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Revista mexicana de ciencias agrícolas

versão impressa ISSN 2007-0934

Rev. Mex. Cienc. Agríc vol.7 no.1 Texcoco Jan./Fev. 2016



The impact of climate change on food security in vulnerable rural zones in the Peruvian Andes

Angel Héctor Zárate Malpica1 

Gloria Amparo Miranda Zambrano2  § 

1Ingeniería en Industrias Alimentarias-Universidad Nacional del Centro del Perú, Huancayo Perú. Pasaje Uruguay 137 San Jerónimo de Tunán, Huancayo Perú. C. P. 05112078.Tel:064-368811. (

2Departamento de Estudios Culturales, Demográficos y Políticos. División de Ciencias Sociales y Administrativas- Universidad de Guanajuato. Villa Siena 238. La Cantera, Celaya, Tel: 461-6880063, Guanajuato, C. P. 38020.


Challenged by many, the actual model of civilization is sustained on ‘post-extractivism thinking’, which has an anthropocentric, technical, universalist and one-dimensional approach, climate change being the main impact. Our aim was to learn about the effects of post-extractivism thinking on the alteration and destruction of all synthesizing life on the planet. With that frame of mind, we aimed to evaluate the effects on the food security of a rural zone damaged by climate change in Peru’s central Andes. It is part of a larger reaching project entitled “Diversidad bio-cultural y sustentabilidad desde los pueblos, perspectivas México-Perú”. Universidad de Guanajuato and the Universidad Nacional del Centro del Perú launched this project in 2012. Descriptive and explicative methods were used, resorting to the fast participative diagnostic and to participant observation in order to estimate the indicators of food security. Similarly, the use of semi-structured surveys and interview techniques were employed to evaluate the perception of climate change and the impact on agricultural activities. Among the relevant findings, evidence of climate tropicalization due to the increase in temperature was most noted, which will accelerate the life cycle of insects making it possible to find the ‘Andean weevil’ in all its life cycles and the increase of pathogens which showcase more diseases that are harmful to crops. Similarly, the increase in CO2 emissions has increased the sensitivity of crops to drought, acting as a fertilizing gas that accelerates the growth and the size of food plants (accumulation of fiber in detriment to the protein level). They therefore increase in growth, but their quality decreases. We concluded that climate change indeed directly and severely affects the availability and access components of the food security of the zone and in a lesser magnitude the components of biological use and stability, respectively.

Keywords: climate change; food security; Peruvian Andes


Cuestionado desde todos los frentes, el modelo civilizatorio actual sustentado en el ‘pensamiento post-extractivista’, de enfoque antropocéntrico, tecnocéntrico, universalista y unidimensional, cuyo impacto principal es el cambio climático, pretendimos conocer de cerca sus efectos en la alteración y destrucción de la Vida que sintetiza en el planeta. En esa tesitura, plateamos como objetivo evaluar los efectos del mismo en la seguridad alimentaria de una zona campesina vulnerada por el cambio climático en los Andes centrales del Perú. Es parte de un proyecto de mayor alcance “Diversidad bio-cultural y sustentabilidad desde los pueblos, perspectivas México-Perú”. Universidad de Guanajuato / Universidad Nacional del Centro del Perú, iniciado en el año 2012. Se recurrió a los métodos descriptivo y explicativo, recurriendo al diagnóstico participativo rápido y la observación participante para estimar los indicadores de la seguridad alimentaria. Asimismo, el uso de las técnicas de encuestas y entrevistas semi estructuradas para evaluar la percepción del cambio climático y el impacto en las actividades agropecuarias. Entre los hallazgos relevantes se advierte la evidencia de la tropicalización del clima por el incremento de la temperatura, lo cual viene acelerando el ciclo de vida de los insectos, encontrando el ‘gorgojo de los Andes’ en todos sus estadíos de vida y el incremento de los patógenos evidenciando más enfermedades que en síntesis están causando estragos a los cultivos. Asimismo, el incremento en las emisiones de CO2 está aumentando la sensibilidad de los cultivos a la sequía, actuando como un gas fertilizante que acelera el crecimiento y el tamaño de plantas alimenticias (acumulación de fibra en detrimento del nivel de proteína), por lo tanto aumentan del tamaño pero disminuyendo su calidad. Concluimos que, efectivamente el cambio climático afecta directa y severamente a los componentes disponibilidad y acceso de la seguridad alimentaria de la zona y en menor magnitud a los componentes uso biológico y estabilidad respectivamente.

