Archives for June 2015

Day 7 – The Bolivian Kitchen: Sopa de Quinoa

Day 7 – The Bolivian Kitchen: Sopa de Quinoa

Sopa de Quinoa (quinoa soup) is a Bolivian staple eaten at least weekly by almost every Bolivian. A typical Bolivian lunch would be an appetizer maybe of 2 quail eggs on a bed of lettuce topped with shredded radish and carrot. Then a big bowl of quinoa soup with fresh parsley and cilantro on top. This is followed by a main meal of baked chicken (sajta de pollo) topped with a vegetable puree served over a bed of rice with a boiled potato. Finally there is a dessert of fruit pudding. All of this for about 14Bs (about $2US). Lunch takes at least on hour to eat and then there is the hour long siesta afterwards. Just lovely!

Ingredients

    1 Tbsp Oil

1 cup diced Onion

4 Garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp ground white pepper

1 tsp ground Cumin

2 Tomatoes, diced

1 pound of beef cut into cubes plus a meat bone (optional). This can also be made with ½ of a chicken chopped up, or a veggi broth.

4 medium Potatoes, peeled and cubed

10 cups Water

2 cups of fresh green Peas (or frozen)

2 cups of washed* Quinoa

4 tbs of chopped Parsley

4 tbs of chopped Cilantro

Salt to your liking

 

Directions

Step 1: Heat oil in soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, paprika, cumin and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 – 2 minutes.

Step 2: Add tomatoes, meat, potatoes and water and let cook over medium to medium-low heat until potato is soft, about 40 minutes.

Step 3: Add peas and quinoa and let cook until quinoa is beginning to soften, about 7 – 10 minutes.

Step 4: Just before serving add parsley and cilantro.

Before eating shout “Provecho!” the Bolivian way of saying ”thanks and dig in!” Makes 6 – 8 servings.

*Note: Quinoa is coated with sour tasting saponin. Though most of the quinoa sold in stores today has been processed and the saponin taken out, some still remains. The secret to delicious quinoa is washing it before cooking. Fill a medium sized bowl with water and pour in the amount of quinoa you need for your recipe. Scrub the quinoa grains together with your hands under the water. Do this for about 3 minutes. The water will turn milky. Carefully strain your quinoa out of the bowl, pouring off the dirty water. Repeat if you wish until the water runs clear. Now add your clean quinoa to fresh water and you are ready to go.

Day 6 – How do you win in the market if you don’t know the rules?

Day 6 – How do you win in the market if you don’t know the rules?

Quinoa is entering into Stage 3, Maturity in its product life-cycle. This is where Stage 2, Growth, is now coming to a grinding halt as the market becomes saturated with product and prices begin to fall due to the increased competition and easy availability of product. Until this year, Bolivia was the largest quinoa producer in the world. Coupled with Peru it made up 92% of the world’s quinoa supply.  Now new quinoa producing countries such as Ecuador, the US (Colorado and Nevada), Canada (Ontario), and Argentina are entering into the market devising new ways to grow this high protien Andean grain which loves cool, dry salty soils and plenty of sunlight. These four countries make up 8% of quinoa production.  Even Kenya and the Indian Himalayan region are beginning to grow quinoa.  Consumers now have many more options when it comes to purchasing quinoa.

economics4 2When product supply exceeds customer demand, as happens in the Stage 3 Maturity product cycle stage, prices go down. This is devastating for the thousands of small, highland Bolivian farmers whose sons left city jobs to return to the country-side to grow the lucrative grain and families who have taken out loans based on raising future prices of quinoa. Quinoa growers do not know about supply and demand curves.  They just know that market prices have fallen.

This May the Bolivian market price for quinoa plummeted to $1 a pound, 50% less than what it was a year ago. Until now quinoa prices had risen at an average rate of 70% a year, increasing five-fold in just 7 years.   What the farmers also don’t know is that the market has cycles and there are ways to work within these cycles. As a product enters Stage 3, maturity and begins moving towards Stage 4 Saturation (the final stage is stage 5, decline), they can gain a foothold in the market by branding their product, creating value-added benefits for it,

Organic, Fair Trade quinoa product.

