Archives for July 5, 2018

Day 2: Tales of Resilience and Hope.

Day 2: Tales of Resilience and Hope.

As Bolivia falls in the global market of quinoa sellers, being outsold by massive quinoa producer, Peru and other countries developing their own internal quinoa production, it is losing control of pricing.  The costs to cultivate Bolivia’s single-season, hand grown quinoa are 20% higher than Peru’s highly mechanized 3-season growing method.  Yet Peru sets the market prices, and Bolivia, follows along, often at a loss.  This has eroded Bolivia’s once robust quinoa associations and cooperatives, development programs, and led to a massive migration out of the quinoa lands.  Now windswept and almost vacant communities house a handful of farmers who hold on and stay with the quinoa production.  Why do they do this is a question my research this time will be looking at.  Seeking tales of resilience and hope the theme of my research is “Why are you still here?”  I suspect answers will be of the sort, “I have no other option” or “God has put me here to do this.”  But it will be interesting to have the real words and reasons.  We will be filming interviews this time, hoping to make a move of tales of Resilience and Hope.

Famers now are interested in their own self development and want to generate direct sales of the quinoa the rest of the world cannot grow: the Royal Quinoa, the highest quality quinoa with a large, robust seed, cultivated and harvested with blessings and prayers, organic methods, and indigenous traditions.  Within this Royal Quinoa are varieties of quinoa that the world has not seen – Kaslala, Chiri Miri, and others.  Some while, some colored – but each with their own properties and uses.  As quinoa communities have invested in their own micro-processing quinoa equipment they are reaching out to me for marketing information about the US consumer.

Over the years my classroom studies conducted at UMass and the SIT Graduate Institute have examined quinoa marketing opportunities in the US.  They have determined that there is a demand for and interest in quinoa varieties and Royal Quinoa.  My students also fund that consumers will pay 20% more for this product as well, especially since quinoa prices have dropped so low in recent years and it is now a well-known product in the US.  This 20% is the difference between a dignified life or abject poverty for Bolivia’s most ancient quinoa farmers.

Day 1: After 3 years, now what is happening in the quinoa fields?

Day 1: After 3 years, now what is happening in the quinoa fields?

Sixteen months have passed since I was last in Bolivia as a Fulbright scholar studying the quinoa.    How has life changed in this region as prices remain low, outside competition grows and Bolivia once again seems to be falling behind and forgotten in world markets?  My life has changed. I now have a more permeant position as a Professor of Business and Economics at Landmark College – where we specialize in bright students with dyslexia, autism, ADHD and other social and communication challenges.  I no longer assume how information is shared and materials presented, instead, I am always thinking about access, scaffolding, and neurodiversity.  It slows things down and creates new challenges – especially as I teach in a project-based learning way.  In a way, I feel my world has turned upside down.  It seems hard to get the students engaged and participating in my quinoa work with it being so far away, different and as yet, undefined.  They have challenges navigating their own local environment.  So I come to Bolivia this time, feeling a bit alone.  There is no new market or economic analysis project for next semester.  Rather this has become just my story – which I feel compelled to share with the world in a book, a movie and perhaps a new quinoa business.