Bolivian researchers sound alarm over quinoa farming

Bolivian scientists have warned that growing international demand for quinoa is endangering local farming practices and the environment, as well as denying access to local consumers.

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), a grain-like crop cultivated in the Andes for 7,000 years, has remarkable nutritional value and adapts well to a variety of growing environments.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a press release that quinoa offers an alternative food source for countries suffering from food insecurity as populations rise and the climate changes.

In recent decades, the increase of exports from Andean countries to countries such as Canada, France and the United States has made quinoa an important source of income for producers in the Southern Altiplano region of Bolivia.

But local experts say that the current mode of export-oriented production is causing soil erosion, and spreading into wild areas where local communities farm livestock such as llamas and sheep.

Satisfying foreign demand leads farmers to handle the soil poorly, not allowing it to rest fallow or be fertilised by livestock. This leads to a decline in the quality of soil and an increase in pests.

Suggests improving the quality of the soil in areas where quinoa is already grown, rather than expanding further into wild areas.

That current cropping practices are affecting the domestic consumption of quinoa in Bolivia, and that the country’s policies should also address local consumption.

But in urban areas people are losing the habit of consumption, in part because prices increase with the behaviour of external markets.

Source: Cristina Pabón | SciDev.Net