DixPix Photographs

     

SOUTH CORDILLERA

 
     
  Lifestyles- AGRICULTURE AND FOOD  

 

Given the great variety of climates, topographies and cultures, it is no surprise that crops, diets and forms of farming vary widely.  In addition, there is a gulf between the huge agricultural enterprises for international export in regions such as the central valley of Chile, and the struggling subsistence farms that are found in all quarters, but more commonly in Peru and Bolivia.

 

Here in the fertile soils of Chile's central valley, holdings are often large, and use gangs of agricultural works (sounds like the USA) to produce export crops.  The snows of the Cordillera promise water, and the dustings of volcanic ash maintain the fertility. Click to see big picture (640x417 pixels; 86 KB)
In the deeply incised valleys marking much of Peru, whatever can be terraced is worked. Click to see big picture (640x417 pixels; 114 KB)
Here is an aerial view, displaying how population pressures have forced the development of every square meter. Click to see big picture (480x313 pixels; 94 KB)
In the drier areas, it is only those sites which can be irrigated that are useful.  Here in the Viraco area of the Rio Colca valley in southwestern Peru, the ancient Incan irrigation canals clearly mark the limits of agriculture. Click to see big picture (640x417 pixels; 111 KB)
Heading farther north in Peru, the highlands become more accommodating, both in topography and in climate. Click to see big picture (640x417 pixels; 93 KB)
Until, approaching the northern border of Peru, there is so much rain that it is possible to farm rice on ridge tops. Click to see big picture (574x480 pixels; 99 KB)
Back to south-central Chile.  Here the orchards are a primary source of foreign currency. Click to see big picture (640x397 pixels; 117 KB)
And then there is the Chilean wine, appreciated the world over.  Traditionally it was fermented and aged in these huge vats, here dwarfing a family, but now it is mainly metals and plastics. Click to see big picture (336x480 pixels; 69 KB)
And there is an abundance of field crops.  Hot peppers, known as "aji" in Chile, are usually served beside, rather than cooked into, a meal.  Click to see big picture (640x417 pixels; 146 KB)
Normally one would not pile tomatoes to a point of self destruction, but these are headed to the local plant to be made into ketchup or sauce. Click to see big picture (640x386 pixels; 114 KB)
Offerings in a roadside stand near Mendoza in Argentina emphasize variety. Click to see big picture (640x423 pixels; 116 KB)
But back in much of the best farmland of Chile, variety is a bad word.  Here single crops are planted to the horizon. Click to see big picture (640x417 pixels; 91 KB)
Mono cultures are economic, especially when producing for export, but they have their drawbacks. Click to see big picture (640x429 pixels; 174 KB)
They are perfect for infestations of everything from viruses to rodents, but especially voracious insects. Click to see big picture (363x480 pixels; 53 KB)
So central Chile is ground zero for the sales of an incredible variety of pesticides. Click to see big picture (297x480 pixels; 54 KB)
These delicious looking (and tasting) cherries, in one stage of growth or other, have likely been sprayed with chemicals to make them form early and of good size (both to get in on the export market), as well as a number of things to control diseases, pests and whatever. Click to see big picture (624x480 pixels; 95 KB)
There are laws requiring masks and protective clothing, in Chile at least, but these are unpopular with many  workers and lax, which has caused health problems with both workers and their families.  "Wear a mask?, they gave me a hard hat instead." Click to see big picture (640x424 pixels; 103 KB)

And in case you think that is only a problem for field workers, here's coming at you.

Many land owners keep their own family gardens which use little or no pesticides.

Click to see big picture (640x445 pixels; 101 KB)
Bees for hire.  Trucked to whatever farms need a crop to be fertilized, and hopefully trucked off before the next application of insecticides. Click to see big picture (640x365 pixels; 106 KB)
Of course, most farms also keep a few chickens, and other edible animals. Click to see big picture (535x480 pixels; 117 KB)
The crops that cannot be sold internationally, are sold locally at a much lower price.  This is where farmers bring their produce in Santiago, to be sorted out for distribution.  Lo Valledor, 1976. Click to see big picture (640x417 pixels; 140 KB)
Heading north into the drier lands, corn is one of the main staples.  In Chile it is known as choclo. Click to see big picture (640x420 pixels; 159 KB)
But of even more importance is the lowly native, the potato.  There were originally many species, this is likely Solanum multifidum, still growing wild near the coast of Peru. Click to see big picture (504x480 pixels; 97 KB)
The potato has the advantage of adapting to some the the most rocky and inhospitable conditions, here being planted in an ageless style, again in Peru. Click to see big picture (630x480 pixels; 159 KB)
A settlement (recently ravaged by terrorists) near Huancalevica, Peru, the furrows in the steep hillsides show the kind of difficult terrain that can be exploited by potatoes and other hardy Andean crops. Click to see big picture (640x419 pixels; 136 KB)
The Peruvians also have  this thing about a hamster-like rodent known as "cuy", which is virtually the national dish.  It is indeed tasty, but there isn't a lot a meat. Click to see big picture (565x480 pixels; 89 KB)
But if you are into eating rodents, why not drift a little farther east in Peru and get a more meal-size one, such as this paca (Cuniculis paca?) ready for the oven. Click to see big picture (296x480 pixels; 64 KB)
Or how about capybara steaks here near Tingo Maria, Peru, but we are straying into the Amazon, which is another section. Click to see big picture (313x480 pixels; 77 KB)
But while in the area, here is another unusual crop-- tree cotton or Kapok.  (Cieba pentandra), which has now been turfed into the Mallow family. Click to see big picture (640x344 pixels; 112 KB)
In Bolivia, much of the traditional crops can be seen in the markets.  There are root vegetable galore. Click to see big picture (608x480 pixels; 103 KB)

But other growers offer a variety of greens.
Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 139 KB)
The poorest have only a few potatoes to offer. Click to see big picture (441x480 pixels; 75 KB)
While others are able to offer fruits and treats, some of which are not locally grown. Click to see big picture (494x480 pixels; 103 KB)