The Andean highlands are one of the few areas where agriculture is practised at 3,700 metres above sea level and crops are usually exposed to severe climatic conditions such as drought, frost, saline soils and flooding. Quinoa is one of the few crops that grow in different climatic conditions, including its native Andean highlands. It plays an important role in the region, where high poverty prevails.
Due to its high nutritional value, adaptability and increased demand in the international food market, quinoa producers have abandoned traditional sustainable farming practices such as intercropping, land rotation and raising livestock. Focus on exports has given way to reduced local consumption, a growing mono-cropping and intensive production, which disturbs an already fragile ecosystem. Although quinoa prices in the international market have been on the rise, Bolivian exporters kept the same export price for two consecutive years (at around US 2,800 per tonne), while the US dollar decreased value against the Boliviano, representing a loss of 15 percent for the exporters.
Aware of the complex situation facing the quinoa sector, ANAPQUI, the largest association of quinoa producers in Bolivia, CABOLQUI, the Bolivian quinoa exporters association, along with government officials, foreign and local research institutions, universities and NGO’s have been studying the drivers that feed this trend and are searching for possible solutions to ensure a sustainable development in the region. “We are aware that climate change is also major factor, but not the only one contributing to lower yields per hectare”, said Rafael Revilla of Fundacion Fautapo. Increased crop variety and rotation, access to technology for a controlled water irrigation system, raising livestock well-adapted to the region such as llamas and alpacas for meat, wool and manure as natural fertilizer and finding other sources of income will contribute to sustainable quinoa production. Ecotourism in unique regions such as the Uyuni Salt Flats is an economic activity that generates new jobs and opportunities for investing in the local communities and preserving their culture and traditions. There are some initiatives supporting eco-tourism, such as the village of Coqueza under the Tunupa volcano in the region of the famous Ulluni Salt Flats, home of the Royal Quinoa from Bolivia. The site www.infoquinua.bo offers additional information
Besides the Salar, Bolivia has other unique tourist destinations, such as the Amazon jungle, the Madidi National Park, Tarija vineyards, Chaco, Pantanal, the Royal Mountain Range of the Andes and Lake Titicaca, which is shared with the region of Puno in Peru. Bolivia has U.N.E.S.C.O world heritage registered sites. The mandate of the Ministry of Productive Development and Plural Economy (PROMUEVE BOLIVIA www.promueve.gob.bo ) is to support the dynamic and inclusive development of the tourism sector as part of President Evo Morales “National Development Plan”.