The ceremony took place today in Rome during the opening of FAO's governing Council. President Morales also held a bilateral meeting with FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, and attended a special session on quinoa - known as the "super food" of South America.
"As we face the challenge of feeding the world population in a context of climate change, quinoa offers an alternative for those countries suffering from food insecurity," Graziano da Silva remarked.
Following his appointment, Morales thanked the UN on behalf of the Bolivian people and the Andean countries for designating 2013 the International Year of Quinoa, and called it "a historic moment."
"After so many years the United Nations recognizes this cereal as one of the most important foods for life. This recognition not only extols the nutritional value of quinoa as a healthy food but also the traditional knowledge and practices of indigenous peoples who, in harmony with nature, have maintained, controlled and preserved quinoa in its natural state as a source of food for present and future generations," said President Morales.
"Quinoa is an ancestral legacy that has been cultivated for more than 7,000 years and is presented as a worthy alternative amid the current food crisis. It can achieve good yields and is very resistant to frost," Morales said, recalling his early days as a small-scale producer of quinoa in Orinoca, his birthplace.
Among the properties credited to this cereal, Morales stressed the reduction of anemia and cholesterol, as well as its suitability for maintaining a balanced diet due to its high ratio of unsaturated fats.
"Before, because of lack of awareness of its properties, quinoa was considered the food of the Indians. Little by little we are overcoming this belief and it is now marketed to select consumers in the US and Asia. Thank you for this appointment. From now on we will work together, sharing our experiences for the people of the world, Morales concluded.
During the ceremony, Graziano da Silva pointed out that the effort to enhance quinoa by FAO is part of an overall strategy to reclaim traditional or forgotten crops as a means to combat hunger and promote healthy eating.
Quinoa is the only plant food that has all the essential amino acids, trace elements and vitamins, and also has an extraordinary ability to adapt. Quinoa can be grown in areas with relative humidity between 40 and 88 percent, from sea level to an altitude of four thousand metres and can withstand temperatures between minus 8 and 38 degrees Celsius.
"Its value is found not only in the colorful grains of its ears," said Graziano da Silva explained, "but also in the accumulated knowledge of the Andean people, who have preserved its many varieties, improved its yields and developed a cuisine around quinoa.
Quinoa is a highly nutritious, cereal-like crop that is rich in protein and micronutrients. It was of great nutritional importance to pre-Colombian Andean civilizations, second only to the potato. The International Year of Quinoa aims to attract global attention to the role of this crop in support of food security, nutrition and poverty eradication.
Following his appointment as Special Ambassador for the International Year of Quinoa, Evo Morales became a new member of the FAO's Goodwill Ambassadors program, in which internationally renowned individuals make the commitment to promote food security.