Cultivating what is ours: Local agro-food heritage as a development strategy in the Peruvian Andes
The Peruvian Andes has long been portrayed as a space of poverty and marginalisation, but more recently Andean places have been reinterpreted as reservoirs of valuable patrimonio agroalimentario (agro-food heritage). Amidst global interest in food provenance and Peru’s gastronomic ‘boom’, Andean people and places have connected with different networks that value the geographical, ecological and social origins of food. This thesis explores the meaning of these changes by combining a discourse genealogy with local case studies. I first trace the emergence of interconnecting discourses of territorial development with identity and local agro-food heritage in Latin America. I explore how these discourses bring together diverse actors and agendas through arguments that collective action to revalue local agro-food heritage can offer equitable economic gains while conserving biocultural diversity, a theoretical dynamic that I term the ‘virtuous circle of products with identity.’ These promises frame in-depth case studies of Cabanaconde and Tuti, two rural localities in the southern Peruvian Andes where a range of development initiatives based on local agro-food heritage were undertaken from around the mid-2000s. The case studies combine evaluation of the economic, social, cultural and environmental impacts of the initiatives, with ethnographic perspectives that look at them through the lens of local livelihoods. The partial successes and multiple setbacks of the initiatives highlight the tensions between economic impact, social equity and biocultural diversity while underlining the limitations of existing markets to value the rich connections between place and food in the Andes. Nevertheless, by highlighting local agency in engaging selectively with these initiatives, I conclude that their overall legacy has been largely positive. I suggest that connections being made between place, food and development can provide material and discursive support for diverse territorial economies, defined as the locally specific ways people in the Andes pursue their aspirations while retaining what they value about place, farming and food.