Traditional crops contribute to food security and agroecological sustainability, but their diversity is threatened by economic, environmental, and sociocultural factors. We use a case study of the Andean tuber crop oca (Oxalis tuberosa; Oxalidaceae), in Pisac District, Cusco Region, Peru, to explore the commonly held assumptions that: 1) farmers maintain traditional crop diversity for practical purposes and 2) that the major threats to this diversity occur when increased access to resources compromises farmers’ motivations for maintaining traditional crops. Using a qualitative research approach, we examine motivations for, and threats to, oca diversity in two smallholder farming communities. Farmers reveal agricultural, economic, and dietary and medicinal motivations for oca conservation, though they are most strongly motivated by intangible cultural factors. Farmers describe threats to some of these motivations, but they suggest that oca conservation is most immediately threatened by the oca weevil (Adioristidius tuberculatus), which has compromised their ability to obtain and maintain oca diversity. We encourage academics and conservation professionals to consider and honor the role of cultural values in shaping agricultural landscapes, and we call for increased research emphasis on traditional crops to support farmers in their efforts to conserve them.
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Vol. 36 • No. 2