Paths of Excellence

Paths of Excellence

The Colca Valley – Peru

The biocultural heritage of Collaguas y Cabanas communities

The Colca Valley (CV) is located on both sides of the Colca Rio Canyon in the Province of Caylloma, Department of Arequipa, in the South of Peru. The economic activity of the territory is based on camelid livestock, agriculture (potato, corn, bean, barley and quinoa) and fishing. The CV is a territory with a vast array of natural assets of singular beauty and a strong Cultural Identity (CI), which originated in the pre-Hispanic era in which it was populated by the Collaguas and Cabanas indigenous peoples.

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The Callaguas occupied the high and intermediate zones of the valley and spoke an offshoot of Aymara; the Cabanas spoke Quechua. From the decade of the eighties onward, tourism began to develop in the CV promoted by national entrepreneurs who identified the touristic potential.  The nineties decade yielded an important flow of investments in hotel infrastructures and gastronomy services.

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Nowadays, the valley represents the third most visited touristic place in Peru, with more than 175.000 tourists in 2011. Diverse initiatives that valorize biocultural diversity have been developing in the districts of Lari and Sibayo, driven by the municipalities and supported by the Rural Territorial Development with Cultural Identity Program (DTR-IC). The local gastronomic heritage valorization is an active component of this process.

The Colca Valley products – Peru

The Cabanaconde Corn

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The town of Cabanaconde is situated 2,378 meters above sea level, on the left side of the Colca Canyon; it has approximately 3,000 inhabitants, the majority of which earn their living from livestock and agriculture.  In fact, Cabanaconde corn is famous throughout all of Peru with its 7 different coloured varieties.  This signature corn is grown on the farming terraces between the months of December and March, during the rainy season. The peculiarities of its high quality, taste and nutritional values are due to the special soil of volcanic origin and rich in sulphur.

The fava beans

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Fava beans are one of the oldest plants under cultivation in Peru; they are very old beans known to have been in coastal Peru since 6000 BC. Fava (or broad) beans have a distinct flavour and creamy texture that makes them a great addition to a wide variety of dishes, representing with corn and potatoes one of the most important ingredients of the Andean diet, to be eaten dried and sometimes toasted before being boiled. Usually fava beans are eaten in combination with corn, they are filling and calm hunger while giving strength.

The dried Alpaca meat

The dried Alpaca meat is a traditional product of Colca Valley. The meat is very lean and extremely low in cholesterol. Alpaca is also very high in protein and low in fat and is often compared to lean pork with a slightly sweeter taste. Alpacas were the world’s first duel purpose livestock (used for both meat and fiber). They have been domesticated for around 12,000 years, making them the first domesticated animal. Alpacas were primarily bred for their fiber just as they are today, but stores of dried alpaca and llama meat called charqui have been found that date back 10,000 years. Today, there are some entrepreneurs in Sibayo District that transform alpaca dried meat mixing the use of modern technologies with traditional practices. Also in the Sibayo Farming High School it is taught and practiced as a job traineeship.

The Andean Native Potatoes


Nearly 4,000 different varieties of potato can be found in the Andes. Potatoes can be fat, skinny, lumpy or smooth; long, short, round, or square; red, yellow, white or green. There is also a wide range among the different varieties in terms of how they’re grown, their nutritional values, and amenability to storage and use properties. Diversity is conserved on farms and in communities for subsistence use and as a highly valued heritage. Most of these varieties never see a market, but are traded amongst highland and lowland communities and given as gifts for weddings and other occasions. Andean native potatoes have the capacity to grow in extremely harsh conditions. The many different varieties are also interesting from a nutritional perspective: yellow varieties contain high levels of vitamin C whereas red or purple potatoes hold high levels of antioxidants that have a protective function in the human body. Farmers in the high Andes of Peru traditionally grow hundreds of different varieties of potatoes. Selected over centuries for their taste, texture, shape and color, these potato varieties are very well adapted to the harsh conditions that prevail in the high Andes, at altitudes ranging from 3500 to 4200 meters. Chuño is a freeze-dried potato product traditionally made by the Quechua and Aymara communities of Peru and Bolivia. The particular processing of chuño causes the cell walls of the potato to burst, destroying the epidermis of the tuber, resulting in a food product high in carbohydrates, and low in protein, vitamins, minerals, and glyco-alkaloid which is a substance that causes a bitterness in potatoes. Once dried, and with minimal care in storage, the product can last for a long time, even years (CIP – International Potato Center. Lima, Peru).

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