Supporting Bolivia’s superfood

Supporting Bolivia’s superfood

0453-ide-bo-04.png09 July | 2013

In Bolivia, Oikocredit supports the production of quinoa, a grain that is commonly referred to as a ‘superfood’ which has been grown in the Andes region for the past 3,000 years. As 2013 is the UN’s International Year of Quinoa, we recently spoke with Oikocredit country manager Bolivia, Marisol Fernández, about quinoa farming and why it’s such an important sector in Bolivia.

In Bolivia, Oikocredit has 16 partners which support the quinoa value chain, including IDEPRO, a non-profit microfinance organization with an office in the remote town of Challapata. Challapata lies at an altitude of 3,738 metres above sea level, has an average temperature of around 8 °C and is known as the ‘capital of quinoa’.

Why is the quinoa value chain so important in Bolivia?

“The entire quinoa value chain is extremely important in Bolivia as it generates social and economic development for at least 15,000 family farmers that live in harsh climate areas. It’s also the only source of income for many families. Quinoa represents more than 100,000 hectares of production, generating 58,400 tons of grain worth around US$ 55.7 million in exports.”

How do organizations like IDEPRO contribute to supporting the quinoa value chain?

“IDEPRO offers specialized financing to all segments of the quinoa value chain, including producers, processors and trade companies. It also offers specialized entrepreneurial financial services which enhance the chain, generating inclusive businesses and promoting environmental responsibility.”

What are the challenges quinoa producers face in terms of financing, production and competition?

“Quinoa farmers face harsh climates, with drought and frost being common. Gaining access to agricultural insurance and investment capital is important but can also be difficult.

In terms of production, farmers need to keep up-to-date with technological developments which are not always available. The demand to increase production, manage pests and improve sustainable management of soils is also a challenge for farmers who don’t have the capital to invest in their businesses.

And of course, competition is also an increasing challenge for farmers in Bolivia, with more countries starting to cultivate quinoa.”

Do you think the UN’s international year of quinoa will make more people aware of quinoa and its role in food security?

“The goal of the International Year of Quinoa (IYQ) is to focus global attention on the role of quinoa biodiversity, its high nutritional value and cultural contribution to food security and poverty eradication.

By establishing the International Committee of the IYQ, the world congress of quinoa and holding exhibitions all around the world, it increases the visibility and exposure of quinoa. I think these kinds of initiatives will of course make more people aware of the great nutritional potential of quinoa to contribute to global food security, especially in countries where the population has no access to other sources of protein.”

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