By World Neighbors
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Tues. Dec. 6, 2022: The growing popularity of guinea pig meat in high-end restaurants in Peru is helping to usher in the return of a traditional, and environmentally friendly, industry led by women.
Organically farmed giant guinea pigs (cuy), bred for meat and twice the size of the animals used as pets, are being marketed as an alternative source of protein to poultry and a healthier alternative to red meat. Research by Peru’s national health institute has shown that cuy has greater nutritional value than poultry, beef or lamb.
In Peru’s Ayacucho region, a program is being run by World Neighbors, an international development organization that helps communities lift themselves from poverty. Aimed at women with limited resources, the World Neighbors program teaches skills that will improve equality within families and help women win financial independence.
Cuy farming is an environmentally friendly step towards this goal, as well as toward reducing the environmental and health impacts of farming. It optimizes the use of land and, by relying on organically grown alfalfa, reduces potentially dangerous fertilizer and pesticide use. In addition, unlike livestock, cuy do not generate deforestation, protecting a critical source of carbon capture. Nor do cuy produce large amounts of methane, an especially potent greenhouse gas.
Mariela Lizarme Llocclla, a cuy farmer trained by World Neighbors, originally reared cattle. It used to take her two years to rear a calf, a year to raise a pig and seven months for a chicken. But with an initial investment of $25 she bought two cuy and in only three months she had animals to sell at the market. She uses the animals’ manure to fertilize pastures used to grow organic alfalfa, which is used to feed the cuy. Llocclla avoids antibiotics or similar medicines by feeding cuy fresh food and water and regularly cleaning the animals and their sheds. Cages and sheds are constructed from adobe, using locally sourced materials.
Llocclla and other cuy farmers in the World Neighbors program have increased their monthly incomes from $30 to $130. Profits are placed in a member-run savings and credit program, from which loans are taken at very low rates. These loans are invested to expand cuy output, purchase implements to increase agricultural productivity and more.
With the help of guinea pigs, entire communities are lifting themselves out of poverty and taking steps down the road to sustainable development.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Kate Schecter is CEO of Latin America and the Caribbean at World Neighbors.