Uchurracay will reverberate in the memory of those who recall the long years of internal strife that afflicted Peru between 1980 and 1992. It was there that a band of eight journalists was hacked to death when they set out to investigate rumours that peasant communities in that part of Ayacucho were turning against Sendero Luminoso.
Last week, the district of Uchurracay in the province of Huanta (Ayacucho) hit headlines for a different (though not entirely unrelated) reason. It was the district (out of 1,874 nationwide) that registered the highest proportion of people living with an income of below 300 soles (or about 75 pounds) a month. It shared that doubtful privilege with two districts in Cajamarca: Oxamarca and Anguía.
INEI, the official statistics institute, published its latest Poverty Map of Peru on the basis of figures for 2018. The last such map was based on figures for 2013.
The map illustrates in graphic form the income inequalities that exist between different parts of the country.
According to INEI, there are 713 districts in Peru where more than 40% of the population receives income under the 300sol threshold. Of the 20 poorest districts in the country, 16 are in Cajamarca. Although poverty levels have appeared to have gone down in many districts, those which have seen it rise are almost all in the Andean highlands.
According to INEI the main reason for the deterioration was related to climatic variations and their impact on the peasant economy. But to Armando Mendoza, an economist working at Oxfam in Lima, this also acts as a reminder that mining investment, which is concentrated mainly in the highlands, is not bringing down poverty rates. Referring to Cajamarca and southern Cuzco in particular, he asks “what is the real impact of mining on economic and social development at the local level”?