Lauren Howerton, IEP ’19

Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development

I was unfamiliar with the term ‘Agriculture Extension’ before my departure to Peru in January of 2018. I read a few data- rich articles about the history of it in Latin America prior to arrival as required but after discussion with other students was still unsure of its meaning or our work regarding it. We spent a few days dissecting presumptions and gathering conclusions about sharing knowledge rather than imposing, listening instead of instructing and the following week started conducting interviews. I had my own interview for a position with an organization I’m thrilled to know about, after my team and I had spoken to 2 farmers and 2 technicians about their relationship with each other. I wish I had that interview the following week because, after our 7th interview after the 4th farm visited, something became clear to me. We sat on planks of wood in mud huts with these people covered in beautiful textiles, serving us potatoes and corn, smiling ear to ear, sometimes speaking neither English nor Spanish. In wondering how we could discover where they obtained their knowledge from and their idea of the future of agriculture in the Sacred Valley, I realized, watching the way they wrap their child in their poncho or how cows are held by rope instead of machine, the beauty in their completely sustainable way of life.

The Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development gave us the opportunity to share space with an indigenous culture that textbooks cannot describe. In sharing space, food, and laughter with these Peruvian farmers or technicians, we were able to begin to build trust that is fundamental in any exchange. In building trust, we were able to learn ancient and intrinsic techniques, barriers, and advice for the future sustainability of agriculture, in a place rich in biodiversity. Like the mist weaving through the mountains covered in terraces, we were granted a peek into a life that worked far before any of us were here, and through that lens, we can begin to understand, as we adapt to climate change, how it can exist long after we are gone.

“This is my team and me with the Potato King and his wife. The Potato King and Rosa live about 15,000 feet in the Andes and agreed to let us interview them about expanding 60 varieties of potatoes to 350.”

Click here to read Lauren’s project, “Agriculture Extension in the Peruvian Andes: Exploring the Relationship between Campesinos and Técnicos.”

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