The Ayllu System of the Potato Park, Cusco, Peru



  • United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies


  • 03/05/2010

  • REGION :

  • South America


  • Peru (Cusco)


  • Since pre-Hispanic times, a co-evolutionary relationship built around management of biocultural resources with the mountain environment in Cusco Valley, Peru, has produced the “ayllu” mindset. The main objective of “ayllu” is the attainment of well-being or Sumaq Qausay; defined as a positive relationship between humans and their social and natural environments. To this end, great focus is given to achieving equilibrium between one’s natural and social surroundings and to maintaining reciprocity between all “beings”; including the Earth. This practice has proven pivotal to maintaining high biodiversity and has been described by scholars as the product of “common-field agriculture” (Godoy, 1991). Attesting to this, the majority of subsistence and agricultural activities in the valley are based on diversifying uses and the priorities and values of the communities. This community focus can best be seen in the several economic collectives that have been established with the objective of conserving and sustainably using biological resources; examples include utilizing such tools as Local Biocultural Databases and audiovisual recordings that store traditional Andean biocultural knowledge, seed repatriation and conservation, and providing benefits for the often marginalised women of the Andes. This revitalization of traditional Andean systems is promoting a reciprocal relationship between the people of the Potato Park and their environment, enhancing the sustainable use of biodiversity, local livelihoods/human well-being and the ecological integrity of a landscape that is the product of a relationship millennia in the making.


  • bio-cultural resources, common-field agriculture, Peru


  • Mr. Alejandro Argumedo is Director of the Association ANDES, a Cusco-based indigenous people’s non-governmental organization working to protect and develop Andean biological and cultural diversity and the rights of indigenous peoples of Peru. He is also the international coordinator of the Indigenous People’s Biodiversity Network (IPBN), and Senior Research Officer for Peru of the ‘Sustaining Local Food Systems, Agricultural Biodiversity and Livelihoods’ Programme of the International Institute for Environment and Development for England. Mr. Bernard Yun Loong Wong works as a consultant for the Satoyama Initiative at the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies. He specialises in forest ecosystem studies, where he combines ecology and history in demonstrating the contributions of past human activities to the establishment of old growth natural forests in Japan. His other interests include the philosophical and cultural aspects of traditional landscape formation, and historical interactions between people and the land.

  • LINK:

  • Homepage of the Potato Park
    Homepage of the (NGO) Association ANDES


The Potato Park is a unique model of holistic conservation of the Andean traditional landscape with a focus on conservation of agrobiodiversity (Argumedo, 2008). The Park is located in a known microcenter of origin and diversity of potatoes, one of the world’s major food crops, which has been nurtured for centuries by the deeply rooted local food systems of Quechua peoples. The Potato Park initiative seeks to conserve the landscape and nurture the diversity of native crops, particularly of the potato, and their habitat, as well as enhance the interrelations between native crops and the physical, biotic, cultural environment, and to use such interactions to create multiple livelihood options for local people.

For more details, plaease refer to the link below.