The lack of water is so severe in Peru's highlands that farming families are forced to sell their livestock because they cannot feed them. "There is no grass or fodder to feed them," says Fermina Quispe, a Quechua farmer from a rural community located at 4,200 meters above sea level.
Paulina Locumbe, a 42-year-old peasant farmer who lives in the Andes highlands of southern Peru, learned as a child to harvest and dry crops, one of the ancestral practices with which she combats the food insecurity that affects millions in this Andean country.
"When I was a little girl we didn't suffer from water shortages like we do now. Today we are experiencing more droughts, our water sources are drying up and we cannot sit idly by," Kely Quispe, a small farmer from the community of Huasao, located half an hour from Cuzco, the capital of Peru's ancient Inca empire, told IPS.
The unprecedented growth of renewable energies in Argentina over the last three years has borne its greatest fruit: the Cauchari solar park, with nearly one million photovoltaic panels and 300 MW of installed power, which was connected to the national power grid on Sept. 26.
A communally built small dam at almost 3,500 meters above sea level supplies water to small-scale farmer Cristina Azpur and her two young daughters in Peru's Andes highlands, where they face water shortages exacerbated by climate change.
In Argentina's Puna region, at 4,000 metres above sea level, the color green is rare in the arid landscape, which is dominated by different shades of brown and yellow. In this inhospitable environment, daily life has improved thanks to a system of piping water downhill from rock glaciers to local communities.
"On moonless nights it was very difficult to walk around this town," says Celia Vilte, a teacher from San Francisco, a highlands village of just 54 people in the extreme northwest of Argentina whose centre is not a town square but 40 solar panels, which provide one hundred percent of its electricity.
Thirty families from a rural community more than 4,300 meters above sea level will have warm houses that will protect them from the freezing temperatures that each year cause deaths and diseases among children and older adults in this region of the southeastern Peruvian Andes.
"At the age of 18 I was the first female leader in my organisation, my grandfather who was a male chauvinist demanded that I be beaten because I was sitting among men," said Teresita Antazú, an indigenous leader of the Yanesha people in Peru's Amazon region.
At more than 3,300 m above sea level, in the department of Cuzco, women are beating infertile soil and frost to grow organic food and revive community work practices that date back to the days of the Inca empire in Peru such as the "ayni" and "minka".
“The day will come when people do not have to go to the cities to overcome poverty," says Elmer Pinares, mayor of an Andean highlands municipality in Cuzco, in southern Peru, where malnutrition and lack of support for subsistence farming are among the main problems.
Good healthcare can be hard to get – particularly when one lives on top of a mountain. The road to Porcón in the Cajamarca region of Peru, therefore, is as breathtaking as it is sobering. With every step further into its isolated natural beauty, a group of volunteers sent to deliver healthcare essentials are reminded how long the trek would be in an emergency.
Terrace farming as practiced from time immemorial by native peoples in the Andes mountains contributes to food security as a strategy of adaptation in an environment where the geography and other conditions make the production of nutritional foods a complex undertaking.
Chile, a land of volcanoes and geysers, has started building South America’s first geothermal plant, which would open a door to this kind of renewable energy in this country that depends largely on fossil fuels.
In this town in Peru’s highlands over 3,000 metres above sea level, in the mountains surrounding the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the Quechua Indians who have lived here since time immemorial are worried about threats to their potato crops from alterations in rainfall patterns and temperatures.
The “páramos” or high plateaus of Ecuador, a crucial source of water, are showing signs of extreme fragility and a troubling loss of capacity to conserve this vital resource and sustain the survival of numerous species found nowhere else on earth.
Chile is one of the countries with the greatest potential for geothermal energy development in Latin America, but a lack of incentives for investment in the sector has kept it from moving past the exploratory phase. A strategic partnership with New Zealand aims to change that situation.
Peru’s economic growth is largely dependent on its wealth of natural resources, which provide over 50 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 80 percent of exports. In view of this fact, the government is developing a project for the valuation and protection of this natural bounty.