Palabras clave: Andes del Perú; cambio climático; seguridad alimentaria


Presently, it is possible to witness controversial discussions in regard to the actors and processes and their liability before climate change, making it impossible to ignore that one of the main factors is the current production system which is based on the economy-focused and instrumental rationality of capitalism with the idea of economizing and technologizing the planet. Leff (2008) states that the construction of sustainable societies demands the deconstruction of economic rationality and its gradual replacement by another economy, founded on the principles and potentials of an environmental rationality that leads to the construction of sustainability.

Other important authors, such as Wallerstein (2006); Lathouche (2008); Leff (2008); de Souza (2010), Quijano (2010); Houtart (2011); Morín (1998); Toledo (2006); Bartra (2006); Pigem (2013); Marañón (2014) among others have questioned the globalizing capitalist model and with this, global warming as its main impact. For example, Pigen (2013) states that the economic system is the main predator of nature because:

“(…) still thinks the planet is an unlimited warehouse from which we can take what we want while dumping any sort of residues in it. That we live in another dimension, one where the earth, the water and the air are not part of. But they are, until the point that the modern economic activity has unleashed what has been described as a new geological era: anthropocentrism”.

It is precisely the rapid growth of industrial production in the world which disproportionately uses the natural goods and patrimonies of the planet and utilizes carbon and petroleum as an energy source, which is causing a series of changes in the climate manifested more evidently by a progressive global warming. The IPCC (2007) indicates that it is likely for temperatures to rise between 1.1 to 6.4 °C during the 21st century. Vargas (2009) reports that in Peru 22% of the glacial mass has been lost in the last thirty years as a consequence of global warming. These phenomena undeniably affect the agricultural and livestock activities which represent the main support of food security for the most vulnerable zones of the Peruvian Andes.

Climate conditions directly affect agricultural and livestock productivity. The presence of diseases, plagues and invasive species have an impact on the storage conditions, affect transportation and product preservation, alter market conditions, affecting almost the entirety of the processes involved in the production chains and compromising food security and the life means of the most vulnerable communities (PNUD, 2011).

It is known in the scientific literature on agricultural, biological and social sciences that climate changes cause a series of negative consequences that fundamentally affect food security, even more so in vulnerable populations such as the rural communities of Peru. These populations should add, on top of their usual struggle against poverty, the generation of strategies such as the diversification of their crops in small parcels of land on different ecological floors in order to be able to confront the negative consequences of climate change, reducing their vulnerability and adapting their life means to the new and changing circumstances.

With this in mind, we have located small farmers in the central region of Peru in the Pariahuanca district (Huancayo province, Junín department) who produce for self-consumption. We chose three of the most representative annexes. The Andean region is important due to the fact that it allows the preservation of biodiversity, as is indicated by Isch (2011) around 25% of the planet's biodiversity. The influence of the Andes causes in relatively short distances varied geographical and climatic changes. The driving questions of this topic are the following: What are the components and indicators that synthesize food security of the inhabitants of the Pariahuanca district? What important phenomena of climate change are deemed a threat to food security for the population of the district of Pariahuanca? How are each of the food security components of the study population affected by climate change in the Pariahuanca district?

Materials and methods

Considering the geomorphological and socioeconomic vulnerability, three annexes of the Pariahuanca district were selected, considering their location in regards to sea level. Cabracancha situated in the high lands of the district between 3 100 and 3 200 m of altitude; San Balbín in the intermediate zone between 2 600 and 2 650 m; and San Miguel de Antarpa situated at 2 380 m. Among these towns, first hand information has been collected with the help of the inhabitants for the realization of workshops and field work.

The reason for the high vulnerability and complexity is linked to their geographical location, with a varied terrain which comprises almost inaccessible rocky formations in the high zones near the Nevado del Huaytapallana (main water source for the consumption of the Huancayo province), deep gulches, rugged hillsides, and harvest plains in the banks of the Yuracyacu and Pariahuanca rivers in the low zone. Added to this is the economic poverty of the population, 21.9% extreme poverty according to the INEI (2007) and MIDIS (2012).

