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Gastronomy, a way to save Peru’s biodiversity

The search for solutions so that preserving a forest will be more profitable than cutting it down has come to the world's best gourmet restaurants, thanks to which many Peruvian jungle communities have exchanged deforestation for preservation. EFE

The search for solutions so that preserving a forest will be more profitable than cutting it down has come to the world’s best gourmet restaurants, thanks to which many Peruvian jungle communities have exchanged deforestation for preservation. EFE

Honolulu, Sep 8 (EFE).- The search for solutions so that preserving a forest will be more profitable than cutting it down has come to the world’s best gourmet restaurants, thanks to which many Peruvian jungle communities have exchanged deforestation for preservation.

One of the non-governmental organizations that has managed to make gastronomy a means for protecting biodiversity is Peru’s Amazon Residents for Amazonia, or AMPA, whose representatives presented their achievements at the World Conservation Congress being held until Sept. 10 in Hawaii.

Up until 10 years ago, it was assumed “due to a lack of understanding” that Amazonia could not produce food and instead of expanding the use and marketing of local vegetables, fish or fruit produced by the indigenous population there, the rainforest was cut down or burned to replace it with more commercial cultivation, Karina Pinasco, a spokesperson for the NGO told EFE.

Along those lines, the challenge for young residents of Peru’s Amazon region who got this project started was to create an appreciation and value for products of the rainforest.
One of the first initiatives was to bring the forest to the most renowned chefs of Peru, a country where innovation in gastronomy is booming, and teach them about all the delicacies it offers, said Miguel Tang, another AMPA spokesman.

Local communities showed them how they use those products and extract their tastes, aromas and colors.
Mitsu Tsumura, the chef at Lima’s Maido restaurant, was one of the first to attend those meetings in Amazonia, where local fishermen taught him how to treat fish from the region, including the gigantic “paiche,” or arapaima, which can weigh up to 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and measure about two meters (6.5 feet) long.

Tsumura added that since then he has served Amazon fish dishes at his restaurant, which features a fusion of Peruvian and Japanese cooking.

The increased demand for Amazonian fish has helped local populations as well as introducing criteria of sustainability into their fishing activities, which up until that point had been badly managed.
Another of the new delicacies that chefs have discovered in Peru’s Amazon region is cocoa plant gum, a fruit juice that previously had always been discarded by cocoa processing operations.

The Indian populations showed the chefs how to obtain it and use it because it is a delicious liquid and provides cocoa plantations with an additional product to sell, thus lessening their need to continue expanding their croplands, said Tang.

AMPA is helping local populations begin the sustainable exploitation of a wide variety of jungle resources and aiding them in getting them on the market, including peppers, fish, fruits, tubers, flowers, types of palm shoots, mollusks and shrimp.

Pinasco says this is just the beginning of local efforts to use gastronomy as a platform for showing the benefits of biodiversity.

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