Perú is the fourth most populous country in South America, with a total population of more than 31 million. 22 of the 31 million live in urban areas, and nearly 11 million of them live in Lima, the capital city. More than half of the rural population of 8.3 million is classified as poor, and the majority of them are small farmers living in the Sierra region of the country.

Perú has three distinct geographic regions: a narrow coastal plain which borders the Pacific Ocean; a broad mountainous region (the Sierra) immediately to the east of the coastal plain; and to the east of the mountains, the tropical plains which are Perú's portion of the Amazon Basin. Most of Perú's indigenous civilizations (Inca and Aymara) grew and flourished in the Sierra.

When the Spanish conquered and colonized Perú, they established Lima as their capital. They made most of their public investment in the city of Lima, and invested very little in rural areas or even in the regional capitals. This imbalance continued throughout most of the post-colonial period, and only recently has the government begun investing in social infrastructure and economic development for the rural areas.

Nearly half of Perú's population (48%) is Native American. Most of them are Quechua (Inca) and Aymara Indians who live in the Sierra region, primarily in the southern portion of the Sierra, called the Sierra Sur. Poverty levels in Perú are the highest for Quechua and Aymara. 47% are classified as poor, and 52% of the poor are classified as extremely poor (INEI, 2010). Quechua and Aymara women are a particularly disadvantaged group, enduring the worst conditions of poverty, lack of health services, and fundamental human rights.