“Jalca in Cajamarca and La Montaña’s lake above 3500 m.a.s.l.”

                                               By: Mervin Becerra, Martín Leyva and Rossi Taboada

The road opened by stretches with the ups and downs of the clouds. Early, in the clear morning, the journey continued from La Popa to La Montaña’s lake. Next to PEER Project delegation, Mr. Tomas and little Jose guided the road, which scenario was changing by the time we were climbing to the jalca, with strong winds and intermittent drizzle.           

According to Sánchez-Vega and Dillon (2006), jalcas are an intermediate biogeographic region between North Andean paramo and Center and South Andean puna. Take up high-andean places above 3200 meters, to the Andean top that hardly exceeds 4200 meters; for this reason jalcas are less high than paramo and puna. As well as its topography comprises extended plains, hills and mountains with moderate gradient, outcropping rocks and lakes and wetlands with variable extension, is frequently the area where Pacific and Marañon river basins born. Even though its fragility, presents characteristics that make jalca hostile temporarily, like wind and rain intensity which produce soil erosion and rocks exposition; also are vulnerable to anthropogenic actions that affects its vegetation structure, decreases vegetative diversity, speeds up erosion and, in this way, transforms the natural landscape.        

Along the road, frames were brushes and areas seemed to be grazed in order to take advantage of agriculture soils. Platforms were not observed this time, like it was in Huancavelica; but looking to the top it was possible to difference corn, potato and olluco crops, which had been better adapted to the weather, and its distribution by smallholdings was enclosed in order to let know limits of properties and protect them of fauna that surrounds highs. 

In the course of our work, vegetation turned from crops to a dense flora, and then to flatlands splattered with yellow and green. During the next one hour and a half walking we moved from quiñawiro woods to ichu flatlands; half of hour more, small rivers and moss mattresses indicated us we were near to La Montaña’s Lake.           

Even though, supposedly, we are in rain season, it was possible to cross the dike and continue for a stone pavement which three years ago could be watched flowing water; intensive rains are absent and winds stays. But this was not an important issue for down basin populations until dry season comes, when water lacks and an amount of farmers, whom majority grows potatoes, needs to irrigate. Neither it is in this period, mainly with rain-fed crops, due to sluice gates deterioration that finally releases water and satisfy demands to a few of peasants, specially who are located next to the canal.              

On the way back and with the satisfaction of contemplate, when drizzle did not beat, a peculiar scenario that between mountains discovered Chongoyape City. Then, on the way down the road was shorter and we had to cross paddocks fence by fence. In this route was clearer the spatial distribution of activities, cattle was established where pasture mayor areas, which daily had to be visited, usually by women, to find small water founds to drink and complement its diet with formulas based on water and salt or another products bought in Lambayeque.            

Descending, crops stayed in gradients and considerably far from roads. Pack animals, the only means of transport in this uneven path, are belongings appreciated during harvest season, there was no another option to transport heavy packages to the connecting point towards Chiclayo.          

Although terraces was not observed as technique of maximum land use, the adaptation in order to work this places has been surpassing adversities that farmers usually have to experience. Vegetative invasive specie was growing faster in their lands; but nothing that can be overcome with constant and hard work to take care its source of live hood, like they are doing. Nevertheless, rancha, they said, is coming stronger and fumigation packs bought in groups are so damaged that is not possible to fumigate more frequently.                

As we could see, there are serious challenges and at many scales for fragile high Andean ecosystems sustainable management. The value of head basins is being taken in count with more emphasis in academic and political speeches; however, efforts to enhance and/or implement sustainable practices are slowed down, by far, for decisions that priories economic growth with partial flexibility.              

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References:   

Sánchez-Vega, I., & Dillon, M. (2006). Jalcas. Rev. Botánica Económica de los Andes, 77-90.

 

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