What Is Quinoa? How Quinoa Became America's Hottest Whole Grain and Brought New Income to Bolivian Farmers

By Matthew Thompson, "Rediscovering Quinoa," March/April 2013

Farming quinoa has become big buiness in rural Bolivia as quinoa's nutrition and health benefits have made it the whole-grain darling of healthy diets.

"The argument that the expanding international quinoa market "brought new income to Bolivian farmers" is misleading insofar as it is meant to make consumers from rich countries feel that by buying quinoa they are part of a process of...

Given its potent nutrition profile, it’s no wonder that quinoa was so important to the people of the Andes—in Quechua, the native Incan tongue, it’s known as chisiya mama, or mother of all grains. For Incans quinoa was a basic staple along with potatoes and maize, but it was also sacred, central to numerous religious ceremonies. In fact, after Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 1530s they razed the quinoa fields and banned it in an attempt to stamp out indigenous culture. But quinoa survived in pockets. And it has remained a part of the diet of people living in the rural Andes, used for everything from baked goods to soups and even drinks.

With increasing demand for quinoa from abroad have come new concerns. The price of the crop has risen, which as The New York Times reported in March 2011 has put it financially out of reach for some Bolivians. Violent squabbles have broken out between towns over quinoa planting grounds. But there is an upside—rural Bolivians have a newfound source of income right in their communities.

Next: Challapata, Bolivia »

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