Oliver Q. Whaley, David G. Beresford-Jones, William Milliken, Alfonso Orellana, Anna Smyk & Joaquín Leguía
Summary: The dry forest of the Peruvian south coast has undergone an almost total process of deforestation. Populations here have increased exponentially through immigration supplying labour to urban coastal development, and demonstrably unsustainable agro-industrial expansion for export markets. Society has become dislocated from local traditions of environmental and resource management whilst still retaining a wealth of Andean agricultural expertise. Indigenous communities still hold on to vestiges of traditional knowledge. Relicts of natural vegetation, traditional agriculture and agrobiodiversity continue to sustain ecosystem services. Moreover, offer livelihood options and resources for restoration. These aspects reflect a long cultural trajectory, including famous extinct cultures such as Nasca, that evolved within an ever-changing riparian and agricultural landscape influenced by external forces and which incorporated important processes of plant domestication and adaptation to climatic oscillation. Here, we present an ecosystem approach to vegetation restoration and sustainable resource management in Ica, Peru, based on wide interdisciplinary biodiversity inventory and study, where school, community and agro-industry engagement is seen as a prerequisite for success. The approach demonstrated significant plant establishment in this hyperarid region using appropriate low-technology techniques of planting and irrigation with minimum watering. Restoration of a highly degraded environment built upon vegetation relicts followed a strategy of cultural capacity building and environmental engagement, including the development of sustainable forest products, festivals, schools programmes, didactic publications for local use, and collaboration with local communities, landowners, agribusiness and governmental authorities. Plant conservation must re-engage people with their natural heritage by dissemination of information for vegetation restoration and management integrated to dynamics of ecosystem function within its wide local cultural and historical context.
Key Words. agriculture, archaeology, desert, huarango, Ica, local communities, Nasca culture, Prosopis.
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