International Year of Quinoa

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has designated 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa.

Heralded for its unique nutritional properties and environmental adaptability, the UN is positioning this cereal-like grain as a key player in the global fight against hunger and food insecurity. With its tag line, “Quinoa, a future sewn thousands of years ago”, the UN hopes to promote quinoa as a viable source of nutrients for millions of people.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is indigenous to South America and has been an important part of the continent’s diet, particularly in the Andean highlands, for centuries. The UN is highlighting quinoa’s drought resistance, its ability to grow in poor soils and high salinity, as well as at a range of topographies (from sea level to 4,000 meters) and temperatures (-8 to 38 degrees Celsius, or 18 – 100 degrees F).

What Is Quinoa?

What Is Quinoa

Quinoa is an Andean plant native to the region around Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia. Quinoa was grown and used by pre-Columbian civilizations. It was replaced by cereals when the Spanish arrived and it was a local staple at that time. Existing historical evidence of quinoa indicates that it might have been domesticated by the Americans between 3,000 and 5,000 BC.

There have been archaeological findings of quinoa in tombs in Tarapacá, Arica in Chile, Calama, and the regions of Peru. At the time of the arrival of the Spaniards, quinoa was technologically well developed and widely distributed inside and outside Inca territory. The cultivation of quinoa was first noticed by Pedro de Valdivia, a Spaniard. It was noticed that crops planted around Concepcion, native Indians used to grow quinoa with other plants.

Description of Quinoa by Royal Commentaries

Garcilaso de la Vega described quinoa in his royal commentaries as one of the second grains grown on the surface of the earth. It was similar to short-grain rice or millet. Also, he mentioned the first shipment of quinoa seeds to Europe which unfortunately arrived dead and could not germinate. It was possibly due to the high humidity of the sea voyage.

Quinoa in Pasto and Quito

Cieza de León (1560) reported that quinoa was grown in the highlands of Quito and Pasto. These were the cold lands with little corn grown but abundant quinoa. Likewise, Patino (1964) mentioned the use of quinoa in his chronicles on La Paz as a source of food for the indigenous populations.

Finally, it was affirmed by Humboldt when he visited Colombia that quinoa has always been grown by the inhabitants of Cundinamarca.

Varieties of Quinoa

Varieties of Quinoa

According to the ecological adaptation zones, quinoa is divided into five major groups:

  • Quinoas From the Wet Valley (Cajamarca) And Dry Valley (Junin)
  • Quinoa From the Altiplano (White Around Lake Titicaca and Colorful in The Agro-Ecological Zone of Suni)
  • Salted Quinoa (South Bolivia)
  • Quinoa At Sea Level (Chile)
  • Quinoa From the Yunga Agro-Ecological and Subtropical Zone (Bolivia)

Nutrition Facts of Quinoa

Nutrition Facts of Quinoa

A cup or 185 grams of cooked quinoa contains nutrient values as follows:

Nutrient  Value  Daily Value
Calories  222
Protein 8g
Fat 3.55g
Carbohydrates  39g
Fiber  5g
Folate 19% of the DV
Vitamin B6 13% of the DV
Vitamin E 8% of the DV
Copper  39% of the DV
Iron 15% of the DV
Zinc 18% of the DV
Manganese  51% of the DV
Magnesium 28% of the DV
Potassium 7% of the DV
Phosphorus 22% of the DV

Quinoa is gluten-free and can be used in place of rice, couscous, or other starchy grain. Click here for an excellent Red Quinoa Salad recipe – compliments of Chef Evandro Caregnato of the Brazilian steakhouse restaurants Texas de Brazil.

To learn more about the potentially life-saving benefits of quinoa, download the FAO report “Quinoa: an ancient crop to contribute to world food security“.

Contribution to Global Food Security

Contribution to Global Food Security

Faced with the challenge of increasing the production of quality food to feed the population of the world in the reference to climate change, quinoa offers an alternative option to the countries suffering from the insecurity of the food. Hence, working against hunger, the United National General Assembly has declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa. 

International Year of Quinoa is for the recognition of the ancestral practices of the peoples of Andean. These people have managed to preserve the natural state of quinoa as food for future generations by living in harmony with nature. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and more specifically its Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean provide the secretariat for the International Year of Quinoa, assisting the International Committee in the coordination of the celebrations. 

The presidency of the Committee belongs to Bolivia, whereas Chile, Peru, and Ecuador share the vice-presidency. Last but not the least, France and Argentina handle the rapporteur. 

Quinoa – Why The International Year of Quinoa

Quinoa is one of the second grains on the planet Earth that was cultivated between 3,000- and 5,000-years BC. There have been archeological pieces of evidence of quinoa cultivation in early civilizations where it was used as a cereal or staple food. When it comes to nutrition facts, it is a vitamin and mineral-rich diet. Also, it is rich in antioxidants and inflammatory compounds.

2013 was declared as the International Year of Quinoa by the UN General Assembly. It was initiated to fight against food insecurity and hunger. The expectations from the International Year of Quinoa are to generate a long-term project and program for the development of sustainable cultivation of quinoa across the globe. The main purpose of IYQ is quinoa’s nutritional and biodiversity value for the eradication of poverty and food insecurity.