Why We Do What We Do
Taking action before the future gets away
Over thousands of years, the farmers of southern Bolivia perfected the art of raising quinoa in the face of the most severe natural conditions. Along the way they knew mostly hardship. An endless routine of manual toil; homes without electricity or running water; meagre access to schooling and minimal levels of healthcare services -- such was the norm.
In the past decade, booming global demand for quinoa has boosted prices and farmers’ incomes to unprecedented levels. Late-model tractors dot the fields, classrooms are filled with eager students and the flow of emigration to urban areas has been reversed.
This recent prosperity has not come without fresh problems for the farmers. There is the temptation to compromise traditional sustainable techniques in pursuit of immediate profits. Customers in the USA and Europe require consistent quality, organic production and Fair Trade practices; the farmers’ organizations lack the financial knowhow and administrative efficiency to compete in global markets; issues of life expectancy and women’s needs remain to be addressed.
Andean Naturals believes that the new wealth of the quinoa boom should be directed to protect the farming families whose labors generated it, through investment in projects with long-term community benefit. Since 2004 we have been working in Bolivia with farmers’ organizations and increasingly with international partners who share our goals and offer expertise to help in fulfilling them. In 2013 we launched the Andean Family Farmers program (AFF) to empower farming communities, assist them in maintaining sustainable farming practices and enable them to develop entrepreneurial skills.
Everything we do begins with the 4,500 farmers whose quinoa we refine and export. We work with them in the field to learn their priorities and to help them understand what matters to their customers: consistent quality with traceability, quinoa that is organically raised, sustainably farmed and fairly traded. Every year we take a group of farmers to the United States, to attend quinoa events, visit farms, see the quinoa they grow on the grocery store shelves and enjoy culture shock.