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In the Peruvian Andes, farmers are turning to pre-Hispanic dams to combat water shortages.

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Sept 12 (Reuters) – Last year, Guillermo Palmadera, the mayor of a remote area in the Peruvian Andes, grew increasingly worried that a harsh dry season could ruin his area’s barley, alfalfa and local tubers crops.

The Andes has an annual dry season from May to September, but farmers in his Pamparomas region say rain has been especially rare over the past couple of years amid global anthropogenic climate change that exacerbates extreme weather.

The long dry season comes at a cost. If land is left idle for more than half a year, it hurts both income and what families can eat.

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Palmadera found a solution not with an engineer, but with an archaeologist who was examining fragments of an old stone wall on the high ground of his area.

Kevin Lane, an archaeologist at the University of Buenos Aires, has discovered 18 abandoned dams built in Pamparomas before the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Lane offered to repair the old dam.

“The problem of water scarcity in Peru is not new,” Lane said.

He added that water scarcity is so closely tied to the history of the Andes that he believes there have been wars over water in the past.

“It’s very dry here, we haven’t had much rain in the last two or three years,” said Damian Kyros, a farmer and father of eight from Pamparonas.

With funding from the German Gerda Foundation, Henckel Lein and local farmers built a 3-meter dam on top of the old ruins at 4,600 meters (15,092 feet) above sea level, using rocks, clay and modern materials such as geotextiles.

They are easy to replace in an area prone to earthquakes and large temperature fluctuations that can cause other materials such as concrete to crack.

The rehabilitation cost $100,000, while they estimated that the concrete dam could have cost $1 million.

After the dam is completed, 300 residents of the Pamparomas area are waiting for the start of the rainy season. They expect to collect 15 thousand cubic meters of water.

“We are very impatient,” Kyros said. “With the help of water, we will feed some cows to make cheese and guinea pigs for us and hopefully for sale.”

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Reporting by Inti Landauro; Edited by Marcelo Rochabrun; Edited by Aurora Ellis

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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