Sumaq Kausay and Ayllu: Quechua values and worldviews for conservation and sustainable development in the Chalakuy Maize Park, Lares, Peru
Biocultural Heritage Territories (BCHTs) are mosaics of land uses, deeply linked to Indigenous knowledge systems embedded in cultural traditions, where Indigenous knowledge and practices effectively combine food production with sustainable development, biodiversity conservation and ecosystem protection.
Although Indigenous Peoples have been living sustainably for generations, few studies have explored the role of different elements of cultural heritage, and their links with biodiversity, in promoting sustainable development. This study was conducted as part of the project ‘Indigenous biocultural heritage for sustainable development’ (2018–21), funded by the Sustainable Development Programme of the British Academy. The project involved case studies in China, India, Peru and Kenya, and had two main objectives:
- Catalysing establishment of BCHTs for sustainable development, and
- Enhancing understanding of the role of biocultural heritage in addressing the Sustainable Development Goals.
This case study in Peru contributed to an ongoing decolonising action research process with Quechua Indigenous Peoples in the ‘Chalakuy Maize Park’, in Lares, Peru. The study was coordinated by the Indigenous NGO Asociación ANDES, working closely with Indigenous community researchers from the park.
The study found no evidence of cultural values and practices or traditional knowledge that hinder sustainability or equity. Quechua worldviews, wellbeing concepts, cultural values and belief systems are still very strong in the Lares region, even among the youth. However, modern/western values are starting to influence Indigenous culture.
To protect Peru’s rich biocultural heritage, the report recommends integrating biocultural heritage and BCHTs into national policy, and the recognition of BCHTs as agrobiodiversity zones. Policies should be introduced that protect barter markets, given their multiple benefits. There must also be a biocultural approach to sustainable development in Lares, creating awareness of the real value of Indigenous knowledge for biodiversity conservation, livelihoods and climate adaptation.