The new Kamayoq

Participatory Market Chain Analysis: developing farmer-to-farmer extension services in Peru

In the Peruvian Andes during Inca Empire of the 16th century the "Kamayoq" were special advisors on agriculture and climate. They were trained to anticipate weather patterns and were responsible for advising on key agricultural practices such as optimal sowing dates. Today, in the same region, resource-poor farmers struggle against physical isolation, inadequate access to resources and a climate so extreme it can bring drought, floods, frost and hail all within one growing season, and a "new kamayoq" is showing potential to be part of the solution.

1 Background to the new Kamayoq

The skills and equipment resource-poor farmers require to respond to the challenges in the Andes, and to take advantage of potential market opportunities, have been beyond the means of the Peruvian department of agriculture. Public sector services have been in decline since the 1980's and services to farmers have suffered. This situation led to the emergence of some private extension provision, supplying products and advice to large commercial farmers. The challenge that remained was how to fill the gap of service provision in those many farming communities in the Andean mountains, particularly in the high altitude areas (over 4000m) where they are amongst the poorest and most vulnerable in Peru, and depend almost entirely on alpacas and native potatoes. Despite the obvious need, these resource-poor farmers have had little access to any kind of technical support.

2 Developing service providers - training the Kamayoq

Since 1997 Practical Action (formerly ITDG) has been working with resource-poor farming communities in the Peruvian Andes, exploring alternative approaches to extension service provision. The starting point was the needs of smallholder farmers' in the highland valleys where they keep a few livestock and grow some maize, potatoes and beans for home consumption. Getting a good understanding of their technical requirements, gaps in their knowledge, problems they were facing with their crops and livestock (e.g. pests and diseases; breeding problems; access to inputs) was essential. Part of the initial (qualitative) study was to understand how the advice and inputs could be delivered and paid for, and whom farmers would respect and value. The model that developed is based on the training of local farmer-to-farmer extension agents known as Kamayoq. Practical Action (formerly ITDG) established a Kamayoq training facility and to date over 140 Kamayoq have been trained of whom 20 per cent are women. The Kamayoq training facility is based on the following:

  • Trainees come from and are selected by the communities where Practical Action (formerly ITDG) is working. One of the key criteria in the selection process is the willingness (and ability) of the trained farmers to provide services to their communities.
  • Training is provided in Quechua, the local language. Instructors include Practical Action staff, experienced Kamayoq and technical experts from regional institutes.
  • The course lasts eight months and involves attendance for one day per week. The emphasis is on practical learning and training occurs at different field locations and only occasionally in a classroom.
  • The course focuses on local farmers' agricultural and animal health needs including: identification and treatment of pests and diseases of agricultural crops and livestock; better animal husbandry methods, particularly breeding; and irrigation via the use of a network of drainage channels.

3 How the Kamayoq created demand for their advice

The Kamayoq are equipped through their training to anticipate and address farmers' veterinary and agricultural needs. During their training the Kamayoq are in very close contact with the community, which has the important effect of creating trust and making them responsive to their clients right from the start. They gradually build up their client base in the community as their reputation for providing timely and effective advice grows. Farmers pay their new advisors in cash or in kind (e.g. labour, food products). The initial trust the farmers place in them has to be quickly rewarded with evidence of results. Resource poor farmers, like any client, are primarily interested in the benefit i.e. how they will increase their yields and their income. Practical Action estimated that initial average increases in income were typically around 15% as a direct result of technical assistance from Kamayoq.

Creating a market for technical advisory services has been dependent on both providing a supply of competent advisors (the Kamayoq) and creating a demand for the advice by sensitising farmers to the possibilities i.e. creating awareness of the range of services and their associated benefits. Kamayoq are encouraged to offer independent, objective advice and to keep their knowledge up-to-date through attending refresher courses, dedicated radio programmes and videos.

