Andean agriculture is one of the best examples of
the adaptation and knowledge of farmers to their environment over the last 5 000 years or more. Actual presence of indigenous agricultural knowledge includes terraces, ridge fields, local irrigation systems and traditional agricultural tools, crops and livestock spread at different altitudes.
Multi-millennial experiences and selection have led to the domestication of a lot of endemic species such as potatoes and quinoa. Added to that, local knowledge has led to the development of three main agricultural systems, each one related to altitude: the maize area (2 800–3 300 metres), the potato area (3 300–3 800 metres) and the livestock area with high altitude
crops such as quinua and cañihua (3 800–4 500 metres). At each altitude band, native selected crops are cultivated.
Indigenous communities also form a strong social organization with their own norms and cultural rituals – such as the tribute to the Pachamama (mother earth) – leading both to sustainable practices and solidarity. Indeed, a strengthening sense of identity is probably one of the main goals to be achieved through agriculture here.
As these areas maintain most of the ancient traditional agricultural technologies, they should not be taken
for granted – particularly in the current context
where migration of younger people to the forest
or towns may lead to a severe loss of knowledge and bioversity.