Monday, 7 April 2008

Inca food planning better than ours!

The Inca Empire stretched the entire length of South America in the Andes and included virtually every type of environment imaginable, ranging from tropical to ‘cold and miserable’. The Inca developed agricultural systems and plants that could grow in these diverse habitats and they were so successful that they were able to grow enough food to feed 15 million people with their "primitive" technology, but amazingly also had a 3-7 year surplus in reserve, much better than we can now achieve!

The ruins of Machu Picchu.

The Inca’s grew a diverse array of plants compared to "modern" systems of agriculture. The Conquistadors forced the Incas to switch to the use of "Western" plants such as wheat, barley, carrots, and broad beans. The Incan foods included a dozen root crops, 3 grains, 3 legumes and more than a dozen fruits. These plants are still grown and sold in markets in the Andes by rural, Indian peasants. However, the white and part-Indians are resistant to their use because they are "poor peoples' food".

Several of these crops were introduced to the rest of the world: potatoes, lima beans, peppers, and tomatoes. However, the majority of Incan crops are generally unknown outside the Andes. Resistance to Incan crops and agricultural methods has begun to lessen and there are movements by South American governments to take another look at these crops. The interest and research into these are in very preliminary stages for the most part and it is not clear how many of these plants, if any, will enjoy widespread acceptance. There are many barriers to overcome including adaptation of crops to climate, daylight, cultural bias, and diseases.

Achia, aka achiras, an Agrigultural Group canna, has already made this exodus and is well established all around the world. In many countries it is so well established it is considered to be indigenous, and in some it prospers so well that it is treated as a weed.

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