From Subsistence to Sales: Economic Growth in Peru


Indoor chicken coop

Giuliano Salas moved to North America from Peru, a South American country known for its diverse geography and vibrant history. It is also home to a famous dish, called cuy. Cuy, or guinea pig, has been a popular Peruvian delicacy for thousands of years; it is also one of the reasons for Giuliano’s return to Peru as a diaspora volunteer with Cuso International.

An entrepreneur and management consultant, Giuliano travelled to the Cusco region of Peru for a volunteer placement within Cuso International’s Diasporas for Development program. Giuliano spent seven months working as a Value Chain Analyst with WARA, a non-profit civil society group. His primary role was to research opportunities to include vulnerable people in the process of bringing guinea pigs to market.

Many of Cusco’s poorest people are subsistence farmers who raise small herds of guinea pigs for food, selling what their family doesn’t need. This work improves the quality of life for farmers and their families. Rural women take on most of the responsibility for raising the cuy. Often, it is the only way they can earn money to help support their families.

In Cusco, the demand for cuy far exceeds what area farmers can supply. Larger producers from other regions swoop in the meet this need, jeopardizing the livelihood of local farmers.

Giuliano researched new markets and added value products for cuy, documented challenges, and helped to identify ways to streamline the production process. By the end of his placement, Giuliano prepared a comprehensive list of recommendations that support continued sustainable development in this area.

While it took some time to adjust to the differences between Peru and North America, Giuliano says that sharing language, culture and heritage enabled him to work more efficiently. He was able to build trust quickly and obtain the information he needed for his work. Giuliano’s life changing experience in Peru has uncovered a new passion for international development.

“It’s just been a very enriching experience for me,” says Giuliano. “I’ve been able to make an impact here.”