Andean Grain Promotion

Andean Grain Promotion

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 2015Padulosi et al 2014).

Project Actions and Achievements

High Quality Seed

  • Participatory varietal selection led to release of improved varieties of quinoa  (including saponin-free INIA-415 Pasankalla), cañahua (Illimani and Kullaca) and amaranth
  • The seed supply system of amaranth was developed by training farmers on high quality seed production

Cultivation Practices

  • Improved cultivation practices for Andean grains were developed and farmers were trained on these practices.
  • Manuals on good practices for pest and disease control for amaranth and canahua were prepared and disseminated to farmers

Harvest, Post-Harvest Processing

Value Addition and Marketing

  • Farmer associations for the production and marketing of Andean grains were established
  • Multi-stakeholder platforms were established to strengthen links between farmers and the private sector:

    • Participatory analysis of value chains was carried out to assess bottlenecks and develop strategies for upgrading through vertical and horizontal coordination (amaranth, canahua)
    • Amaranth platform established in Chuquisaca, Bolivia that connects value chain actors to improve economic gain through cooperation.
    • Strategic partnership with the Alexander coffee shop chain established, wherein cañahua and quinoa producers from Lake Titicaca  provide raw material for treats sold in their stores

  • Novel food recipes for specific ecotypes were developed with the support of professional chefs. Recipes included pre-cooked quinoa soup, quinoa beer, quinoa nectar, cañahua protein isolate, cañahua flan, and amaranth ice cream
  • Production of novel food items using Andean grains, including an amaranth energy bars
  • Inclusion of amaranth energy bars in school feeding programs in Sucre and Serrano, Bolivia generated economic benefits for value chain actors and nutritional benefits for children.
  • Launching of an innovative agritourism approach in Santiago de Okola, Bolivia
  • Raising awareness and demand through promotional campaigns, diversity fairs, and dissemination of recipe books featuring traditional recipes (e.g. for amaranth, all Andean grains).

Diversity Conservation

  • Ex situ conservation:

    • Accessions collected in Peru (220 quinoa, 249 amaranth, 83 cañahua, lupin collection?)
    • Improvement of INIA genebank infrastructure
    • Two municipal genebanks established in Ecuador

  • In situ conservation:

    • Income benefits from value chain development of Andean grains provided incentive to farmers to continue and up-scale cultivation
    • More than 40 cañahua accessions were reintroduced from the genebank into farmers’ fields in Bolivia. At the start of the project farmers were only growing one landrace of cañahua!
    • Biodiversity fairs held to promote seed and traditional knowledge exchange. Contests and prizes, as well as social recognition motivated cultivation of Andean grain diversity.

Capacity Building

  • Documentation and Monitoring

    • Ecogeographic surveying, diversity mapping, genetic and cultural erosion assessments
    • Documentation of indigenous knowledge, including traditional recipes
    • Characterization of germplasm for nutritional and other market traits
    • Establishing a supportive policy environment
    • Lobbying was carried out to mainstream best practices at national and international levels, which led to the approval of the national Bolivian Amaranth Development Plan.
    • Through a multi-stakeholder platform food safety regulations on the commercialization of Andean grains were developed that now facilitate access of Andean grain products to international markets

  • Training

    • Training was provided to farmers regarding best cultivation practices, harvest and post-harvest methods, novel food preparations, food safety and marketing
    • Training was provided to strengthen scientist and extension workers capacity in supporting work on Andean grains. 30 Students from universities in Bolivia and Peru carried out their theses in the IFAD-NUS project framework. Lectures were given on the project at university and high school levels.



                                                                (Alexander Coffee, La Paz on Food, Oxfam Italy)