Indigenous Communities from Peru’s Sacred Valley of the Incas to Send Some 1,500 Potato Varieties to Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Arctic Circle
Asociación ANDES press release, 15 February 2011

CUSCO, PERU: As climate change and disease threaten potato farming in the Peruvian Andes, the six indigenous communities of the Cusco Potato Park have decided to safeguard more than 1,500 varieties by sending them to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle. “Climate change will mean that traditional methods of maintaining this collection can no longer provide absolute guarantees,” said Lino Mamani, a Potato Park farmer and head of the Papa Arariwa (“Potato Guardians,” in Quechua) collective. “Sending seeds to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault will help us to provide a valuable back-up collection. The Vault was built for the global community and we are going to use it.” The first stage of the three-year project will involve training conservation farmers or “papa arariwas” in pollination techniques to produce botanical potato seed. This seed will be dried and cleaned, then packaged in foil packages to preserve in medium- and long-term cold storage conditions. Three sets of the seed will be produced. One set will be used by the Potato Park to develop climate-ready varieties of the native potatoes, which are increasingly threatened by rapid changes in weather patterns. The second set will be stored at the CIP genebank in Lima, and the third will be shipped and stored in the Seed Vault. All the sets of seed shall remain the property of the Potato Park at all times. “The farming practices here in Peru are interwoven with our cultural rituals and practices. Our potatoes are therefore both a cultural and a biological legacy …” said Alejandro Argumedo of Asociación ANDES-IIED. “This is a milestone in recognizing the importance of collaboration between communities and international institutions,” said Cary Fowler of the Rome-based Global Crop Diversity Trust. “The Potato Park highlights the active role that individual communities play in creating and conserving diversity.” Read the press release … Read a BBC article on the topic …