By Agricultural Association of Producer Unions (AGAP) executive director Gabriel Amaro
In recent years the Peruvian agri sector has been a talking point for the whole world, not just in asparagus where it's number one - whether it be on tables of Europe, America, Asia or even Oceania where people enjoy this "made in Peru" product - but also in other excellent products of ours like grapes, blueberries, citrus, avocados, pomegranates, mangoes and bananas that compete with the best in the most demanding markets.
One of the privileged areas we have in Peru where this modern transformational activity is developed is in the northern region of La Libertad. This enviable region is one of the most competitive in the country (Peruvian Economic Institute, 2017) with better human development indices (United Nations Development Program, 2012) and better life expectancy and family income together with Lima, Arequipa, Lambayeque and Ica.
The region is also known for having been a territory with many significant civilizations in ancient Peru such as the Mochica and Chimú cultures; it has been a cradle for northern sailors with popular and well-known figures like the writer César Vallejo; and it has a diverse and exquisite gastronomy including, to name one of a few delicacies, we could highlight 'shambar', a succulent soup based on vegetables or dried goat kid. La Libertad is a region of eternal spring, a land known for a many Peruvian agricultural products recognized worldwide such as asparagus, avocados, blueberries, grapes and artichokes, among others.
It is in this region that we find the Chavimochic Special Project, whose name comes from the first letters of the Chao, Virú, Moche and Chicama valleys, which all cross the mother canal of Chavimochic, a good name for an extraordinary project which in its first two stages has already incorporated more than 18,000 new hectares into modern Peruvian agriculture and improved irrigation for a further 28,000 hectares, leading to more than 40,000 direct jobs and thousands of indirect jobs.
We have seen how La Libertad has transformed. Where before there were dry deserts, today there is a green cloak of vegetation covering thousands of hectares that changes the landscape, making views more welcoming and comforting but also productive, filling them with opportunities for Peruvians.
This is a result of the right investments in productive infrastructure, an appropriate legal framework for developing the agri sector and making it sustainable, and the work and investments of modern agricultural companies that bet on the country with the vision to invest in an economic sector that is one of the most complicated due to its risks.
But they have also known how to overcome many barriers and knowledge gaps, to adopt technology, adapt to the climate and also the state bureaucracy to make this project a reality and support development in the north and in the country.
In Chavimochic there is also research and development in new applied technologies for agriculture, combating pests with beneficial insects, researching biology, developing plants, new technified irrigation technologies, adaptation processes in new varieties, and many other developments that make the sector grow each day.
Currently the Chavimochic Project is in its third phase which includes construction of the Palo Redondo dam with close to 400 million m3 of capacity, the third line of the Virú River crossing, the widening of the Mother Canal Moche-Chicama-Urricape, the integrated remodeling of the reservoir and control systems, measuring, and the integrated automation of the project's hydraulic infrastructure.
This third phase will incorporate 63,000 hectares of new land and improve the irrigation of a further 48,000 hectares in the traditional valleys. Can you imagine what that will mean for the La Libertad region and for Perú Chavimochic in full production?
This would make the project four times larger than what it is now with more than 150,000 new formal jobs, thousands of indirect jobs and many more of the benefits already achieved around Chavimochic but multiplied: the incorporation of women from rural areas in formal work, rural development, poverty reduction, improvement in purchasing power and prosperity, an improvement in GDP per capita in the region, an increase in exports and foreign currency for the country - this list goes on. This shows that when Peruvians have a clear objective to progress and it is led by the public sector together with the private sector and Peruvian citizens, we can do it.
There are still challenges though that we need to overcome in this region to strengthen the dynamism of the agri-exporter sector and that oblige the public sector to advance more quickly. The third phase of the Chavimochic needs to be finished - almost 80% of the Palo Redondo dam has already been built.
It's essential that the multi-purpose port of Salaverry be built in order to move thousands of containers of agri-exports from the La Libertad region to adjacent zones, and it's urgent as well to widen the Trujillo international airport to increase the flow of visitors and the exportable cargo.
Additionally, recovery needs to be accelerated for infrastructure lost during the coastal El Niño, with La Libertad having the second-largest budget assigned for reconstruction efforts after Piura (more than four billion SOL, or US$1.2 billion). This constitutes vital infrastructure for development in La Libertad and the agri-export sector.
It is also urgent to promote agricultural research development through INIA (National Agricultural Innovation Institute), a vital factor for future exports. For these and other challenges, national, regional and local authorities need to unite to continue developing La Libertad's productive and economic potential.
Without a doubt we can say that even though there are challenges, Chavimochic today is a reality in which Peruvians should feel proud.