By Kate Schecter
News Americas, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA, Thurs. Nov. 30, 2023: Government officials and others began meeting in the UAE today, Nov. 30th, for COP28. Much of the focus will be on how to finance the energy transition and climate change resilience in low-income countries. Agreements will also be reached on large scale investments in alternative energy, carbon capture and other technologies.
The world needs large scale investment in new sources of energy and electrical grids. In addition to helping manage climate change, these investments present an opportunity to initiate and accelerate economic development in middle and low income countries.
Yet not all efforts to address climate change require the mobilization of large amounts of capital and new technology. In fact, many efforts already underway rely on little new investment. Rather, they are based on adapting ancient techniques to modern markets. This is exactly what’s happening in communities in Peru.
Like much of the world, Peru is affected by extreme weather. Violent thunderstorms and floods have become more common. So has heat and drought.
But farmers in Ancohallo in Peru’s Apurimac region have found their own solution. They have reinvigorated ancient Mesoamerican hydroponic practices that use a fraction of the water of traditional farming techniques. The Aztec and Mayan practices– Waru Warus (in Quechua) or the Suka Kollus (in Aymara) – use canals to create controlled flooded areas that produce a microclimate conducive to soil and plant fertility. The growing conditions are so favorable they allow the introduction of specialty vegetables that thrive with less water. Farmers use 10% of the water and produce twice as many vegetables than with conventional techniques. These specialty vegetables can be sold at higher prices, raising farmers’ incomes.
The ancient techniques even reduce the number of insects found on crops and weeds. As a result, natural pest control techniques are sufficient and chemical fertilizers are eliminated. This is good for the soil and human health. By reducing input costs, it also increases farmers’ profit margins.
Mesoamerican and other ancient techniques hold promise for other areas confronted with extreme weather, perhaps even communities in the US and other wealthier nations. For instance, farmers in Spain’s mountainous areas faced with ongoing drought are experimenting with similar methods with water crops—methods developed 1,000 years ago by Moors who raised crops in these regions.
The scale and scope of the challenges posed by climate change are new. Meeting them will require tapping into innovation both modern and ancient.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Kate Schecter is president and CEO of World Neighbors, Inc. an international development organization founded and based in Oklahoma City.