Malnutrition and Economic Growth in Peru

Globally, 1 in 7 individuals suffers from malnutrition every day.  This problem is illustrated quite clearly in Peru, where 13 percent of children under 5 are chronically malnourished. However, much progress has been made in the past decade to improve this statistic. One organization that has made a positive impact on the situation is the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD). Over the past decade, they have established numerous partnerships between both local and international academic institutions, as well as indigenous communities, in order to help conduct valuable research, fund agricultural projects, and establish solidarity programs. These efforts have helped to improve malnutrition and facilitate economic growth in Peru.

The School Greenhouse Project

One of the AASD’s most notable achievements is the creation of The School Greenhouse Project. Co-designed by a cohort of graduate students from around the world and local agricultural experts, the project provides fresh vegetables for school lunches as well as an interactive classroom for students. Providing these resources to young children helps accomplish one of AASD’s main goals, which is to address malnutrition and economic growth in a sustainable and locally-driven way.

Ecological Footprint Farm

Agriculture in Peru’s Sacred Valley has a rich history dating to before the Inca Empire. Unlike agricultural models adopted by the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture, AASD seeks to establish and capitalize on relationships with local family farms. For example, AASD’s Ecological Footprint Farm is based out of the Nina Family Farm. This partnership aims to tap into the decades of agricultural expertise for high altitude cultivation that the Nina Family have collected. According to the website, The Ecological Footprint Farm “acts as an experimental space for fusing ancient and modern forms of agriculture, a place of communal learning, and a bridge between local and global communities.”

Nutritional Deficiencies and Crop Growth

Living at high elevation poses particular challenges for nutrition. For example, individuals living in the Peruvian highlands have been shown to have significantly more nutrient deficiencies compared to individuals living in regions along the coast of Peru. Specifically, coastal inhabitants have higher protein and vitamin A intakes than their high-altitude brethren. This has led to organizations like AASD to focus the majority of their efforts on improving malnutrition into areas of high elevation. One integral aspect of farming that AASD works to inform individuals living in these areas about is the importance of taking the elevation that they are at into account when growing crops. For instance, potatoes cannot be grown at elevations higher than 12,000 feet, but superfoods like quinoa and canihua can grow at elevations of almost 15,000 feet.

Solidarity Program

In addition to their agricultural programs, AASD also offers a Solidarity Program. This program provides opportunities for youth, high-school and college-aged students to live and work in locations throughout Peru. It teaches these students the basics of international development, as well as the importance of social justice and community development work. For example, in one recent show of the good work that the program helps facilitate, high school students helped to raise $12,000 to build a new greenhouse for the School Greenhouse Project. Through this partnership, AASD completed a tangible project which will have long term positive ramifications for the health of the community while also spreading Andean wisdom to the high school students. This kind of knowledge building is central to AASD’s model for change, as students often depart these programs with an understanding of the importance of sustainable, community-driven projects.

Looking Ahead

While Peru still faces many challenges with regards to malnutrition and economic growth, the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development has helped establish many important building blocks to ensure that the people of Peru can begin to overcome these challenges. Their agricultural and community-building initiatives have provided an enormous help to millions of Peruvian children, teens, and adults, and as a result, they have helped to spread greater awareness about the problems that Peru faces going forward.

– Sarah Boyer
Photo: Wikipedia Commons