Peru | “People first visited guinea pig broth” – Raising guinea pigs for food is Peru’s solution to poverty and changing weather conditions

Contemptuous traditional food has already become a livelihood for nearly a million Peruvian families. Raising guinea pigs for food is also preparing for climate change.

Santa Rosa de Ocopa

With drops the drumming intensifies against the sheet metal roof. Rain is expected in the village of Santa Rosa de Ocopa in the Central Andes of Peru, but the host of the house Walter Maravi manaa. The rains arrive late, and many suffer crop losses.

Maravi curses the situation on behalf of farmers.

In the Andes, the climate has become more unstable in recent years and has been forced to change jobs. The gooseberry industry is now more secure: the family raises guinea pigs.

There are currently a thousand guinea pigs on the farm. Animals grow into human food.

Idean the guinea pigs were raised by Walter’s wife Consuelo Maravi. She studied the field with an NGO course specifically aimed at improving the livelihoods of women in rural Andean villages. According to ProCuy, women now run 80 percent of the guinea pig farms in the area.

Consuelo Maravi himself works in the organization. Among other things, he takes care of the logistics of selling guinea pig meat.

Maravit also makes guinea pig meat for sale. In 2014, Consuelo Maravi won a restaurant competition funded by the EU and an Italian NGO. As a reward, he received a wooden stall for a guinea pig kitchen, which was placed in the square of the home village.

“First, people visited the guinea pig broth.”

The breeder keeps a record of the activities of the shelter.

Consuelo Maravi has gained a reputation as a guinea pig. In 2014, he won a competition in the industry.

“Since then, we’ve been serving guinea pig meals in the village on Sundays. First, people visited the guinea pig broth. We added artichokes to it to refine the bitter taste of the guinea pig meat. Now the broth is our attraction, ”says Consuelo Maravi.

“Cooking requires a lot of work. I wake up on Sunday mornings from three to get the ingredients ready. However, we get the best return from processed guinea pig meat. ”

Walter Maravi says he is grateful for his wife’s perseverance. “Thanks to Consuelo, we have a profitable business today.”

“Unfortunately, we still have a macho culture in Peru as our nuisance. In the past, women were dependent on men for income. Thanks to guinea pigs, the position of women has improved. ”

Peru in the rural villages of the mountains, people have been raising guinea pigs for thousands of years since the Incas. In the cities, guinea pig meat was long considered a rudimentary rustic food. Ten years ago, however, demand for guinea pig meat began to grow. In the early 2000s, a “gastronomic revolution” emerged in the country. With it, top Peruvian chefs created a new novoandina food culture that combined modest rural ingredients into fashionable meals.

In recent years, the Peruvian government and international NGOs have organized guinea pig meat breeding programs in mountain villages with the goal of reducing poverty.

Today, 800,000 Peruvian families already earn a living from guinea pig farming. Many have managed to double their income.

Professor of Small Animal Research at La Molinan University in Peru José Sarria Bardales says that in the capital, Lima, guinea pig meat is still consumed most by settlers who migrated from the Andes and their descendants. Lima is home to 30% of Peru’s 33 million inhabitants. Exotic guinea pig meals also attract tourists and foreigners.

Guinea pig meat is increasingly being exported from Peru. According to a 2019 report by the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture, exports increased by 18% between 1994 and 2018. The main exporting countries are the United States, Japan and Canada. Abroad, the demand for guinea pig meat is highest in Latin communities.

Guinea pig breeders Executive Director of ProCoy Eloy Tomiálan is itself a guinea pig farmer and restaurateur.

However, according to him, the biggest gain is still in Lima’s brokers and restaurants.

“The shorter the distance from the farm to the plate, the more the guinea pig travels to the producer. My dream is that in the future our region will be known for high quality guinea pig gastronomy ”.

According to Consuelo Maravi, the organization of the guinea pig breeders has made it possible to negotiate a fairer price with the dealers. He says that a good six euros are currently paid for a kilo of guinea pig meat.

“With this revenue, we have been able to pay for the education of children and grandchildren, the expansion of the house and the car. In addition, we have about 500 euros left in our hands per month, ”says Walter Maravi.

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According to Statistics Peru, the average monthly income in the country’s mountainous region is about 240 euros.

The guinea pigs are fed twice a day.

In the guinea pig garden the rules are precise. Before entering, the soles of the shoes must be disinfected in a lime powder container placed on the door. Other animals must not be allowed in the shelter to prevent the spread of disease. Maravit cleans guinea pig cages weekly.

The animals are in cages but Walter Maravi says they have the living space they need. “Each guinea pig should have an area of ​​at least thirty square centimeters. If the space is too small, the guinea pig will be stressed. ”

Maravit started raising guinea pig meat ten years ago. Initially, 30 guinea pigs were acquired. They were grown in a corner of the backyard in a square meter shed. However, production started to rise rapidly.

“The chicks reach sales weight in two and a half months. However, the most important thing in raising piglets is their careful care, ”says Consuelo.

Eloy Tomialán, executive director of the breeders’ organization, and daughter Laura Quispe present their restaurant’s guinea pig meals.

In Peru guinea pig farming has helped Andean farmers protect themselves from climate change.

According to Walter Maravi, guinea pigs will survive on dry food for some time, for example, if fresh hay is not available. “Farmers, on the other hand, are at the mercy of the weather. Sometimes the whole harvest goes and nothing can be done. ”

However, studies show that meat consumption is one of the worst sources of emissions in terms of climate change. Researcher in veterinary and environmental technology at the University of Altiplano in Peru José Edurado Ramirez Aruiquipa says no precise carbon footprint has yet been established for guinea pig meat.

“Our research has found indications that with a certain type of diet, guinea pig methane emissions remain low. However, the carbon footprint should take into account emissions from the entire production chain, from electricity consumption in pig farms to transport. Unfortunately, we do not yet have such information. ”

However, Ramirez estimates that the carbon footprint of guinea pig meat would be below that of large and medium-sized farm animals such as cows and sheep. The climate impact of a kilo of beef is about 60 kilos of emissions and a kilo of mutton is about 24 kilos.

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“Guinea pigs convert food more efficiently into meat and need less water, feed and space than a cow, for example. In that sense, it can be said that raising pigmeat is more environmentally friendly. ”

Guinea pigs are sensitive to temperature fluctuations. In the Andean mountains, temperatures can vary during the day from midday scorching to night frosts.

Breeders make sure that the conditions in the guinea pig farm remain stable.

Guinea pigs thrive best at temperatures between about 18 and 26 degrees. They are more sensitive to hot temperatures, which can cause them to have a heat stroke. For this purpose, there is a fan at the back of the Maravien guinea pig garden.

In place of start putting guinea pigs on the night tree.

Walter Maravi closes the skylights and covers the gratings that cover the walls of the guinea pig garden with plastic presses. He prepares guinea pig food. They receive twice a day fresh alfalfa and dry food consisting of wheat, corn and soy. The guinea pigs settle at the feed troughs.

There is dry food in the feed trays.

The radio is playing in the background. Studies show that guinea pigs are inherently sensitive animals. Surprising noise can cause miscarriages in female guinea pigs, Maravit says. They keep the radio on during the day in the guinea pig garden to dissipate outside sounds.

“Our guinea pigs listen to Andean music, waino and cumbia. They also hear so much news that they know more about the world than we do, ”says Consuelo Maravi and laughs.

Walter shows a rotating male guinea pig as he distributes food to it. It would always like to socialize during feeding time.

Consuelo Maravi says that in Peru, too, some guinea pig breeds are bred as pets. She shows a video of guinea pig beauty contests. In it, long-haired guinea pigs are lined up on exhibition tables with their coats combed to shine.

It is six o’clock in the evening when Walter locks the guinea pig door. This is how the Maravi family works every night. Behind the door is a muffled rumble of guinea pigs.

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