Climate change affecting Peru right now

By chufstader
Cirilo Quispe of Cusco, Peru

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Climate change is affecting farmers in rural Peru right now, in the highland regions of Cusco and Piura. The Citizen’s Movement Against Climate Change (MOCICC), a Peruvian coalition including Oxfam, recently gathered testimonies from farmers directly affected by climate change.

Hatunmayo (Cusco)

Farmers in Cusco are reporting irregular rains and intense heat. This is affecting their potato and corn crops: in recent years, production has fallen by at least half. The Peruvian Ministry of the Environment corroborated this information in its 2009 National Environmental Study, which revealed that 80,000 hectares (about 195,000 acres) of potato and 60,000 hectares (148,000 acres) of white corn have been lost in the last 12 crop years due to climate change. Livestock farmers also report that new diseases are affecting their animals.

Cirilo Quispe Latorre, mayor and resident of the district of Cachimayo. “Eighty percent of the farmland is seasonal. In other words, if there is rain, we plant. If there isn’t enough rain, we can’t keep planting. I’m a native of this region. When I was a child, there was quite a lot of water in this region. There were toads and frogs that you don’t see any more. It’s a big worry. And if I go up to the mountains around Urubamba, I see that they’re almost black now. I worry and tell my children that those mountains used to be white with snow. Now that I’m a bit older, they’re black. What’s happening? A big change is taking place on our planet. I don’t know who’s going to come and sort out this situation. It’s worrying. The rains used to start in October, and we would plant broad beans, wheat, and potatoes. Now the rains begin around mid-December, and we lose more than a month and a half of growing time. Now, by the end of March the rains are over. It used to rain throughout most of April, with the dry season only starting in May. So, the rain has decreased at the beginning and the end.”

Teresa Rocca Mismi, communal farmer in the community of Chacacurqu. “I have potato and corn crops. There isn’t as much rain. The hail that’s fallen (we don’t normally see hail in this region) is what’s affected us. It hailed in mid-February. For example, the potatoes that should be big by now are just seeds. I don’t know why we’ve had hail this year. The rain used to start in October, now it’s December. This has been happening for five years. We want the authorities to help us.”

Central Andean Corridor (Piura)

Local residents in rural Piura report that changing rainfall patterns are damaging their mango and cassava crops. They also have noticed public’s health problems, specifically the emergence of diseases such as dengue fever (spread my mosquitos) and leishmaniasis (spread by sand fleas). A Ministry of Health employee corroborated this information, confirming the appearance of dengue in populations where the transmitting agent (the Aedes aegypti mosquito) never had existed previously.

Marco Sandoval García, president of the Santa Catalina Peasants’ Association. “When I was a lad, I remember that there would be two harvests a year in the lower rice-growing area. Now there’s only one. I also remember that in my community, we had drinking water 24 hours a day. Now it’s just two or three hours, depending on the rain. All the drinking water for Patachaco used to come from a single spring. Now we have to take it from two springs... There’s a shortage of water... The springs aren’t the same any more. Some of them are drying up. The elders say that the cassava never used to rot and could be harvested throughout the year. Last year, no one harvested cassava because it all rotted. My orange tree was full of blossoms, but then we had a sharp frost and all the flowers fell off. There’s instability. The climate is strange. For example, although it’s winter, we’ve just had seven days of strong sun. Some farmers think this is because there’s been a lot of deforestation of the hills. They don’t know that climate change is affecting the whole world. We’ve caused so much damage ourselves, with deforestation and pollution.”

Katerine Rosillo Quispe, Ministry of Health employee in charge of Health Center 1 in La Huaquilla (Morropón, Piura). “We’ve got high numbers of dengue transmitting agents in the region, which hadn’t been seen before. Those dengue mosquitoes are new for us. In La Huaquilla, the whole population is exposed: children, adults, the elderly. Climate change greatly affects health, especially as other types of pathologies appear, such as diarrhea, respiratory infections, but above all, the dengue mosquito.”