From Local Staple to Global Commodity: Assessing the Impacts of the Growing Global Demand for Quinoa on Bolivian Farmers’ Livelihoods with Special Reference to their Food Security
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The choice of quinoa, as the focus of field research, came about as a result of articles appearing in the western media. Many of them reported that the growers of the Bolivian Altiplano were becoming impoverished and malnourished because their traditional staple diet, quinoa, had become an unaffordable commodity to be exported abroad. The research, therefore, sought the opinions of the growers themselves about changes to their situation by means of household surveys, as well as conducting interviews with key informants. The results indicate quite clearly an improvement in farmers’ income, and, tellingly, a reduction in migration away from the quinoa growing area. The boom in quinoa comes at a cost, but not one that has received much media coverage. The cost is environmental degradation. The rush to capitalize on the quinoa boom has led to intensive farming methods that are destroying the soil upon which quinoa depends. These methods put the farmers’ new-found food security at risk.