Organic, Fair Trade quinoa product.

, and making its origin important. The government can help too by cerating internal markets such as school lunch meals and providing technical assistance and incentives for creating new in-country uses for quinoa.

Meanwhile, without knowledge of market cycles and supply and demand curves, my Bolivian counterparts report that today’s quinoa growers feel that people are lying and cheating about the low quinoa prices and the others are trying to undermine their sovereignty and well being by suddenly dropping these prices.  I will study this more closely when I get to Bolivia on Friday.

Tomorrow’s blog: Delicious authentic quinoa recipes – from Bolivia!

Day 5 – The importance of Fair Trade & Organic

Day 5 – The importance of Fair Trade & Organic

As quinoa matures in its market cycle becoming more plentiful and well known, consumers are beginning to take notice of different options they have: conventional, organic, fair trade.  Up until now price-wise all were mostly equal.  But now that Peru’s cheaper agro-chemical industrial farmed quinoa has flooded the market, buyers are taking note of these differences.  I talked ot my local co-op bulk buyer about this the other day.  Here’s what he had to say…

The co-op can tolerate some price fluctuations in the quinoa and prefers organic and fair trade options over conventional quinoa thought at different rates and for different reasons. The buyer believes his quinoa consumers in particular are very health conscious and will purposely seek out organic quinoa. He also feels that the product’s taste, it being an alternative to gluten and not containing arsenic (which gluten free rice sometimes has) also makes it appealing to his customers. Because of this, the co-op buyer believes he can tolerate a 33% to 50% price difference for a conversional versus organic quinoa variety meaning that even when conventional quinoa becomes available on the market (UNFI the supplier, does not currently carry conventional quinoa), unless it is heavily discounted, it will not be worthwhile for the co-op to purchase it. However, the buyer speculates that if there was an influx of much cheaper non organic quinoa in the market, he might carry some in lieu of the slower selling quinoa varieties he currently carries such as the black quinoa which he sells the least of.

 

Andean Naturals supports Fair Trade certified quinoa.

Andean Naturals supports Fair Trade certified quinoa.

Fair Trade, the co-op buyer feels, is a bit of a harder sell because of the lack of clarity as to what Fair Trade actually is and who is upholding the principles the best. He notes that though people are aware of the quality of life of others, what is most important to them is the quality of their food. Because of this, he fees he can accommodate a 10% price difference for an organic Fair Trade quinoa option (which does not exist in bulk quinoa yet) but would also have to have more literature or information explaining the Fair Trade difference in a more transparent way.

Day 4 – Following the value chain… Step 1 Demand

Day 4 – Following the value chain… Step 1 Demand

Value chain mapping takes a product from its place of sale to its place of origin seeing how transactions and relationships form throughout the process by asking the question, “why?”  This often leads to new insights as to how partners can work together better and more creatively.   In value chain mapping, the first step involves the invisible buyers, the retail outlets that make product available to the public. In our case this is the Brattleboro Food Co-op. Yesterday I interviewed the co-op buyer to find out about his role in the value chain and what buying quinoa meant to him. Here’s what I learned:

Quinoa sold in bulk at the co-op.

Quinoa sold in bulk at the co-op.

A 25 pound sack of organic white quinoa real (pronounced ree’-al) from Bolivia is sold loose at $6.69 a pound. (While we’re thinking of pronounciation, quinoa is pronounced: keen’-o-ah).  The co-op bulk buyer purchases red, black and mixed quinoa, though the white quinoa  is the most popular. For simplicity, this study follows the more popular USDA certified organic quinoa real. The sack of quinoa I am tracking was purchased from United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) in May 2015 for $88.85, representing a $167 retail value for the co-op. This 47% mark up is typical for the products sold in bulk . Each week the co-op purchases about one to two sacks of quinoa real from UNFI. In total about six bags (151 pounds) of quinoa real were sold in loose bulk at the co-op for the month of May, representing 118 individual transactions at an average of 1.3 pounds each with a retail cost of $8.70. The co-op buyer reports that loose quinoa sales and prices, both wholesale and retail, have stayed steady at the co-op over the past year or so.

