Quinoa: a cultural anchor and a staple in Andean diet for thousands of years: BanListen /
The United Nations on Wednesday officially launched the International Year of Quinoa.
The extraordinary grain has been a cultural anchor and a staple in the diet of millions of people throughout the Andes for thousands of years.
And as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted in remarks marking the occasion, Quinoa has two great advantages.
First, it is highly nutritious in that it is gluten-free, contains all the essential oils and amino acids, and is a good source of calcium, iron and protein.
“Second, quinoa is adaptable. It can be grown in many different ecological and climatic conditions – including where soil moisture is low. This is especially important in a warming world, in which desertification and land degradation are becoming ever more pressing issues.”
Secretary-General Ban says the tolerance of quinoa to arid conditions makes it an attractive crop for farmers in all regions. That is why, he adds, quinoa cultivation is expanding from the Andean region to include Kenya, India, North America and Europe.
“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.”
Secretary-General Ban says most quinoa growers are small-scale farmers. He says some of the poorest Andean indigenous smallholders have already benefitted greatly from rising prices with the growing popularity of quinoa in export markets.
But he sounded a note of caution on potential pitfalls, warning that as prices rise along with export demand, the poor risk being excluded from their staple grain in local markets in favour of cheaper, less nutritious processed food.
Donn Bobb, United Nations.