"The Andes are some of the tallest, starkest mountains in the world. Yet the Incas, and the civilizations before them, coaxed harvests from the Andes’ sharp slopes and intermittent waterways. They developed resilient breeds of crops such as potatoes, quinoa and corn. They built cisterns and irrigation canals that snaked and angled down and around the mountains. And they cut terraces into the hillsides, progressively steeper, from the valleys up the slopes. At the Incan civilization’s height in the 1400s, the system of terraces covered about a million hectares throughout Peru and fed the vast empire.
The ghost of the Incas’ farming achievements still shadows the Andes. The remnants of ancient terraces appear as lines of green on the mountains. Former irrigation canals carve hollows into the land. Today, in a corner of the Andes, people are breathing new life into ancient practices. Inspired by recent archaeological research, they are rebuilding terraces and irrigation systems and reclaiming traditional crops and methods of planting. They do this in part because Incan agricultural techniques are more productive and more efficient in terms of water use. But these modern farmers also believe the Incan ways can offer simple solutions to help protect communities’ food supply in the face of climate change."