Women on the Road: the Tarwi of the Peruvian Andes

On July 9, Peru will come to the Slow Food Theater with an event all about tarwi – a healthy legume of vital importance to the communities that grow it. Let’s find out more!

15869814804_9217c921ab_zAlready known and appreciated in the Pre-Hispanic era, tarwi is a local variety of lupin grown by communities in the Andean highlands in the Peruvian province of Huaylas, particularly in the Caraz, Pueblo Libre and Pamparomas districts. Other species struggle here due to the poor soil. The lupin is cultivated for domestic consumption, with the beans grown and prepared by families, or exchanged thanks to mechanisms of reciprocity that guarantee the security of the community’s food production system.

The legume is an exceptionally nutritious food due to its protein content (between 41% and 51%), higher than soy beans, making it an ideal nutritional alternative when meat consumption is limited or for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet. It also contains 28.2% carbohydrates, 7.1% fiber, 15% calcium and 10% iron, making it a particularly good addition to the diet of children or pregnant or breastfeeding women.

14272094423_4d0fbcddc8_zAs well as being nutritious and contributing to the food security of the Andean communities who grow it, tarwi is also good for the environment, helping restore the fertility of the soil where it is planted. Before being consumed, the beans must be soaked and cooked to eliminate the substances that give them a bitter flavor. Many traditional dishes are made with the lupin beans, like the spicy tahuri pichu, ceviche serrano salad and mote. The beans can also be used to make protein- and calorie-rich bread.

Tarwi clearly has many benefits, and it is essential that the communities in the Huaylas province continue to cultivate it. This is why Slow Food has decided to present the precious legume at its space at Expo, in collaboration with the Fondazione l’Albero della Vita, which has been running education, health and eco-friendly development projects in Peru since 2007.

There are two objectives. Firstly, to support the traditional production of tarwi, at risk of disappearing, while at the same time adding value to the local area with a sustainable crop and reviving traditional agricultural techniques. Secondly, the Fondazione l’Albero della Vita wants to promote the role of women, pushing for them to be involved in the administrative side of tarwi production. The women from these communities participate in the family economy, both by doing agricultural work and by looking after the family, the home and the children. What’s more, it is always the women who take care of selling the agricultural produce. But despite their fundamental role, women are rarely involved in decision making and their position tends to be subordinated to the men.

14970782239_25c2fd9c7e_zPromoting the production and sale of tarwi means offering these small-scale producers—women, men and families—the chance to generate a higher income while promoting sustainable agriculture and protecting the local area’s environment, gastronomy and culture.

Slow Food is planning to move towards these objectives by making tarwi, currently listed on the Ark of Taste, a Slow Food Presidium. It would join the other three Peruvian Presidia, for San Marcos Andean fruit, Andean Kañihua and Pampacorral sweet potatoes.

During the event on July 9, the Executive Director of the National Association of Ecological Producers of Peru, Moisés Quispe, will present details on organic tarwi production, while Renson Martinez Canchumani, the mayor of Caraz, one of the districts where the legume is grown, will speak about the sustainable impact of production at a local, national and international level. A film and photographs will be shown to illustrate the “Mujeres andinas en camino” project, financed by Fondo Italo Peruano (FIP). Lastly, we’ll hear directly from two Peruvians who live in the Andes, Santa Fabián and Gilbert Murga Paredes, who will tell a sustainable agriculture success story.

by Sara Zavagno

Visit the Slow Food-Piazza of Biodiversity area at the Milan Expo, from May 1 to October 31.
Our space is on the Decumano, at the east end of the exhibition site – Pavilion H12. You can save time by taking the “People Move” shuttle at stop F10, to the rear of Pavilion Zero, and alighting at stop F7. This way you’ll be with us in five minutes, avoiding lines among the pavilions. Plus, by taking the Decumano from east to west you’ll see the whole Expo without having to walk a lot. We look forward to seeing you!