Peru is the third largest country in South America, covering 1,285,000 km2. Assessing climate trends and risk is complicated by the heterogeneous nature of Peru’s climate. Along the coast, the north receives more precipitation than the desert south. Mountain ranges contain valleys and plateaus that create micro-climates with varying degrees of precipitation and temperatures, and the eastern Amazon Basin receives heavy average annual precipitation. Given the variety of climate conditions and resources, each climate zone is characterized by different climate regimes and is expected to be affected by climate variability and change in different ways.

Climate change trends in Peru include rising temperatures, extreme temperature fluctuations, changing rainfall patterns, sea level rise, and an increasing rate of glacier melt in the Andes. Peru is highly vulnerable to these changes, as the majority of Peruvians live in water-sensitive areas, work in resource-dependent sectors such as agriculture or fishing, or exist in or on the margins of poverty.

Agriculture is arguably the most important sector in Peru’s economy. Although agriculture (including livestock) makes up only 7% of GDP, 23.3% of the economically active population in Peru is working in agriculture. Agriculture in Peru falls into three main categories: extensive agriculture (farming large areas of land with little labor by applying mechanized cultivation techniques and maximizing inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides; most products are grown for export), small-scale agriculture (much of these crops are sold in domestic markets), and subsistence farming. Over 70% of farms are smaller than 3.1 acres in size.

Approximately 17% of Peru‘s total land is used for agriculture, of which 28% is irrigated. The narrow coastal zone to the west of the Andes is Peru’s most productive agricultural zone, and much of the export crops (sugarcane, cotton, rice, asparagus, grapes, and artichokes) are grown in this area using extensive agriculture methods, while more traditional crops for domestic consumption (potatoes, cocoa, and quinoa) are produced in upland regions on smaller farms.

The importance of agriculture in Peru extends beyond its direct contribution to GDP. Subsistence farming is critical to the rural areas of Peru, where poverty is most extreme and food insecurity is chronic. However, these rural agricultural communities have been poorly served by transportation and sanitation infrastructure, and rural poverty rates among those earning a living in the agricultural sector is higher than those in the non-agricultural sector.

Extracted from USAID. 2011. Peru Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Desktop Study. International Resources Group (IRG). Washington, DC