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The Peruvian Coastal Desert: Agriculture and Resiliency

Authors: Claudia Tomateo*, The New School
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: ancient, infrastructure, agriculture, design, urban, practices, planning
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Peruvian coastal desert runs a total length of 1555 miles. Covering only 10% of the
country’s territory, it holds more than 50% of the entire population. El Niño southern oscillation is
a climatic phenomenon and it is attributed to variations in the temperature of ocean surface,
bringing heavy rains and floods and historically leading to tragedies and water/food
shortages. However, this event is responsible for another effect in the desert. Water collected
from intense flooding makes the land fertile for certain produce like corn, beans and squash,
transforming the desert into a resilient resource.

Evident in records and ruins from pre-hispanic civilizations that inhabited the desert such as
Paracas, Mochica, Chimú, Nazca, Tiahuanaco, Lambayeque and Cupisnique, an extensive
variety of agricultural techniques designed for various ecological zones and climate patterns
also served (and in some cases continue to serve) as a water management network, able to
mitigate possible flooding events.

This study aims to compile a comprehensive view of the pre-hispanic resilient agricultural
infrastructures along the entire coast of Peru through mapping visualization, with the goal of
understanding the rich network of planning and performance at a regional scale.. This research
would seek to map the impacts of El niño today, with the ultimate hope of unveiling potential
opportunities for the rehabilitation of ancient infrastructure or the development of new strategies.

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