UN Agricultural Agency Proclaims 2013 as Year of the Quinoa

By Edyth Parker

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has declared 2013 to be the Year of the Quinoa in their annual UN observance calendar. President Evo Morales of the Plurinational State of Bolivia described the announcement as a “historic moment.”

FAO has proclaimed 2013 as the Year of the Quinoa. (Photo credit: Elements4health)

Addressing the opening of the council of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, Morales thanked the council for acknowledging not only the worth of the Quinoa crop’s potential to advance food security, but also the importance of the indigenous knowledge system that has led to sustainable harvesting practice.

The observance bestowment was proposed by the Plurinational State of Bolivia and received support from the governments of Argentina, Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Georgia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations supported the initiative and further appointed President Morales to Special Ambassador of the FAO, a fitting position for a once small-scale Quinoa farmer.

The Year-2013 observance resolution calls on governments, as well as regional and international organizations, to support the initiative. It aims to “focus world attention on the role that quinoa biodiversity can play, owing to the nutritional value of quinoa, in providing food security and nutrition and in the eradication of poverty.”

Quinoa, known as the golden grain of the Incas, is a perennial pseudocereal grain endemic to the coastal regions of Chile as well as throughout the mountains of the Andean countries. The plant has adapted to the cold and dry climate of the high altitudes where it has grown for 7000 years. Quinoa is known as chisiya mama or “mother grain” in the Quechua language of the region. Archeological evidence has placed domesticated quinoa seeds in the Panaluaca caves 4000 years ago and suggests a close symbiotic relationship with the camelid species of the region.

Not only does this grain have great cultural and historical significance, it has immense nutritional value. The seeds contain large measures of unsaturated fats, calcium, phosphorous and iron. Quinoa is also one of the select few plant sources that contain every single essential amino acid the body requires, due to its high protein concentration. NASA even considered it as a food source for long term space missions, due to its nutritional complexity. The stems, grains and leaves also have anti-inflammatory, cholesterol lowering, and disinfectant properties.

Morales highlighted all of these attributes when he argued for the potential hunger relief properties of Quinoa. Long considered a “poor man’s crop”, the FAO has included Quinoa in the FOA’s strategy to use traditional and neglected crops to reduce global hunger and malnutrition. FOA Director-General José Graziano da Silva emphasized the value of the accumulated knowledge of the Andean people in improving Quinoa crop yields and preservation. “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 said.

Do you think Quinoa can reduce malnutrition and hunger? Let us know in the comments!

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