The Situation for Quinoa and Its Production in Southern Bolivia: From Economic Success to Environmental Disaster

Jacobsen, S.E.

In Bolivia, one of the world’s most important centres of plant domestication, there is growing awareness of the value of native Andean crops, both for domestic consumption and for market sale – notably the virtually boom-like consumer demand for quinoa around the world. The southern altiplano of Bolivia, south of Oruro, relies almost purely on the production of quinoa and breeding of llamas, which have also been selected as the two commodities of priority to the government to increase the income of the country. Presently, however, quinoa is facing increasing problems in production, owing to its increasing export market and price. The flat areas around the salt desert of the southern altiplano, previously characterized by natural vegetation fed by the llamas, are being increasingly sown with quinoa, hence transformed into deserts, because intensive cultivation methods make the soil loose its fertility. Possible solutions to these problems will require extensive efforts in the south, in addition to various strategies, which also include other parts of the Bolivian altiplano and a strengthened focus on other Andean crops.

In Bolivia, one of the world’s most important centres of plant domestication, there is growing awareness of the value of native Andean crops, both for domestic consumption and for market sale – notably the virtually boom-like consumer demand for quinoa around the world. The southern altiplano of Bolivia, south of Oruro, relies almost purely on the production of quinoa and breeding of llamas, which have also been selected as the two commodities of priority to the government to increase the income of the country. Presently, however, quinoa is facing increasing problems in production, owing to its increasing export market and price. The flat areas around the salt desert of the southern altiplano, previously characterized by natural vegetation fed by the llamas, are being increasingly sown with quinoa, hence transformed into deserts, because intensive cultivation methods make the soil loose its fertility. Possible solutions to these problems will require extensive efforts in the south, in addition to various strategies, which also include other parts of the Bolivian altiplano and a strengthened focus on other Andean crops.

Journal Article

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