Given the applied scope and nature of the research, the descriptive and explicative methods have been used within the general frame of the scientific research method. A situational diagnosis of the district’s food security context was done initially, following the methodology of the fast participatory appraisal. In order to establish the perception of food security, a survey of nine questions with a modified Likert scale was used, considering four response alternatives to each question. After this, the effects of climate change on each one of the food security components were evaluated.

Scrutinizing the theory and epistemic meaning

Global warming is a term used to refer to the increase in the mean global temperature of the atmosphere and the oceans; these temperatures possibly reached the same warming level as that of medieval times during the middle of the twentieth century, and having surpassed these levels ever since. The hypothesis is that industrial activities which generate carbon dioxide and other gases increase the greenhouse effect, causing global warming (Hamlin, 2008).

IPCC (2007) has established that the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases has increased as a result of human activity since 1750 and now largely exceeds pre-industrial values. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased from a pre-industrial level of 280 ppm to 379 ppm in 2005. This has caused the greenhouse effect through which certain gases pertaining to the atmosphere retain a portion of the energy that comes from the ground after having been warmed by solar radiation. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important anthropogenic GHG; its annual emissions increased around 80% between 1970 and 2004. Global atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) have notably increased due to human activities since 1 750, and are presently far superior to pre-industrial values. It is highly probable that the increase observed in the concentration of CH4 is mainly due to agriculture and the use of fossil fuels.

The concern for food security is a long-standing topic. It was Thomas Malthus in his work “Ensayo sobre el principio de la población” (1798) that he observed the slight but already perceptible demographic increase, and voiced his concern. According to him, food production could only increase in a lineal or arithmetic progression manner, while the population grew exponentially or geometrically; therefore, if the population kept growing at that speed “there would be no more space at life’s table” (Wicht, 1994).

However, two hundred years after Malthus, the global population has a little more than six times the inhabitants and the production of the global economy has multiplied more than seven times. Malthus underestimated the magnitude of the natural resources and, most of all, he ignored the possibilities of scientific and technological development. However, hunger, the most inhumane form of poverty, continues to affect millions of people in the world. As is indicated by the report by the FAO (2012), around 870 million of people present chronic malnourishment.

The concept of “food security” was created in the middle of the 1970’s when the World Food Summit (1974) defined food security from the point of view of food provisions: ensure the availability and the national and international stability of the prices of basic foods. Presently, it is said that there is food security when all people have physical and economic access at all times to innocuous and nutritional food in order to satisfy their food necessities and their preferences, with the aim of leading an active and healthy life (FAO-PESA, 2010).


A population and housing census in 2007 reported a total of 7 057 people in the district, among which 3 560 are male and 3 497 are women. The population is mostly rural, 96.2% according to the last census, with the main economic activity being agriculture, livestock and others non-qualified related to the field. Pariahuanca does not suffer from great demographic pressure. It has large extensions of land yet to be populated that could be used for sustainable production. Its population density is 11 inhabitants per km2; one of the lowest in the Junín region and it has a negative growth rate of 1.84% (INEI, 2007). This fact can be explained due to the sensitivity migratory flow that is observed in the district, especially in the population of school age children who are sent by their parents mainly to the city of Huancayo. In order to migrate, they stay with any family member that is established in that city with the objective of finishing their secondary studies, and in the case of young adults they look for better paid jobs in the city.

The perception of food security of the majority of the inhabitants of the three selected annexes corresponds to the so called moderate insecurity; however, this denomination can be tricky considering the other indicators of food security established in the field work, it can be seen that there are serious insecurity problems, even more so when it comes to the indexes of caloric intake which do not cover the minimum requirements recommended by the FAO-WHO (1985). This is corroborated by the vulnerability to food insecurity index 0.811 for the Pariahuanca district reported by the MIDIS (2012). In regards to protein intake, even if it seems to be close to the minimum requirement, these problems are more severe for children and teenagers who require a greater protein intake since they are growing. This possibly explains the fact that 45% of school-age children in San Balbín and Antarpa and 35% in Cabracancha have chronic malnutrition, according to the report of the health center of San Balbín.

