The healthy values of quinoa grains (Chenopodium quinoa) are well known. The Andean crop is one of the most nutritional grains in the world, with a protein content ranging from 13% to 17%. Furthermore, it is one of the few grains that contains all the amino acids necessary to support life. Despite the emergence of novel coronavirus, which has strained global food supply chains and curbed demand in many sectors of the industry, the world's quinoa demand has remained steady and is expected to continue to do so.
Lesser known information about quinoa is that this versatile crop has been able to grow for millennia in some of the world´s harshest environmental conditions in South America - especially in and around the high-altitude Andes Mountains - up to 4,000 meters above sea level. The Andean region is characterized by drastic changes in temperature between night and day, high risk of drought, salinity, and heavy winds – environmental conditions that many other crops are not able to withstand. Because of its remarkable adaptive qualities and high nutritional values, this grain has remained the staple food for the Andean people over centuries and today these populations are also the world's largest quinoa growers and suppliers.
The Andean highlander farmers we work with are just as adaptive and resilient. They have developed complex biological mechanisms to cope with the challenges of living in high altitudes, such as reduction in barometric pressure and consequently lower partial pressure of oxygen in the atmosphere. For newcomers, these conditions may cause “altitude sickness” that include symptoms like nausea, dizziness, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and loss of appetite. Moreover, a recent study issued in late April 2020 suggests that these same adaptations may protect from severe impact of acute SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen causing COVID-19.
Olam currently works with around 3000 smallholder organic farmers, majority of them located in high-altitude regions of Peru. Safeguarding and supporting our people, employees and communities, is our number one priority. We are continuing to adapt safety precautions and working on continuously improving our protocols to be aligned with official advice from the Peruvian government and world health authorities. We wish our farmers a successful, bountiful quinoa harvest!
About the Author: Daniela Rivas is the head of Sustainability for Olam Superfoods. She is a sustainable agri-business specialist with a passion for helping farmer communities and their landscapes.