Did you know that 2013 has been declared as the “International Year of Quinoa” (IYQ) by the United Nations? Here at the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in Santiago, Chile, we are doing our best to promote quinoa – as can be seen from the attached photo celebrating a co-worker’s birthday (I am in the back right). The UN declared 2013 to be the year of quinoa to both celebrate the culture of the indigenous people of the Andes (the year was requested by the president of Bolivia to the UN) and to promote quinoa as a potential food to improve nutrition and food security in the world.
So far, much of my work here has been in communication, which is an important part of public policy that cannot be forgotten. I have used my good writing and research skills to help edit documents, or make note of things on the website that could possibly be changed to be more accurate. Quinoa has been cultivated for thousands of years, but most of the research on quinoa has been happening only recently, especially with the recent boom over the past ten years with the quinoa health craze.
My main work has been slowly starting up – as a dietitian I have been put in charge of writing the nutrition section of FAO’s quinoa cookbook to be released later this summer. This means my section will follow the likes of the FAO director and potentially the two ambassadors for the IYQ, President Evo Morales of Bolivia and First Lady Nadine Heredia of Peru. While both will be likely writing of their personal history to quinoa from growing up in the region that produces 90 percent of the world’s quinoa, I will be writing from a scientific point of view in describing quinoa’s nutrition benefits. Of the grains, quinoa has the best protein profile, and it is also a good source of fiber and iron.
Currently quinoa is expensive for most consumers outside of the Andes region, but we are hoping to change that by continuing to promote quinoa worldwide to increase quinoa research and experimental trials in different countries. Did you know that Washington State University just received a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to do research on quinoa cultivation? While we can’t take credit for that work, the IYQ project itself has been travelling across the world – China, Japan, Italy, and the U.S. to name a few countries. Our cookbook will contain a combination of both traditional recipes from the indigenous people of the Andes to gourmet recipes from cooks all over the world. So if you’re looking for that new quinoa recipe to prepare a fancy dinner, look no further than the IYQ website this coming fall for the recipe book.
Official IYQ Website: