In Peru, Pre Columbian Canals Offer Hope Against Dry Spell

In the mountains of western Peru, a farming community is restoring a network of stone canals built more than a millennium earlier, hoping the pre-Columbian technology holds the option to its water problems.

Understood locally as “amunas”, the water-retention system is believed to have actually been devised by ancient people who resided in what is now the Huarochiri province some 1,400 years earlier, prior to even the Incas, to prolong the rainy season’s bounty.

The canals that furrow the mountain slopes reroute overflow to spots of permeable soil or rock where the water leaks in, filters through and renews aquifers prior to emerging in springs downslope weeks or months later, in drier times.

The practice is called “sowing” water, to be collected later, after the rainy season, when it is required to nurture individuals, crops and livestock.

Known locally as amunas, the water-retention system is thought to have actually been created by ancient individuals who lived here prior to even the Incas AQUAFONDO/ Ivan LAIZA

” We are ranchers, farmers, and every drop of water … assists our survival,” said Roosevelt Calistro Lopez, 43, one of 900-odd occupants of rural San Pedro de Casta, some 80 kilometers (almost 50 miles) from Lima, and about 3,200 meters (10,400 feet) above sea level.

” The amunas are not brand-new for us, however we are improving them. There are locations where they had actually gone dry where there is water again,” he told AFP.

Every kilometer of amuna that is put into operation permits the transport of 178,000 cubic meters of water annually AQUAFONDO/ Ivan LAIZA

” The amunas currently exist. What we are doing is bring back” them, stated Mariella Sanchez Guerra, director of the Aquafondo water-access effort which began the effort with the participation of the regional residents in 2017.

” We have identified 67 kilometers of amunas” to be reclaimed by 2025, she said. “Of 67 kilometers, we have actually recuperated 17, which means water for about 82,000 people for a whole year.”

The canals do not serve only the inhabitants of Huarochiri.

They likewise feed the Santa Eulalia river, a tributary of the Rimac river that provides some 80 percent of water consumed in Lima, one of the world’s biggest desert cities.

Some 120 people from the neighborhood are paid by Aquaforo to carry out the work AQUAFONDO/ Ivan LAIZA

Every kilometer of amuna that is put into operation enables the transport of 178,000 cubic meters of water each year, and Aquafondo hopes to improve from 20 percent to 80 percent the quantity of water collected by the ancient system for the thirsty capital.

Some 120 people from the neighborhood are paid by Aquafondo to carry out the rebuilding work, which is not constantly simple going.

There is a threat of falling while working on the slopes in windy conditions, and the heavy stones have to be lifted by hand and thoroughly locked into location.

Work can only be done between October and December, prior to the rainy season arrives.

The coronavirus pandemic has even more made complex matters, hitting Peru’s economy with a collapse of the all-important tourism sector, and a sharp fall in prices for farming items that deeply affected the farmers of San Pedro de Casta.

” We mulled for days whether we should continue the deal with the amunas or not, we did not want to put anyone at threat” of contracting the coronavirus, stated Sanchez Guerra.

” However we were also really concerned about (maintaining) the income generated for the neighborhood through their labor.”

For Calistro Lopez, the task is also part of his heritage.

” When I was a boy, I heard my parents state that we had to ‘plant’ the water at the top. Now I understand it.

” We bring this in our blood and veins, and we do it with pride and will.”

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