Quinoa has grown in the Andean hills for more than 5,000 years. Once a sacred crop to the Incas, who called it the “mother of all grains” or chisaya mama, today it remains a major source of food for the Quechua and Aymara people of Bolivia and Peru, which produce over 90% of the world’s supply.
The growing popularity of the grain has given rise to environmental degradation because the standard methods of cultivating organic and conventional quinoa are degenerative to soil health. The use of disc plowing disrupts and weakens the soil, exposing it to erosion. Moreover, mono-cropping and a decline in livestock coupled with strong winds and erosion have exacerbated existing problems. It’s time for a change.
At Red River Foods, we believe agriculture must be a key part of efforts to restore the biodiversity needed to ensure healthy soils for generations to come. Our 3-year Quinoa Elevation Project aims to address these environmental issues by creating a proof of concept for the implementation of regenerative agricultural practices suitable for the Bolivian Highlands that will lead to measurable changes in soil health, nutrition content and carbon sequestration.
To launch this project, we’ve partnered with Fundación Proinpa, a science and technology-focused organization that generates positive impacts on producer families, micro-enterprises and agricultural enterprises through technological innovation. Together, we are working to create the best way to grow Royal Bolivian Heirloom quinoa.
As a first step, we’ve partnered with producers farming 20 hectares of organic quinoa to introduce replacement practices and minimum tillage techniques, encourage the use of wild, native plant species, and promote the use of bio-inputs (microorganism and plant extracts) for pest management and crop nutrition. We will use the positive outcomes associated with the regenerative practices implemented on the Elevation Pilot farmers to further inform a training program for 50 local farmers that will strengthen the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of Bolivian quinoa suppliers on regenerative agricultural practices.
Regenerative farming is the future of agriculture. That’s why, in addition to launching the Elevation Pilot, we are also acting as a Community Champion of the Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROC) in Bolivia. With the support of Fundación Proinpa, we were the first to certify ROC quinoa from Bolivia. That’s just the beginning. We are also working with ROC to certify several other projects across our other supply chains.