RIOJA, Peru – Guinea pigs, fish and butterflies are helping Peru fight poverty as drivers for several businesses that increased their revenue by 300 percent in San Martin, one of the Andean country’s most disadvantaged and remote regions.
According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the daily income of close to 40,000 residents of this northern Amazonian region increased from 1.91 soles ($0.58) to 6.85 soles ($2.09), thanks to Proyecto Sierra y Selva Alta (Mountain and Rainforest Project), funded primarily by IFAD and the Peruvian Agriculture Ministry.
“These people still live in poverty, but their economic situation has taken a leap forward,” Luis Saez, chief project coordinator, told EFE. “They can now send their children to university, they are self-employed and they have increased their production, improving their food security.”
Rural to urban migration has declined, Saez said.
The project, launched in 2015, has invested $36 million in 1,500 local businesses via direct funding, equipment and training.
For the most part, these businesses were created by peasants living in poverty or extreme poverty, keen on finding alternatives to rice and coffee cultivation, the two main activities in the area.
The crown jewel of the project is a butterfly house built in Palestina, a poor hamlet in the province of Rioja.
The lepidopterarium, managed by a local association composed mainly of women, houses over 5,000 species of butterflies, including endangered specimens, and has become an important tourist attraction, with an average of 30 daily visitors, as well as a crucial conservation effort.
Another initiative, launched by peasants in the town of Yuracyacu, is the breeding of guinea pigs, which are a traditional and emblematic part of the Andean diet.
The project will conclude in 2019 and its objective is for every one of its initiatives to be self-sustaining, ultimately contributing to eliminate poverty.