SUCRE, Bolivia – As the International Year of Quinoa (IYQ) comes to a close, spirits remain high throughout Latin America and the world. Initially proposed to the United Nations by Bolivian President Evo Morales, the IYQ focused on recognizing the value and global impact of the ancient Andean grain. As Morales expressed in MercoPress, “Currently quinoa is valued as a nutritious food that can save us from the predation and exploitation of natural resources. We have a food that allows us to address poverty and malnutrition in the world.”
Quinoa is an ancient grain that has been cultivated in the Andean region of Latin America for centuries. A staple foodstuff, it is traditionally roasted and made into flour for various types of baking. It can also be cooked, used as a pasta or cereal and added to soups. Use of the grain has extended to the pharmaceutical industry as well.
Quinoa boasts myriad nutritional benefits. Consuming 100 grams of the grain is roughly equivalent to drinking four glasses of milk, Morales highlights. It has six times the amount of iron and calcium of corn and 20 times that of rice. Furthermore, 2013 brought the discovery of a new strain of quinoa–Santa Ana 433–that has yields six times great than that of traditional quinoa, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO.)
In a development sense, quinoa shows unmatched potential. According to FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, the International Year demonstrated that quinoa could play major role in global food security, as reported in MercoPress. Growing in more than seventy countries worldwide, quinoa presents a solution to the challenge of increasing production of highly nutritious foods to countries suffering from climate change and widespread malnutrition.
In addition to tackling global hunger, quinoa production supports and sustains the family farming industry. According to FAO, more than 80% of farms in Latin America and the Caribbean are family farming and produce most of the food for domestic consumption in the region and generate about 70% of agricultural jobs at country level. Thus, the United Nations has declared 2014 as “International Year of Family Farming” (IYFF.)
The IYFF 2014 is an initiative promoted by the World Rural Forum and supported by over 360 civil society and farmers’ organizations, states the Family Farming Campaign. According to the FAO, the goal of the IYFF is to “reposition family farming at the center of agricultural, environmental and social policies in the national agendas by identifying gaps and opportunities to promote a shift towards a more equal and balanced development.” Family farming provides an opportunity to boost local economies, protect the world’s agro-biodiversity, and promote small-scale farming as a method to generate world food security.
Much like the IYQ, the IYFF aims to tackle global poverty and hunger. “All this work,” says the Family Farming Campaign, “is being made from the perspective of effectively combating poverty and hunger and the search for a rural development based on the respect for environment and biodiversity.”
– Mallory Thayer