The Andean city of Cusco was one of the earliest strongholds of the agroecology movement in Peru, and the city presents a unique opportunity to explore options to strengthen local food systems. On the one hand, it has growing wealth, urbanization, and a large tourism sector, and on the other hand a traditional rural sector characterized by smallholder production of Andean crops including quinoa, Andean maize, and native potatoes. Nonetheless, building rural-urban linkages for the local supply of quality food has proven difficult over the past 20 years. During Phase 1 of the CCRP-funded project, project partners gained insights into the organization of the local food system and possible leverage points for inducing change. The project team recognizes the need to strategize on how to strengthen producer associations and their role in the local food system. While restaurateurs have shown interest in locally produced, high quality products, there is limited appetite for sustained engagement with producers (either directly or via their associations), and there is a need to devise market arrangements that incentivize food buyers in the region to source locally produced foods. Finally, consumers in Cusco believe that traditional, agroecological products are safer, fresher, and better tasting and are willing to pay higher prices for them. Yet important questions remain about how to expand sales volumes and the number of sales points. The next proposed phase will explore some of these facets.
Market access contributes to rural vibrancy and can help stem the migration of young people from rural areas to the cities. Smallholder farmers face a range of barriers to market access, which limits their livelihoods and the sustainability of traditional agriculture. These include the inability to deliver on time, as well as insufficient volume or quality. These issues are imperfectly solved in the Andes by intermediation, with often involves several intermediaries between the farmer and end buyer, which results in farmers not receiving a fair price for their products. Another problem is the increasing availability of ultra-processed foods in the local markets, causing problems both for nutrition and for market demand for local production. Agroecological production by smallholders has environmental, social, and nutritional value, which has found a growing niche market over the past two decades. In fact, Latin America and the Andes have been leaders in “short circuit” (direct-to-consumer) markets. But this movement has not spread to the larger population and helps a relatively small number of farmers.
Structural change in markets is needed to transform agriculture in favor of smallholders. In support of this, the CCRP’s Andes CoP has a portfolio of projects on consumer and market behavior within three different foodsheds with the aim of increasing the market for local foods produced in an agroecological manner by small-scale farmers. These projects also look at the logistical, supply-side challenges, which are significant, that farmers face when accessing markets. The market-related project cohort in the Andes conducts grassroots campaigns and develops innovative methods for understanding market dynamics. The presence of two economists on this proposed project, specializing in farmer-market relationships in the Global South, has been useful both to this project’s success as well as providing academic backstopping to the larger cohort. Moreover, they have been training local researchers in innovative research techniques that will continue to strengthen the ability of local actors to increase agroecological demand and supply.
Outputs and Outcomes:
The purpose of this request is to increase the market demand for and producer access to local, agroecological foods in Cusco. The project also intends to gain new insights from this experience on the potential of market-oriented innovations to accelerate the development of local food systems and provide relevant lessons for similar efforts in other fast-growing cities in the Andes and beyond. Strategies to promote the links between local farmers and local businesses and consumers must better embrace the complexity of food systems and more effectively promote cooperation between key stakeholders. It is essential to include multiple stakeholder perspectives in exploring the assumptions that have underpinned the design of food systems interventions to date, as well as engage various types of actors in identifying and testing potential solutions.
Build the foundation for and consolidate learning around the expansion of the Cusco market for locally produced, agroecological products that will enhance smallholder income, resilience, and well being, as well as improve consumers’ diets.
Understand and influence consumer behavior in Cusco for agroecological products by utilizing “Best-fit” content and design for information and marketing campaigns (e.g., branding, nutritional information, taste testing, cooking demonstrations) tailored to the interests of consumers at different selling points (e.g., traditional markets, supermarkets, restaurants).
Increased awareness by consumers of the social and nutritional benefits of using locally produced, agroecological products leading to healthier diets and increased sales benefiting the local food industry and smallholder producers.