The Andes hosts the greatest range of mountain biodiversity on the planet. It is one of the few remaining centers of crop diversity with a large reservoir of genetic resources still intact, and has the potential to be a leader in developing inclusive and healthy food chains with over 60 native crop species, including a host of highly nutritious superfoods that could help secure global food security.
The Andes are currently experiencing climatic change extremes at a much greater rate than other regions. With Andean agriculture taking place at the highest altitude anywhere in the world, upward expansion to even higher altitudes has triggered the release of untouched soil carbon from peatlands. The volume of carbon being released from unsustainable land use in the high Andes is equivalent to those derived from deforestation in the Amazon. Yet the conservation of these reservoirs has received little attention from researchers or policymakers alike.
This creates an enormous opportunity. Eighty-four of the planet´s 110 recognized ‘life zones’— biogeographical regions defined by their characteristic animal life and vegetation—are found in Peru alone. The Andes is a living laboratory, where global warming and its effect on agricultural productivity, nutrition, livelihoods and biodiversity can be studied and implemented. Lessons from the Andes could help the world to prepare for the future.
At the crossroads of the Andean food system
Against this backdrop, the International Potato Center’s (CIP’s) Andean Initiative seeks to foster the sustainable use of agrobiodiversity to promote development based on unique local resources, climate change action—including mitigation and adaptation in extreme environments and healthy diets to reshape the region’s food system, based on the triple-P approach:
At the core of this approach is agrobiodiversity, ensuring super or smart foods—particularly those with unique nutritional and nutraceutical properties—will become the basis for inclusive and sustainable development.
Climate action using a ‘basket of options’ approach at the interface of grassroots learning in extreme environments and evidence gathering to inform policy at scale.
Food diversity towards healthy diets by creating a conducive food environment for young people in marginal environments through education, information and awareness raising to reshape demand linking rural and urban spaces.
NEW CHALLENGES, NEW INITIATIVES
The Andean Initiative pursues a collaborative and demand-driven direction for research and development. It specifically seeks to
address the threats of agrobiodiversity loss, climate change, and malnutrition in an integrated manner:
CIP draws on almost 50 years of experience working in the research-for-development sphere and its accumulated institutional knowledge on an array of subject matters including agrobiodiversity, nutrition, land use, sustainability, participatory approaches and inclusive value chains.
Working closely with a range of stakeholders from universities, the private sector and civil society, the Andean Initiative offers a rare opportunity to combine the applied scientific research to ensure the on-farm conservation of agrobiodiversity, innovative climate action and adoption of healthy diets.