As it can be observed, the three selected annexes have serious problems with the availability component; they do not cover the caloric and protein requirements recommended by the FAO and the WHO (1985), which are 2 158 Kcal and 35 g of protein per day (MINSA, 2012). In regards to the percentage of income that is used for the purchase of food, even when the population uses a good portion of their income on food, in many cases it is not enough due to the low income of the inhabitants of these towns.

It would seem that the availability and access indicators are only dietary and low income issues; however, due to the increase in the mean temperature and the high temperatures of the region, there has been a presence of plagues and diseases in the crops, such as fungi in potato and corn crops, late blight on potatoes, the Andean weevil, storehouse weevil in corn and beans, etc. causing considerable losses (15% to 20% in beans, 45% to 60% in corn, 20% to 30% in potatoes according to Vázquez-Garay, 2011). In these circumstances, the farmers are forced to sell their products at relatively low prices, thus decreasing their income and their food availability.

Table 1. Economically active population of the Pariahuanca district according to their main occupation. 

Ocupación principal Cifras absolutas (%)
Empleados y administradores públicos 4 0.2
Profesionales, científicos e intelectuales 73 3.1
Técnicos de nivel medio y trabajadores asimilados 14 0.6
Jefes y empleados de oficina 5 0.2
Trabajadores de servicios personales y comerciantes 75 3.2
Agricultura, trabajo agropecuario y pesquería 1 313 55.4
Obreros y operarios de minas y canteras 37 1.6
Obreros de construcción y fabricas 44 1.9
Trabajo no calificado, peón, servicios y afines 748 31.5
Otros no especificados 59 2.5

Table 2. Characteristics of the selected annexes. 

Variable Cabracancha San Balbín San Miguel de Antarpa
Población 130 628 185
Número de viviendas 25 110 56
Actividad principal Agricultura Agricultura Agricultura
Acceso a energía eléctrica 100% 94.3% 100%
Servicio de agua a domicilio 95.45% 100% 100%
Servicios higiénicos (letrina) 81.8% 82.9% 88%
Apoyo programa social 81.82% 91.4% 80%
Seguro Integral de Salud SIS 38.5% 40.8% 30.7%
Combustible- cocina- leña 100% 88.6% 100%
Televisor- DVD 45% 80% 76%
Teléfono celular 86.4% 85.7% 84%

Table 3. Assessment of the food security perception. 

Anexo Cabracancha San Balbín San Miguel de Antarpa
Número de familias 15 20 15
Puntuación 175 252 201
Media aritmética 11.56 12.6 13.4
Desviación estándar 1.11 0.88 1-84
Coeficiente de variación 9.54% 7% 13.76%
Percepción Inseg. mod. Inseg. mod. Inseg. mod.

Table 4. Food security indicators in the three selected annexes in the Pariahuanca district. 

Indicador Cabracancha San Balbín San Miguel de Antarpa
Componente disponibilidad
Índice de suficiencia calórica ISC 0.61 0.55 0.6
Coeficiente de variabilidad 7.46% 4.23% 3.14%
Índice de suficiencia proteica ISP 0.85 0.81 0.99
Coeficiente de variabilidad 8.3% 2.98% 3.79%
Componente acceso
Ingreso familiar mensual S/. 531 509.24 558.33
(%) de ingreso en gasto en alimentos 52.28 56.47 42.41
Componente Uso biológico
(%) de viviendas con serv. de agua potable 0 0 0
(%) de viviendas con serv. de alcantarillado 0 0 0
(%) de pobladores con conoc. de inocuidad 1.6 1.6 1.7
Componente estabilidad
Número de deslizamientos y derrumbes 4 4 4
Número de interrupciones vías de acceso 3 4 4

Regarding the biological use component, they lack drinking water installations and sanitary facilities connected to the public sewer. Even if the majority of the population uses latrines in their homes, these do not have any technical criterion and represent a serious health problem. This, in addition to the lack of knowledge in regards to food safety issues, explain the insecurity problems of this component. This fact is not only a lack of services issue, but due to the increase of plagues in the storehouses, the inhabitants sometimes make use of aluminum phosphide tablets (Phostoxin) to store their products and several times they do this in doses that are larger than recommended, affecting the safety of the product.