4 A challenge for Kamayoqs - providing quality, impartial advice

An important source of income for Kamayoq is the sale of animal health products, accompanied by advice on how and when to use the product to maximise it's effectiveness, with other useful tips on animal husbandry to ensure better overall livestock management and productivity. This model is common all over the world and has proved to be a commercially viable way to deliver advice to farmers. Critics of this approach are concerned that commercial considerations may over-ride other options, whereby extension providers lack objectivity, resulting in reduced choice to farmers. The Kamayoq model is seeking to address this by ensuring the Kamayoq are able to offer a range of options and explain the pros and cons of each. A radio programme for Kamayoqs not only helps to keep them informed but also creates expectation amongst the farmer-clients on the type and quality of services they can receive.

5 The success of Kamayoqs - evidence of impact

The success of the Kamayoq model can be seen at different levels:

  • The increased and/or sustained demand for the technical advice by farmers
  • The demand from Kamayoq for refresher and new training
  • Uptake of the Kamayoq approach by other organisations.

5.1 Benefits to farmers

The benefits to farmers of increases in production and income are clearly linked to technical advice. For example a recent study in the highland valleys amongst dairy producers showed extremely encouraging "before and after" results. The farmers were clear about the difference that advice had made.

Farmers increase income from dairy livestock

Technical Services provided by Kamayoq:

  • Feeding regimes and supply of food supplements
  • Milking techniques (such as twice-a-day milking)
  • Udder care and hygiene
  • Dosing for parasites (98% now dosing compared to 42% before)


  • 89% farmers reported that mastitis is now effectively controlled
  • Average daily milk yield increased from 6.26 to 8.68 litres
  • Monthly milk sales increased by 39%
  • A strong link between high levels of dosing for parasites and improved milk yields was reported
  • From a 2005 survey of 10% of the Kamayoq clients - 220 farmers in 25 villages.

The advice on crop production techniques has shown even more dramatic results. A pilot survey in the Huiscachani community in Cusco in 2005 indicates that income from crop production has increased by 73% after receiving technical advice (80% of those receiving services were surveyed).

There is good evidence that farmers are working with Kamayoq to find new solutions to old problems, as in the boxed example below.

Kamayoq advice helps farmers beat animal diseases

In 30 communities where the Kamayoq were active, mortality rates among cattle fell dramatically, partly due to jointly looking for solutions that work. A good example of this process of "Participatory Technology Development" has been the discovery of a natural medicine to treat the parasitic disease liver fluke. Over a three-year period, the Kamayoq and local villagers experimented with a range of natural medicines until they discovered an effective treatment that is also cheaper than conventional medicines.

One study by Practical Action in 2003 highlighted that the women who received technical advice from the Kamayoq have increased their income as a result of breeding guinea pigs and pigs, producing improved cheese and sowing bio-vegetable gardens. The women who become financially independent also gained more autonomy and decision-making powers.

5.2 Viability of Kamayoq businesses

It is important that the new technical advisors, the Kamayoq, are able to develop viable service businesses. They need to keep their services sharp and relevant and be continually up-dating their " offer" and looking for new ways to bring business benefits to their farmer clients.

Evidence that this is a realistic ambition is partly supported by a survey of the Kamayoq's new earning power, shown by the table of incomes below.

Service provided by the Kamayoq

Average monthly income from that service

Cattle feeding advice


Animal health services

US$ 200

Irrigation technical advice

US$ 300

The Kamayoq's demand for inputs, such as up-dating their training, are an important indicator of the future sustainability of the services. This has been happening in an ad hoc way. For example, Kamayoq are linking together in informal support networks where they can share ideas and knowledge and access services e.g. new information and products. They also feedback to the Kamayoq training facility on the particular services in demand and what further training they would like. This in turn helps the Kamayoq training facility to continually adapt and develop its training programme for new entrants too.

