There’s a reason over three million people travel to Peru every year. It’s one of the success stories of South American tourism. Of course it helps when your country includes windswept highlands, Andean mountain peaks and Amazon rainforest all in one photogenic package, not to mention a world-class food scene in Lima, well-preserved Quechua culture and the lost city of Machu Picchu. One thing that surprises some people on visiting Peru though is the altitude. Even major cities like Cusco creep well above 11,000 ft (3,352 m). These elevations pose a big challenge for travellers, but what’s less talked about is how affects Peruvian locals, particular the poor.
On the high planes of Puno (the gateway to Lake Titicaca) where elevations reach 12,500 ft (3,800m), the impact of altitude is pretty clear. It’s one of Peru’s poorest regions. Temperatures often drop below freezing. Malnutrition is a problem, as the high plains aren’t well irrigated or well suited for agriculture. The government also hasn’t invested much in local infrastructure or healthcare, leaving a lot of people at risk of poverty, exposure and social inequality. These are challenges most tour operators don’t talk about, let along tackle. It’s not the sort of thing you read in the average travel brochure. But one of our Foundation partners is doing something about it: Kusimayo.
Kusimayo by the numbers
Kusimayo is a Quechua word meaning ‘happy river’. Since 2008 this social enterprise has been operating on the high plains of Puno, helping to improve living conditions for local children, families and the elderly. Through their Thousands of Dreams program they’ve provided healthy breakfasts for over 1,000 preschool kids. Through their Warmth for Puno project, they’ve insulated 39 homes, increasing internal temperatures by 50°F (10°C) for over 350 people (they also hand out warm clothes before the winter winds sweep across the plains in June). They’re also involved in local agriculture, helping 44 families improve their farming techniques and generate a sustainable income through their Productive Puno program.
Kusimayo’s Thousands of Dreams
Kusimayo’s Warmth for Puno
When you’re above 12,000ft, the air temperature can drop incredibly quickly, especially during Peru’s long, dry winter, which can run from May all the way through to November. Kusimayo spends a lot of time each year on their Warmth for Puno project: providing local families with warm clothing, installing innovative insulation in local houses, and replacing inefficient and dangerous cookstoves. The vast majority of Puno’s population (about 97%) use dangerous fuels like kerosene in their cookstoves for warmth, food and light. Most of these homes don’t have chimneys, so the fumes from these burners represent a major health risk to local communities (experts believe it’s the equivalent of smoking 20 packs a day i some cases). By replacing these stoves and installing chimneys, Kusimayo has reduced the level of contaminants produced by at least 70%.
Kusimayo’s Productive Puno
Choose a better way to travel. If you live in North America, book any trip before December 20 and we’ll donate 10% of the trip cost to Intrepid Foundation projects.
Feature image c/o David Stanley, Flickr