Valorization of agrobiodiversity products and strengthening of local identities in the Peruvian Andes: Experiences from the BioAndes Programme

Mathez-Stiefel, Sarah-Lan; Gianella Malca, Cecilia; Rist, Stephan (2009). Valorization of agrobiodiversity products and strengthening of local identities in the Peruvian Andes: Experiences from the BioAndes Programme (Unpublished). In: Localizing products: A sustainable approach for natural and cultural diversity in the South? International Symposium. Paris, France. 09.06.-11.06.2009.

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In the Peruvian Andes, a long history of interaction between the local populations and their natural environment has led to extraordinary levels of agrobiodiversity. However, in sharp contrast with this biological wealth, Andean indigenous populations live under most precarious conditions. Moreover, natural resources are undergoing severe degradation processes and local knowledge about biodiversity management is under serious pressure. Against this background, the BioAndes Programme is developing initiatives based on a biocultural approach that aim at fostering biodiversity through the enhancement of cultural processes. On the basis of intercultural dialogue, joint learning and capacity development, and transdisciplinary action-research, indigenous communities, development practitioners, and researchers strive for the creation of innovative ways to contribute to more sustainable economic, socio-cultural, and political valorization of Andean biodiversity. Project activities are diverse and range from the cultivation, transformation, and commercialization of organic Andean fruits in San Marcos, Cajamarca Department, to the recuperation of natural dying techniques for alpaca wool and traditional weaving in Pitumarca, Cusco Department, and the promotion of responsible ecotourism in both regions.

Based on the projects’ first two-years of experience, the following lessons learnt will be presented and discussed:
1. The economic valorization and commercialization of local products can be a powerful tool for the revival and innovation of eroded know-how; at the same time it contributes to the strengthening of local identities, in parallel with the empowerment of marginalized groups such as smallholders and women.
2. Such initiatives are only successful when they are embedded within activities that go beyond the focus on local products and seek the valorization of the entire natural and cultural landscape (e.g. through the promotion of agrotourism and local gastronomy, more sustainable management of local resources including the restoration of ecosystems, and the realization of inventories of local agrobiodiversity and the knowledge related to it).
3. The sustainability of these initiatives, which are often externally induced, is conditioned by the ability of local actors to acquire ownership of projects and access to the knowledge required to carry them out, which also means developing the personal and institutional capacities for handling the whole chain from production to commercialization.
4. The confrontation of different economic rationalities and their underlying worldviews that occur when local or indigenous people integrate into the market economy implies the need for a dialogical co-production of knowledge and collective action by local people, experts from NGOs, and political authorities in order to better control the conditions relating to the market economy.
The valorization of local agrobiodiversity shows much potential for enhancing natural and cultural diversity in Southern countries, but only when local communities can participate in the shaping of the conditions under which this happens. Such activities should be designed in the mid- to long-term as part of social learning processes that are carefully embedded in the local context. Supporting institutions play a crucial role in these processes, but should see themselves only as facilitators, while ensuring that control and ownership remain with the local actors.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Abstract)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > NCCR North-South Management Centre [discontinued]
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Geographies of Sustainability
10 Strategic Research Centers > Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

UniBE Contributor:

Mathez-Stiefel, Sarah-Lan, Rist, Stephan


900 History > 910 Geography & travel
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics




Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 15:21

Last Modified:

16 Feb 2023 23:21



URI: (FactScience: 204258)

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