5.3 Up-take of the Kamayoq approach by other organisations

The Kamayoq model has been tested in different contexts over a period of 8 years and the results have been extremely positive. Other institutes and organizations that have a mandate to provide technical assistance to farmers (e.g. National Agricultural Research Institute, National Service for Animal Health and International Fund for Agricultural Development) are exploring using the Kamayoq model. The model has the following selling points:

  • There is evidence that a viable market for technical assistance services can be developed in challenging contexts.
  • The impact of the services on the target groups (resource-poor farmers) can be high.
  • The level of investment is minimal but must be of high quality (lessons from the Kamayoq schools).

6 Challenges for the future of the Kamayoq model

The challenges of developing more and better technical advisory services through the Kamayoq approach include:

6.1 Scaling up

There are still thousands of resource-poor farmers in Peru without access to technical advice and inputs. Taking the Kamayoq model to ever more challenging contexts is slowly happening. Practical Action started in the highland valleys and then took the approach to the higher reaches of the Andes, where livelihood security is dependent on alpacas and native potatoes.

As the model is developed, adapted and taken up by others there is a challenge to ensure that the quality of technical training and service delivered by Kamayoq remains to a good standard. Resources such as videos, technical booklets and content for radio programmes will help to ensure this happens.

Getting a better gender balance and recruiting more women as Kamayoq is a challenge. As women acquire better skills for livestock and crop management then they are more likely to be considered for the training programme, but issues of acceptability by the community will take time and specific efforts to address.

6.2 Levels of subsidy - how much, for how long?

The Kamayoq model of farmer-to-farmer extension is largely an unsubsidised approach to service delivery. The service model is "pump primed" by subsidising the cost of the training at the Kamayoq training. The initial success of the Kamayoq showed that it is possible to establish technical advice services that are in-tune with the needs of smallholder farmers so that even resource-poor farmers will become customers, thereby creating a viable market. However, each new Kamayoq training facility requires funding, whether by donor agencies or the government.

6.3 The future of existing Kamayoq training facilities

The sustainability of the existing facilities depends on their ability to be responsive to the on-going needs of Kamayoq.

Practical Action is exploring how to broaden the focus of the Kamayoqs' work. Like most conventional agricultural extension provision, the Kamayoq have worked predominantly on improving and increasing production at the farm level. The next step is to consider how the Kamayoq model could be developed to provide farmers with the business services they need in order to benefit from emerging market opportunities (e.g. market information, market linkages, processing skills, packaging). In the example of alpaca they can play a role in helping the community to understand how the market chain works and assess their options for developing the existing, or possibly new, linkages. However, this idea needs testing since it may be unrealistic for technical extension workers to become market facilitators too.

Alison Griffith, Practical Action, UK. (
Daniel Rodríguez, Practical Action Latin America. (
Markets and Livelihoods Team - Practical Action (formerly known as ITDG)

Information Sources

Kamayoq: promotore campesinos de innovaciones tecnologicas - Carolos de la Torre Postigo (ITDG 2004)
Preliminary Impact Assessment, Practical Action, April 2005.
Measuring the livelihood impact of farmer-to-farmer extension services in the Andes Hellin, J., Rodriguez, D. and Coello, J. (EDAIS 2003).
The Kamayoq in Peru: farmer-to-farmer extension and experimentation Hellin, J., De la Torre, C., Rodriguez, D. and Coello, J. (LEISA 22.3, September 2006). [PDF, 610k]

Building Technical Capacities

By building technical capabilities Practical Action enables small scale producers to access appropriate technologies by building on local knowledge to strengthen existing technologies and helping farmers to access and adapt introduced technologies through a process of Participatory Technology Dev...

Read more

Kamayoq potato farmers in action

A case study from the highlands of Sicuani, Cusco, showing the importance of Kamayoqs to potato farming.

Read more

Leaders can be any age

Case study about the experience of a young Kamayoq girl who raises alpacas in Cusco, Peru.

Read more
no comments