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Articles by Alpaca World Magazine:


Douglas Walsh


The Cusichaca Trust is a British Charitable organization, founded by its Director, Dr. Ann Kendall O.B.E. in 1977. The Trust works on rural development projects in the southern central Andean region of Peru in the Departments of Apurimac, Ayacucho and Cusco. To date it has completed two major 10 year projects (In Chamana at the head of the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and in the Patacancha valley above Ollantaytambo) and is half way through a third in the poorest area of Peru on the borders between Apurimac and Ayacucho.

Cusichaca has an administrative office in the provincial town of Andahuaylas and field bases in the Districts of Pampachiri and Andamarca. The first is located in the Chicha-Soras valley and the second in the Sondondo valley. In Peru The Cusichaca Trust works alongside its local partner, Asociación Andina Cusichaca. It employs 20 full time Peruvian professional staff and 16 local promoters to carry out projects funded by The European Union, The Community Fund and the Australian Embassy.


Cusichaca focuses its work on Andean Culture – its customs, crops, technologies and animals etc. The project Director is an expert on pre-hispanic civilisations. Her pioneering work in the 1970s studying ancient agricultural systems in the Cusichaca valley near to Chamana led to the foundation of the Trust. At the time the idea of applying knowledge gained through archaeological investigations to offer practical solutions to modern day problems was new. Cusichaca proposed that the restoration of ancient canals and terraced agricultural systems using traditional Andean technologies would offer a sound and cheap alternative for rural communities whose agricultural production was too low to sustain the local populations. All of the materials needed such as stones, clay and sand are available locally ensuring that the only costs involved relate to local labour. Studies suggest that there are nearly a million hectares of terraced agricultural systems in Peru which were constructed by the Incas, Huaris, Chankas and other pre-hispanic civilisations.

Cusichaca places these terraced agricultural systems at the centre of its work with all project activities contributing to increasing their potential as indicated in the diagram.


Cusichaca is working in 8 Districts in two valley systems on the borders between the two Departments of Ayacucho and Apurimac. The area covered is nearly 4,000km² and total population is close to 19,000.

APURIMACPampachiriPomacochaUmamarcaSañayca 2,300 1,300 2,800 1,600 602 129 447 258
AYACUCHOLarcaySorasAndamarcaChipao 1,000 1,400 3,000 5,300 498 358 4741,167
TOTAL 18,700 3,933

The altitude within the project area varies from between 3,000 and 5,000 metres above sea level. 80% of the area is high plateau land suitable for the grazing of alpacas and other camelids.


The project which Cusichaca is implementing has been divided into 3 main Themes or areas of activity. Each of these has been further divided into programmes (9) and sub programmes (21), as outlined in the following table.
Project Structure
1. Andean Agricultural Systems Traditional Agricultural Infrastructure 1. Restoration of Irrigation Systems2. Rehabilitation of Terraces
Management of Agricultural Systems 1. Soil Management2. Water Management3. Crop Management4. Animal Management5. Pasture Management6. Andean Organic Agriculture
2. Socio-Economics Organisation 1. Community Management2. Civil Society and Citizenship
Health and Nutrition 1. Basic Sanitation2. Nutrition
Commercialisation and Marketing 1. Potential Products2. Chains of Production
Promotion of Tourism 1. Registering Tourist Resources2. Promotion of Tourist Circuits
3. The Environment Management of Natural Resources 1. Woodland Management2. Fish Farming3. Water Resource Management
Nature Conservation 1. Native Flora and Fauna
Natural Disasters 1. Disaster Management

There are seven cross cutting components to the project, operating across all of the programmes. These are:



Whilst Puno, Cusco, Arequipa and Huancavelica have the largest populations of alpacas and llamas within Peru, nevertheless Ayacucho and Apurimac both have significant numbers of both. Puno is quite rightly considered the prime area with over 50% of the total population of 3 million alpacas nationwide and more than 40% of the million llamas. According to a 2001 census carried out by Conacs there were approximately 140,000 alpacas and 110,000 llamas in Ayacucho and 140,000 alpacas and 40,000 llamas in Apurimac.

Within the project ambit there are approximately 30,000 alpacas. According to a census carried out by Cusichaca staff for 7 of the 8 districts the population is 22,823 alpacas with figures for Chipao where there is the largest population still to be processed.

Population of Alpacas within Project Ambit
Pampachiri 3,170
Pomacocha 1,371
Umamarca 352
Sañayca 5,402
Andamarca 6,356
Larcay 5,209
Soras 963
Chipao ??
TOTAL 22,853

Despite the rustic nature in which these animals are raised they, nevertheless, are the most important source of income for families living in the most isolated high altitude communities. Figures produced by the government project PROALPACA suggest that typically these families generate 70% of their income from the sale of alpacas and their derivatives and 20% of their income from Llamas, with only 10% coming from other sources.

Typically a family will have between 50 and 100 animals. These sleep in simple stone enclosures close to the family home at night and are led out to pasture during the day. A member of the family (usually a woman or child) will follow the animals during the day as they roam free and will lead them home at night. Whilst in Puno and Arequipa the rearing and breeding of alpacas is relatively scientific in Apurimac and Ayacucho traditional methods are still followed. For this reason alpacas of different races and colours are all kept together and therefore interbreed. Typically the wool is sheared using a knife rather than the special scissors used elsewhere and wool is rarely selected for quality, normally being sold for low prices to itinerant merchants. Cusichaca has been working to improve some of these practices – see below.

Vicuñas are also abundant within the project area and a potentially valuable resource for the local communities. Almost half of the national population of 120,000 vicuñas is found in Ayacucho and Apurimac. Ayacucho has the largest population of any Department in Peru, with a population of 40,000. Pampa Galeras is the District with the greatest number but others such as Cabana Sur which borders Andamarca and Chipao have even greater potential for population growth.