As observed in Table 5, the majority of the phenomena, occurrences or events that happened as a consequence of climate change directly and severely affect the availability and access components of food security of the inhabitants of the Pariahuanca district and to a lesser extent the biological and stability components, respectively. It is therefore possible to indicate that the impact of climate change of the last three decades has affected the food security of the inhabitants of the Pariahuanca district, reducing mainly the productivity of their crops, from 7.5 to 6.2 t ha-1 in the case of potatoes. Corroborating what was stated by Vargas (2009), climate change would be detrimental to agriculture due to the climatic variability and its consequences. This is the same as the FAO (2007) document which states that climate change would affect food security through the impact on the components of the food systems.

Table 5. Effect of climate change on the components of food security in the Pariahuanca district. 

Cambio climático Fenómeno Suceso o evento Disponibilidad Acceso Uso biológico Estabilidad
Calentamiento global Incremento de la temperatura máxima promedio. 1
Disminuye la tuberización de los tubérculos. 2
Reducción del ciclo de vida de insectos. 3
Mayor ataque de insectos a los cultivos.
Mayor uso de insecticidas y plaguicidas X X X
Menor rendimiento en la producción de maíz X X
Menor rendimiento en la producción de papa X X
Mayor presencia de hongos en los cultivos X X X
Enfermedades en las truchas por el calor. 4 X X
Niveles de precipitación pluvial Retraso en el inicio del período de lluvias. 5
Modifica el período de los cultivos
Menor rendimiento en la producción X X
Presencia de veranillos y sequías
Menor rendimiento en la producción X X
Lluvias torrenciales
Deslizamientos e inundaciones X
Perdida de cultivos por inundaciones X X X
Perdida de alevinos de truchas X X
Efecto invernadero Mayores emisiones de CO2. 6
Acelera el crecimiento de hojas y tallos, pero disminuye los rendimientos en la producción X X
Incrementa la sensibilidad de los cultivos a la sequía (pérdidas por veranillos prolongados) X X
Cambios en la presión atmosférica
Presencia de vientos y fuertes corrientes de aire
Caídas de las plantas por el viento (pérdidas) X X

In this context, it would be ironically tragic for the fatalistic outlook of Thomas Malthus to become true, but not for the reasons that he predicted. Hunger, epidemics and social conflicts would arise not due to the lack of products but because of the lack of knowledge on how to produce them, maintaining a reasonable ratio and dynamic between the population and natural resources. As Pelt (1985) would say, what each indigenous child learns from his father and his land has been forgotten as we are too busy manipulating our computers and maintaining at a great expense the production and consumption machine that our civilization has become. The planet’s biggest threat is humanity. However, at least we can say that there is a new anti-globalization movement which acknowledges the sustainable contributions to the environment that millenary cultures provide, such as the indigenous towns of Peru, Mexico and other parts of the world (Miranda, 2011, 2014).


A principal part of the phenomena, occurrences or events caused by climate change directly and severely affect the food security components of the local actors of the Pariahuanca district, and to a lesser extent the components of biological and stability use, respectively. This is evident through the indicators established in the three annexes that served as representative samples of the district and through the several testimonies that summarize the interpretation of the facts.

Climate tropicalization due to the increase in temperature accelerates the life cycle of insects, making it possible to find the ‘Andean weevil’ (Premnotrypes spp.) in all its life cycles, as well as the grain weevil (Pagiocerus frontalis), with their corresponding effects on the agricultural production of the district. The increase in CO2 emissions has increased the sensitivity of crops to drought, acting as a fertilizing gas that accelerates the growth and the size of food plants and vegetables as it accumulates more fiber in detriment of the protein levels. The size is therefore increased while the quality decreases.

Climate change is without a doubt the biggest challenge of our time, as it affects important areas of humanity, among which is the food security of vulnerable zones. Given its interconnectivity, it forces us to consider global political decisions and individual actions that could make a difference between the life quality of future generations.

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Received: October 2015; Accepted: January 2016

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