The Andes is beset by low endowments of 'geographic capital' (natural,
social, human and physical capital) and chronic poverty is endemic. For
over 7000 years, Andean farmers have constantly adapted and selected
varieties of quinoa and potatoes in order to reduce their vulnerability
to a range of environmental risks and to provide some degree of
livelihood security. Data suggest that this strategy is now being
undermined. Market pressures associated with globalisation, particularly
the requirements for consistency and quantity along with the import of
subsidised wheat products, are displacing traditional crops such as
quinoa and many indigenous varieties of potato.
Based on qualitative research in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, this paper
explores the feasibility of approaches that seek to maintain some degree
of crop diversity while simultaneously ensuring that farmers benefit
from market opportunities. In the case of potato, the most promising
approach is one of 'conservation through use' whereby researchers and
development workers seek entry points into the market chain so that it
makes commercial sense for farmers to grow local potato varieties rather
than improved or more cosmopolitan varieties. Meanwhile, quinoa
production and consumption has been enhanced by government-sponsored
initiatives which utilise quinoa as part of food support programmes,
whilst strengthening production, processing and marketing capability
among smallholder producers.
The success of these efforts to reduce poverty and enhance livelihood
security depends on the existence an enabling policy environment which
supports public and private interventions in remote areas and which
encourages extension approaches, such as Farmer Field Schools, in which
the emphasis is on active farmer participation and innovation.
Crop diversity and livelihood security in the Andes: the case of potatoes and quinoa, presented at Staying Poor: Chronic Poverty and Development Policy, Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester, 7-9 April 2003. Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), Manchester, UK, 19 pp.
Crop diversity and livelihood security in the Andes: the case of potatoes and quinoa.