Juan Pablo Pineda
Rural Service Provider
Peru is a leader in agroecological farming. Expert Juan Pablo Pineda says the challenge now is to protect farmers and the diet of local people.
Juan Pablo Pineda grew up on a rural farm in Peru and is on a mission to promote agroecological farming methods to help the diversification of crops and help grow nutritious food for all.
Extreme weather, biodiversity loss and the consequences of chemical-dependent agriculture are making it increasingly difficult to sustainably produce crops in the southern Andes of Peru where he was brought up. This is bad news for the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and the diets of rural families.
As a rural service provider, Juan Pablo is fighting the current trend of simplification of farming and diets. He is working with local farmers on nutrition-sensitive agriculture which means sustainably growing and consuming a large diversity of crops, thereby ensuring sufficient nutrient supply to families. A process that requires adaptation to the realities of food insecurity and the climate crisis.
“The impact of climate change has meant establishing certain strategies, such as the construction of greenhouses which usually you would only need if situated more than 1300m above sea level,” he says. “We are also focusing on projects that put an emphasis on nutrition. For example, we are growing crops such as quinoa to improve diets in a region with a high level of anaemia among children and older people.”
He would like to see more financial support from the national government to agroecological farming which protects native crops and forests.
“We need to encourage people to share their knowledge around diverse ways of farming and to move away from single crop farming towards a holistic production system. We also need to grow crops that will be popular nationally and internationally without reducing the quality of diets of rural families.”
We need to encourage people to share their knowledge around diverse ways of farming and to move away from single crop farming.
Improving nutrition and the diet of local people is a priority for Juan Pablo who says a more consistent level of crop production will guarantee a nutritional diet throughout the year.
One of the main challenges is how to preserve local traditions while encouraging farmers to adopt new methods. Locally adapted, traditional species and varieties are key in providing nutrients to rural communities and in bringing resilience to farms even in extreme weather conditions.
“In rural areas ancestry is important and Andean traditions are ingrained in society,” he says. “But people understand the importance of agriculture to the community and traditional practices go hand in hand with agrobiodiversity. Local resources are considered precious and important to look after.”
If the agroecological market is to grow locally and globally there needs to be interaction between producers and consumers.
Peru has developed a participatory guarantee system (PGS) that is viable for farmers and trusted by consumers. In Juan Pablo’s region the local government has created a specific market where buyers and sellers can meet. The PGS are made up by NGOs, public institutions and academics.
“Our work is on-going. We are improving things locally, but this is all part of a global solution.”