Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), canahua (Chenopodium pallicaule) and amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus) are nutritious grains that are significant sources of food for Andean communities, as well as central aspects of their traditional culture bonding the people to their land. These crops are well adapted to growing in the marginal harsh environmental conditions that typify the Andean highlands including frost, hail, wind, drought, high radiation, and poor and saline soil. These grains are also highly nutritious, providing a richer source of protein, iron, and calcium than dominant staple grains.
These crops hold great promise to address malnutrition and poverty in the Andes but they face numerous constraints to their greater use, including poor seed availability, poor market access, and laborious processing for threshing and de-saponification.
Through the IFAD NUS project, Bioversity International and partners PROINPA (Bolivia), CIRNMA (Peru) and INIAP (Ecuador) have worked to develop the value chain of these important crops to enhance their contribution to the livelihoods of the rural poor and to strengthen the conservation of their genetic diversity. Using a holistic approach, activities were carried out at multiple levels of the value chain to encourage greater cultivation, use and conservation of the crops. Impact assessment revealed a positive effect of the project on Andean grain production, conservation and income benefits (Bellon et al 2015, Padulosi et al 2014).
(Alexander Coffee, La Paz on Food, Oxfam Italy)