Vicuña wool can be sold at a price of up to US$600/kg compared with alpaca wool which is typically sold by the farmers at around US$2/pound. This is a massive difference in price. Alpacas and llamas can, however, be owned by individual families, whereas vicuñas belong to the Community. Thus good community organisation is needed to manage this resource and to protect them from furtive hunters attracted by the high prices. Many of the Districts within the project ambit have taken advantage of government programmes to establish large pens on the high punas in which they control a population of several hundred animals. However, some of these have been subsequently abandoned due to squabbles over money. Vicuñas living inside the pens are also an easy target for the hunters and also inbreeding causes the deterioration of the quality of the wool so the benefits of these structures are questionable.

Peru has a total population of less than 4,000 guanacos, of which the largest concentration of just over 1,000 animals is found in Ayacucho. This is an animal close to extinction within Peru and since the sub species found here differs from that in Argentina it is an animal that needs protecting. Cusichaca believes that to have a viable population of guanacos alongside a wild population of vicuñas and the domestic alpacas and llamas would provide an important local tourist attraction and is working towards this end – see below.


Cusichaca staff have carried out a variety of activities relating to camelids as part of the animal and pasture management programmes.

A census of alpacas has been undertaken (see above).

For the past two years Cusichaca has been working alongside other organisations such as the Belgian Cooperation and PRA to look for markets for alpaca wool. In 2003 local families working with Cusichaca managed to sell their wool at a price of US$2/pound compared with a typical price of just US$0.40/pound.

During 2004 practical training was offered in two key aspects relating to the quality and marketing of the wool. Firstly the Belgian Cooperation arranged for specialists in wool shearing from Huancavelica and Junin to visit the project area. Good quality shearing increases the price at which the wool can be sold. Once the wool had been collected together in store houses other specialists in wool classification were sent from Arequipa. The price of the wool varies according to its quality. Practical courses on this subject were organised in 4 communities, benefiting 75 alpaca breeders.

Courses on alpaca wool classification
Pulperia (Umamarca) 20
Titayhua (Pomacocha) 16
Hueccopampa (Larcay) 11
Pampachiri 28

A total of 2650 Kgs of wool were gathered together, classified and sold, benefiting a total of 62 families.

To enable the wool to be sold more easily a centralised store centre is being built and implemented in the community of Hueccopampa in Larcay. There is road access to this village.

An agreement was signed with Senasa- Andahuaylas and along with them Cusichaca staff have held joint courses on the subject of animal health and the preparation of dried alpaca meat (Charqui).

Courses held jointly with Senasa
Men Women Total
Umamarca Villa Santa Rosa Animal Health 40 07 47
Pomacocha Pomacocha Animal Health 23 16 39
Pampachiri Pampachiri Animal Health 14 01 15
Umamarca Villa Santa Rosa Charqui 07 18 25
Pomacocha Pucaccasa Charqui 07 07 14
Pampachiri Llamcama Charqui 11 02 13
Pampachiri Choquecceuña Charqui 13 06 19
TOTALS 115 57 172

In order to improve the quality of the animals cusichaca staff have also organised sessions during which alpaca breeders interchange reproductive males. An interchange of experience was organised for 27 farmers from the Chicha – Soras valley. They were taken to Puno to visit alpaca farms to see the methods being adopted there. Such exercises stimulate interest and generate long term benefits as the breeders begin to adopt alternative methods of farming.

One of the major risks facing alpaca breeders is the climate. More frequently cold snaps in July and August are resulting in snow falls which cover the pasture and cause the deaths of large numbers of animals, including alpacas. Cusichaca has been building improved corrals with roofs to provide sheltered areas. These structures help alleviate the worst effects of exposure at night which often kills many young animals. To date 24 corrals have been constructed. Additionally staff are looking into ways of storing pasture in safe area, to be used to feed the animals during the critical days.

Construction of Improved corrals
Umamarca 5
Pomacocha 3
Soras 3
Pampachiri 6
Larcay 4
Sañayca 3

Most project activities are directed towards alpacas due to the fact that these animals are vital for the well being of the families living in high altitude villages. However, Cusichaca has been doing some work relating to vicuñas and guanacos also.

Within the pens constructed for vicuñas there is often only limited water available. Cusichaca has been building drinking troughs for these animals. A total of 40 have been built to date, 20 in Pampachiri and 20 in Sañayca.

Cusichaca also runs programmes relating to nature conservation and the promotion of ecotourism. As part of these programmes a study has been undertaken on the possibility of reintroducing guanacos to the project area. At the same time coordinations are underway with Inrena concerning the possibility of declaring part of the project area a protected zone. The presence of guanacos would undoubtedly enhance the value of this proposal. Some of the local authorities, most notably in Soras are highly supportive of these activities. Funding is actively being sought for these projects.


Cusichaca still has two more years of funding from the European Union and The Community Fund to continue to implement the integrated rural development project in the Chicha-Soras and Sondondo valleys. Staff will continue to offer training to the alpaca breeders and will hope to ensure a guaranteed market for both alpaca wool and meat. More work will be done on pasture management and on how to manage the risks of harsh climate changes.

Once funding has been assured cusichaca will also embark on the programme to reintroduce guanacos into the project zone.

Promotional materials will also be developed to publicise tourist circuits within the Chicha-Soras and Sondondo valleys. The presence of large wild and domestic populations of Camelids will be one of the attractions emphasised in these publications.


For further information or to offer funding and support for our work The Cusichaca Trust can be contacted in the UK through the Director, Dr. Ann Kendall or in Peru through the Peru Project Manager, Douglas Walsh .