Tomorrow’s post: The co-op quinoa buyer talks about the difference between organic, fair trade and conventional quinoa, costs and consumer demand.

Day 3 – The Bolivians are NOT starving because people are eating quinoa

Day 3 – The Bolivians are NOT starving because people are eating quinoa

Growth in quinoa production.

Growth in quinoa production.

It has been erroneously reported that the raising cost of quinoa has resulted in quinoa shortages in country and Bolivian’s not having enough nutritious grain to eat themselves. Don’t worry. It’s actually the opposite which is true.

Bolivia is consuming more qinuoa internally than ever before.

Once shunned as a “backward food from the countryside” and banned by the Spanish, quinoa is now in mode in Bolivia as even wealthy elites are consuming it regularly.

In the countryside, people grow their own quinoa as subsistence farmers. This production never makes it onto the market because it is used for the families’ own consumption. The government is also buying vast amounts of quinoa to make into cookies and nutrituous melas for free public school lunches.  So there is plenty of affordable access to quinoa for Bolivia and they are consuming more of that grain now than ever before.

As one farmer said, “please keep buying and eating our quinoa, we need the money and we have plenty of grain.”

Day 2 – How I got here in the first place: Fulbright research

Day 2 – How I got here in the first place: Fulbright research

So how did I get into this project in the first place?  Here is my Fulbright research proposal.  I will have three years to travel from the US to Bolivia in 3-month intervals to study the effect of quinoa production on the Andean woman.

Oh, and who am I?  I’m social scientist and business developer specializing in economics and sustainable development.  For the last 10 years I’ve also been a university professor.  I’ve lived and worked in Bolivia for the past 18 years.  My two children are half Bolivian and though their  Bolivian grandma grows quinoa for the family, she is not a commercial prducer.  I have not been in the quinoa growing region I’ll be studying in over 10 years.  People tell me it has changed a lot!

Gender and Sustainable Development in Bolivia.

A comparative study of the impact of Fair Trade, organic certification and conventional production on the well-being of women quinoa farmers and their families.

Summary of Project Statement

Conducting a comparative study of Bolivia’s Fair Trade, organic and agrochemical quinoa production creates a deeper understanding of the effects that different modes of production have on family, sustainable development and well-being. Bolivia provides 45% of the world supply of quinoa with exports growing from 1,500 tonnes in 1999 to 29,500 tonnes in 2013, the International Year of Quinoa, making it the world’s second largest quinoa producer (FAO, 2013). I am interested in this Fulbright award and teaming with Bolivian academics and producers because as an American sustainability scholar and published author, I am ideally suited to conduct this study. This study contributes to my understanding of techniques and strategies for sustainable development, improves my teaching and will be published in my next book.

Day 1 – Following the Quinoa Trail!

Day 1 – Following the Quinoa Trail!

Quinoa sack from the Brattleboro Food Co-op.

Quinoa sack from the Brattleboro Food Co-op.

Here I am at the Brattleboro Food Coop – our local food coop which has been selling organic Bolivian quinoa in bulk and as a packaged good for over 10 years.  And here is a sack of organic quinoa from Bolivia that in May 2015 was poured into a bin for bulk sales to consumers (retail).

Starting July 1st, I will travel to Bolivia with the empty quinoa sack from the Brattleboro Food Co-op, looking to find the producers who filled it back in November 2014 and trace the value chain of this ancient grain.  How did it get here, by whom, at what cost?  Where are the women in this and how are they effected as world demand and value of this native grain grows?  And what is the future for Bolivia – the native home of hand harvested, small scale quinoa production? Come join me on this 70 day journey!

This is me in 2010, when I was studying the effect of Fair Trade knitting and weaving on Bolivian women for my doctoral thesis.  The results of this study and another one in 2012 that looked at the effect of Fair Trade coffee growing on Bolivian women is found in my latest book.

Me and the UMA (union mujer andina) weavers, El Alto, Bolivia, 2010

Me and the UMA (union mujer andina) weavers, El Alto, Bolivia, 2010