Over one-third of Peruvians are farmers. Many farm families own a small plot of land on which they produce enough to feed themselves. Others work on large co-operative farms. Men often travel long distances to work on these farms. Despite the broad tropical and coastal regions, Peru has relatively little fertile soil. Native people in the Andes, however, have worked on terraced potato farms since Inca times.

The Andean people start their day at dawn, looking after the animals, cutting eucalyptus for firewood and fetching water. They often go to distant chacras, or small farms which require farmers to stay, with their tools, in huts for several days. The women and girls sometimes spin wool that will be woven by local artisans into clothing, blankets and ponchos. The commercial farm crops include coffee, cotton and sugar cane. Other crops like bananas, beans, corn, grapes, olives, potatoes, rice and other vegetables are also grown to meet the needs of the country. Poultry, cattle and sheep are raised.

Fishing helps sustain the economy, and mining is important. Peru is one of the world's leading producers of copper, silver, lead and zinc and also produces petroleum and natural gas.Many people work in industry and commerce, particularly in the production of clothing and food. Other industries include metalworking and petroleum refining which makes up a large portion of Peru's export earnings.

Women are increasingly entering the paid work force. Many middle-class women supplement the family income with their wages. In cities, many poor women head households and assume all responsibility for their families. More than one-half of Peru's population lives in poverty. Unemployment is high and many people live in squatter settlements. There is no electricity or running water in their chabolas or shacks. Most survive as scavengers, or by selling drugs on the street. The social security system provides limited relief. Voluntary organizations also provide assistance.

Did you know?

The archeological sites of Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca attract visitors from around the world.