Rejecting the modern farming techniques he had studied at university, Zenón Porfidio Gomel Apaza turned to ancient agricultural traditions to transform the Andean communities of his homeland.
Almost 4,000 metres above sea level north of Lake Titicaca lies the harsh Altiplano of the Peruvian Andes where farmers eke out a living from the soil. Returning home to where his ancestors had tilled the fields for generations, Zenón Porfidio Gomel Apaza realized that the modern agricultural methods he had learned studying agronomy had often produced failed crops and depleted soils, leading to poverty among the local people and undermining community life. He understood that the severe conditions of the region called for traditional skills, which included a campaign to protect the biological diversity in local crops in order to enhance crop and grassland yields.
It is clear that traditional knowledge is more important and more valued than before.
He has persuaded hundreds of families in the area to broaden the genetic variety of their crops rather than resort to chemicals and technology. More recently, he has taken his research into traditional agriculture even further as head of a regional agricultural agency in south-eastern Peru. Gomel Apaza also understands the importance of a clearly defined communication strategy and reaches thousands of people in Puno via a radio programme. Thanks to his Rolex-sponsored project, he has been able to help develop a legislative initiative recognizing the role of traditional authorities as caretakers of agro-biodiversity.
People in Puno that Gomel Apaza reaches with his radio programme
Families who have broadened the genetic variety of their crops