Day 15 – Who will take my survey?

Day 15 – Who will take my survey?


Sample model from South Africa.

As I get ready to travel to the salt flats to begin my quinoa study, I continue to modify the Circles of Sustainability model I will be using. This model was developed by support from the United Nations. It is a qualitative, place-based model that measures one’s experiences in the areas of economic, cultural, political and environmental well-being. Until now, the models have been used in urban settings in Melbourne, Australia, Sao Paolo Brazil and Cape Town, South Africa. This will be the first time the model will be used to measure sustainability in a rural environment.

Ideally the survey takes 15 minutes to complete. It has 10 demographic questions that include cultural identity, languages used, political and business affiliations; all-important distinctions for people living in the Bolivia countryside. It also has 33 questions that pertain to the four areas mentioned earlier: economic, cultural, political and environmental well-being. These address concerns about education, the natural environment, wildlife, education, clean water, gas and electricity access, different ways earnings are made: mining, livestock, vegetables, the access to goods, and cultural participation in festivals, dress, and customs. The last thing I ask about is indigenous knowledge. What is known or shared that comes from the past?

As quinoa farming becomes more mechanized and mass-produced, what will happen to these original ways of thinking and being? Indigenous knowledge systems are often low input, low output. They are slow, adaptable and sustainable over time. Today’s “modern” methods are high input, high output producing large benefits in the short term, but not very adaptable or viable in the long term. In the theme of sustainability, the dynamic between indigenous knowledge and modern methods is one I am most curious about…