MP Ambassador visits the Peruvian Andes


In his first official visit as a Mountain Partnership (MP) Ambassador, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang took time from his pilgrimage to the Andes for a meeting in Lima, Peru, on 15 May 2015 with The Mountain Institute’s Andean Program Director and staff. His Holiness was warmly received by Dr Jorge Recharte, Andean Program Director, Florencia Zapata, Development Director and Miriam Torres, Mountain Institute Fellow and Adriana Soldi. He learned about the Institute’s 20 years of work in the Andes as one of the few conservation organizations that also provides technical expertise and assistance for high altitude ecosystems. The MP Ambassador expressed his solidarity with the Institute’s goal of emphasizing that high mountain environments and communities are of great importance to downstream inhabitants and that the prosperity, conservation and wellbeing of high mountain inhabitants is for the good of all.

The MP Ambassador showed great interest in the Institute’s work to conserve and manage water resources in the puna and páramo ecosystems of the Peruvian Andes. The Mountain Institute’s staff and His Holiness found much common ground during their discussions about the value of local knowledge and ancient, ancestral technologies still alive in mountain cultures today. The group discussed topics including the exceptional cultural values of The Inca Trail and high mountain niche economies, such as medicinal plants. His Holiness explained that in the case of high mountain areas in India, the challenge is to construct sustainable economies founded on local resources and capacities. Many challenges facing the Himalayas were similar to those of the Andes range, such as changes in water supply and unpredictable weather patterns due to climate change. These problems require using local knowledge to come up with realistic solutions. He also explained ritual practices from Himalayan regions that benefit the agricultural cycle and protect local people against extreme or fatal events.

The highlight of the Ambassador’s visit was a special presentation and discussion of the Institute’s work with mountain communities in the puna ecosystem to rescue pre-Hispanic, water management technologies that date back to the time of the Incas and even earlier. The parallels found between the Andes and Himalayas clearly highlighted the importance on exchanging knowledge between the two mountain ranges. The climate change challenges faced by both mountain populations are very similar, such as out-migration for men, the excessive burden of work on women left behind, government subsidies and a weakened rural economy that leads to young people becoming disinterested in developing livelihoods based on mountain agriculture or livestock.

Before leaving, he expressed interest in exploring alternative sustainable economies for the residents of the Andes and Himalayas, underscoring the sense of shared challenges to be faced. He added that these challenges can also be unique opportunities for learning, using bridges built between both cultures and regions of the world.

News by Jesse Bruschini of The Mountain Institute (TMI)

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Photo: Drikung Kagyu Cusco


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