Quinoa farmers of the Andes Mountains in South America believe that Quinoa came from the stars as a gift for Andean people. For this majestic and deeply spiritual civilization, this plant was not only a staple of their diet but a sacred food, known as La Chisaya Mama (“Mother of all Grains”). It was fed to their warriors for stamina and quick recovery and each year the first planting of the season would be offered to Inti, the Sun god.
It’s easy to see how they might believe that this was the place and they were the people chosen by Mother Nature to receive this wonder plant, providing a complete source of protein and all nine essential amino acids. In the cloud-scraping Andes mountains, kilometres above sea level, the air and the soil are the cleanest on Earth, the water pure and there are no natural enemies to blight the crops. Quinoa is uniquely adapted to the region, thriving in the high altitude and indifferent to the extremes of night frosts and scorching daytime heat. It gives up its seed, its magical beneficence, willingly – organic by nature, one of the most sustainable crops in the world.
For the Incas’ descendants, the Quechua and Aymara people, Quinoa remains at the centre of life. They continue to cultivate what they call la comida de los indios (“the food of the native people”) in much the same way as their forebears, on small farms or collectives in harmony with Nature, keeping faith with the beliefs of the past and preserving this life-giving miracle for generations of the future. Their ways, like the plant they cultivate, provide inspiration for a new system of business and a better life.
This ancient powerfood is also a modern marvel – as good for the planet as it is for each one of us. Its miraculous ability to grow on thin soil without fertilizer and with very little water has seen it designated a “super crop” by the United Nations. Naming 2013 the International Year of Quinoa, UN Director-General José Graziano da Silva declared, “Quinoa can play an important role in eradicating hunger, malnutrition and poverty.” In tribute to its ancient past and the careful guardianship of the Andean people, the slogan of the accompanying campaign was “A future sown thousands of years ago”, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization drew attention to Quinoa’s “strong link with the indigenous people of the Andes who have cultivated it for thousands of years”.