Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Climate change threatens Peru’s farmers

Naomi Mapstone in beyondbrics, a blog at the Financial Times: Rising investment in Peruvian agriculture is increasing tensions over one of the Andean country’s most precious resources: water. Peru is home to 70 per cent of the world’s tropical ice fields; but they are shrinking: 22 per cent of its glaciers - equivalent to 10 years’ water supply for Lima, the world’s second driest city - have been lost over the past 30 years.

That is a symbol of Peru’s vulnerability to climate change, a phenomenon that is challenging farmers in several emerging markets, just as the world food system is being challenged by rising food demand from those very same countries.

…Major irrigation projects to divert water to Peru’s arid Pacific coastline for agroindustry have successfully transformed several coastal valleys into plantations of citrus, table grapes and avocados that Peru exports overseas. But they have also drawn heated objections by communities that farm potatoes, asparagus and artichokes and fear being left high and dry.

In the past two weeks, protests over the newly approved Majes-Siguas II irrigation project for the southern department of Arequipa have killed one person and closed down the airport in Cusco, a tourist hub close to the Machu Picchu ruins. Communities who fear losing their water to big mines have also protested, putting a spoke (or several) in the works of projects such as Southern Copper’s Tía María mine and Zijin’s Rio Blanco.

“It is of the essence to discuss matters of water, especially in countries as dry as Peru,” Roque Benavides, chief executive officer of Buenaventura, Peru’s biggest listed precious metals company, told beyondbrics. Buenaventura’s Zanja gold mine, a joint venture with Newmont, will pour its first gold bars this month, but only after a painstaking community consultation that saw one person killed during protests back in 2004….

A view in Arequipa City, in the same department as the irrigation project mentioned above, shot by MapachitoMD, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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