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Quinoa, allied in the fight for food sovereignty
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Good Living practices of Andean peoples have allowed conservation of this superfood. The United Nations declared the year 2013

The United Nations declared the year 2013 International Quinoa Year in a ceremony on Feb. 20 at their New York headquarters. Present were Bolivian President Evo Morales and Peru’s First Lady Nadine Heredia. The event is part of a strategy of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, to promote traditional crops to fight hunger and drive food sovereignty.

“We are here today to recruit a new ally in the fight against hunger and food insecurity: quinoa,” declared the general director of the FAO, José Graziano da Silva.

Quinoa, considered a “superfood,” has been cultivated for more than 7,000 years by Andean indigenous communities and is the only vegetable food that contains all essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals and is gluten-free. Additionally, it is extraordinarily adaptable to different soils, as it can grow in relative humidity between 40 percent and 88 percent and withstands temperatures from -4°C to 38°C; adding to that, it is a water efficient plant that is resistant and tolerates the lack of soil humidity, according to the FAO.

“Quinoa is an ancestral gift from the Andean people,” said President Morales at the launching of the International Quinoa Year, a 2011 Bolivian initiative with support from Peru.

FAO Resolution 15/2011, approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations, recognizes that “Andean indigenous peoples, through their traditional knowledge and practices of  Good Living, in harmony with mother earth and nature, have maintained, controlled, protected and preserved quinoa in its natural state, including its many varieties and landraces, as food for present and future generations.”

“This extraordinary grain has been a cultural anchor and a staple in the diet of millions of people throughout the Andes for thousands of years,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

With 46 percent of worldwide production, Bolivia is the number one producer and exporter of quinoa, followed by Peru, with 42 percent. This grain is also cultivated in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador and its adaptability has allowed its cultivation in other world regions.

“The International Year of Quinoa will serve not only to stimulate the development of the crop worldwide, but also as recognition that the challenges of the modern world can be confronted by calling on the accumulated knowledge of our ancestors and the small family farmers who currently are the major producers of the crop,” pointed out Graziano da Silva.

However, Peruvian investigator César Laqui points out in a recent edition of Revista Agraria, of the Peruvian Center of Social Studies, or CEPES, that the reduction in consumption of this grain in the producing areas due to its high market price must be considered. It must also be taken into account that producers of quinoa are poor or extremely poor.

“Feeding the rest of the world must not mean neglecting to feed the local population because that would cause severe consequences for the nutrition of Andean populations. Regional and national authorities must guarantee strategies and policies that involve and benefit the small quinoa farmers, without endangering local and national food security,” said Laqui. —Latinamerica Press.

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