World Food Day 2013: QUINOA, A SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEM
Known as the “golden grain” by the native Andean peoples, quinoa has been a source of valuable food over thousands of years. Quinoa is recognized not only for its nutritional and dietary properties but also for its genetic diversity, adaptability to different agro-environmental conditions as well as the cultural and socio-economic benefits it has on the local environment.
The world of quinoa involves different players and professions, from small-scale farmers, agricultural entrepreneurs, cooks, traders and craftsmen to scientists and planners among others; all engaged in its development, not only as a crop or a product, but as a sustainable food system.
Why a food system?
According to its definition, a food system includes all the people, institutions and processes through which agricultural products are produced, prepared and brought to the consumer. Each component of the “quinoa system” is interconnected enabling the plant to become an available and affordable food for everyone, allowing what the producer obtains from the field to reach the consumer in an efficient and innocuous way.
Aspects such as the management of the crop, production planning and processing, producers’ knowledge, participation and organization of public and private actors linked with cultural and ancestral values make quinoa a sustainable food system that has persisted for more than 5000 years.
This means that good practices involving social, economic and environmental aspects occur throughout the entire food system process. The producer, organized in community associations, has sown quinoa respecting the environment, producing a crop to feed his or her family and to generate income, contributing to general wellbeing and dignified working conditions. Subsequently, the farmer is involved in the transformation of the quinoa grain into an innocuous product for the consumer, who will be able to enjoy the healthy food. This process is part of a knowledge that has been transmitted from generation to generation. Currently, every effort is being made to ensure that the production of quinoa is kept this way despite emerging challenges that accompany an increasing demand.
All of the above makes quinoa an important ally in the fight against hunger with the potential to be an essential contributor to national agendas for food and nutrition security.