The United Nations has hailed the ancient grain quinoa as a valuable and extraordinary crop that can help in the push forward on food and nutrition security.
Last week the UN launched the ‘International Year of Quinoa’ to raise awareness of the nutritional, economic, environmental and cultural value of the ancient food.
“I hope this International Year will be a catalyst for learning about the potential of quinoa for food and nutrition security, for reducing poverty – especially among the world’s small farmers – and for environmentally sustainable agriculture,” UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said.
Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru joined the UN in its launch of the quinoa awareness program.
Versatility ensures a viable food option
The UN said the small crop is widely adaptable thriving in temperatures from -8⁰C to 38⁰C, at sea level or 4,000 meters above with resistance to low moisture.
“This versatility makes quinoa a viable food option for areas with arid farming conditions and high malnutrition rates,” it said.
Ban said increased production of and access to nutritious foods like quinoa will aid efforts to reduce world hunger by half.
Efforts made by some Andean countries were highlighted by the UN such as; the Bolivian government supplying quinoa as part of a nutritional supplement program to pregnant and nursing women and Peru incorporating the grain into school breakfasts.
Cultivation is part of history
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Bolivia and Peru account for more than half of the annual 70,000 tons of quinoa produced.
The UN said that while cultivation of the crop is expanding to Kenya, India, North America and Europe, most of the crop is still farmed through traditional means in the Andean Plateau.
It said the Andean indigenous people have preserved quinoa in its natural state as food through ancestral practices of living in harmony with nature, prompting the theme of the awareness program; ‘a future sown thousands of years ago’.
Ban described quinoa as “extraordinary” and a “cultural anchor” in the Andes.
The Bolivian president Evo Morales Ayma said that the surge in popularity of quinoa had driven up prices and also stirred appeal among larger companies. He noted that these ‘interested’ companies are keen to change the traditional methods by which quinoa is cultivated and cropped.
Ban said that quinoa holds the promise of improved income for small-scale farmers.