Do you like peanut butter? Do you wear cotton? If so, you owe thanks to Peru. These crops were first domesticated and cultivated by the Peruvians 8,000-10,000 years ago! It’s strange to think of crops as “wild” or “domestic,” but they really are. Someone had to find them in nature, harvest them, collect seeds and start planting them intentionally, right?
Peru is a very agrarian country, though it isn’t competitive internationally. Two big exports are coffee and quinoa. Peru also produces a lot of corn and potatoes. However, subsides on these products in the US, Europe and elsewhere make it next to impossible for Peruvian farmers to compete.
(Then again, why should Peruvians be growing food for us? Shouldn’t they grown food for themselves while we grow our own food? When did food production become a phenomena of globalization?)
Peru is a prime example of the importance of managing resources. They once had the most productive fisheries in the world, but overfishing destroyed them. Without fish to consume, the bird populations died out or migrated away. Guano – sea bird and bat droppings – was another big industry.
Before the creation of synthetic fertilizer, farmers relied on manure and guano is one of the best manures out there. Peru exported excrement all over the world. But no fish meant no birds and no birds meant no guano.
As far as animal husbandry goes, llamas and alpacas are prized across Peru. They provide wool and meat and are excellent pack animals that can carry loads across the rugged Andes. Like cows they are herbivores and thrive on a diet of grass. This makes them an easy and inexpensive animal to raise. All you need is a bit of pasture. Many farmers practice rotational grazing with their llamas and alpacas similar to what we do here at Wyebrook with our cows.
If I ever have a farm of my own, I’d like to have an alpaca or two.