes Amazon Lead of Swift Foundation that he explains in an article published by Foodtank.

Alejandro goes on to write: Most diversity in crops – and livestock – is still found in the regions where they have been around longest, adapting to climatic extremes, pests, and diseases through millennia interaction with human cultures – as we have weathered our own storms and pandemics.

Known as primary regions of crop and livestock diversity, these places are central to the present and future viability of food systems. They are also the homelands of many Indigenous peoples.

For centuries, crop diversity has enriched the world, but has been taken out of the hands of Indigenous people in doing so. That story is only beginning to shift as the rest of the world starts to give Indigenous farmers the respect they are due. Community initiatives like the Parque de la Papa (Potato Park), in the primary region of potato diversity in the Andes of Peru, are connecting with worldwide conservation efforts on the farmers’ own terms.

Read the full article by Alejandro Argumedo, and learn how six Quechua communities established the Parque to ensure the survival of the thousands of traditional potato cultivars they grow. And how they then co-designed a unique agreement with the International Potato Center genebank in Lima and the nonprofit Asociacion ANDES to return 410 native potato varieties to the Parque communities.

Alejandro’s article can be found on the Foodtank website here.
Photo: Courtesy of Crop Trust

Alejandro Argumedo is Director of Programs and Andes Amazon Lead of Swift Foundation (www.swiftfoundation.org); he is a recognized indigenous peoples’ food rights activist currently acting as the international coordinator of the International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples (INMIP).

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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