From the Field Got Quinoa Milk? New products spur farmers’ efforts to save Peruvian grains

In quinoa’s ancestral homeland, farmers are revitalizing production of threatened varieties with small business partnerships and the support of local government. Our researchers report back with images from a field day in the Puno Region.

Quinoa diversity field day organized by the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT and Puno's Regional Agrarian Directorate (DRA). All photos: A.Drucker

On a crisp spring morning, approximately 100 farmers wait at the mountainous town of Huataquita. They have gathered from villages across the region of Puno to share their experiences with government representatives, including the new Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation. With dancing, food-sharing, and presentations, the field day spotlights “Quinoa Diversity as a Niche Market Alternative”, as farmers and researchers explore new ways of conserving traditional varieties of this super grain.

Alliance scientist Marleni Ramirez meets with Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, Oscar Zea, and farmers from Peru's Puno Region. 

The star of the day is Chullpi Anaranjada, a traditional variety that, just several years ago, researchers warned might completely disappear from farmers’ fields. Its turnaround came in 2017 when the community of Huataquita and agricultural Cooperative Copaiseg organized an agreement with a private sector start-up, Muyu Milq (previously KaiPacha Foods): The farmers cultivate Chullpi Anaranjada, and Muyu Milq turns their harvest into quinoa milk - a niche product made even more unique by the variety’s orange color, and larger grain size which improves texture. The scale of the resulting production has since grown to the extent that, with 23 hectares cultivated for an estimated 20 tons of production in 2021, Peru’s Ministry of Environment declared that the variety is no longer at risk. In the meantime, farmers have also been consuming the variety, with positive implications for food security and nutrition.

Chullpi Anaranjada

Traditional quinoa variety Chullpi Anaranjada was at risk before being used for quinoa milk production. 

Quinoa products

More examples of quinoa-derived food products on display.

This success story exemplifies the principles of the Alliance’s Payments for Agrobiodiversity Conservation Services (or PACS) Project. By creating new value for neglected or underutilized varieties, farmers have tangible incentives to cultivate and conserve them in their fields once again (other instances have included agreements in which farmers receive farming equipment and building supplies in exchange for diverse harvests).

Traditional food sharing in Huataquita.

Back at the field day (co-organized by the PACS Project and Puno Regional Agrarian Directorate), the Minister of Agriculture had the opportunity to sample the quinoa milk for himself. Meanwhile, Alliance researchers Adam Drucker and Marleni Ramirez expounded on the positive implications of a wider application of PACS. Drucker said that with this approach,

“Farmers are able to sell not only an agricultural product, but also a conservation service to the nation and the world”.

He also noted that with institutional support, threatened varieties have the potential to be incorporated into the national Qali Warma (Healthy Child) school feeding program, to create a more sustainable demand and make the next generation aware of this agrobiodiversity.

Alliance scientist Adam Drucker outlines to Minister Zea the PACS Project and its potential linkages to Qali Warma during the field day event. Credit: K.Arpazi