Adventures in Bolivia – Day 9 – Quinoa Processing

After breakfast from our hotel in Salinas de Garci Mendoza, we began our journey to the Association of Quinoa Producers. Along the way, we decided to do a little sightseeing and visit the crater created by a meteorite just outside the city. It’s so exciting to see not only the people and their culture, but also the beauty surrounding them!
imageAfter more driving and perhaps a few siestas, we finally arrived to the village where the Association of Quinoa Producers were located. Just as the rest of the villages we have visited, we were welcomed with open arms and full hearts. They took the time to explain to us the significance of all that they do, including production practices they cherish and the articles of clothing they wear. They even included us in their meeting ritual where they pay tribute to Mother Earth.

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We then joined them for several presentations that demonstrated how they produce quinoa and articles of clothing they sell. The quinoa production presentation included the processes they go through along with challenges they face. Like other villages we visited, they farm quinoa organically and sustainably, and face similar “plagues.” With this knowledge, their hope is that we can partner with our universities to combat these challenges to provide more profitable crops.

The village takes great pride in their women who create beautiful articles of clothing. These women use the wool from their llamas to spin their own thread, wrap into a spool, and weave into sweaters, scarves, gloves, blankets, and any custom work that is asked of them. We were fortunate enough to not only see a presentation of their work, but also witness each step in person… and try on a few pieces ourselves.

We were then served lunch that was similar to yesterday: quinoa vegetable soup with llama meat, potatoes, quinoa, and other vegetables. We have found that, just like in the U.S., each village puts a special spin on dishes they make. It was mouy bueno!

imageThe final part of our visit was their new quinoa production facility. The building and machinery goes through every step of the process from dropping off and cleaning the quinoa to separating colors and bagging. Although not all of the machinery is in working order yet, it should be operational within a month. This 4 million Boliviano facility (approximately $600,00 USD), financed through the EU, will prepare quinoa from several hundred families to be exported to Germany, France and Spain. The Association of Quinoa Producers’ ultimate hope is to gain more customers, such as the U.S., and be able to operate 365 days per year.

The remainder of our day was driving (on paved roads!) to Ururo. We watched the landscape change from desert to mountainous and green. We even saw rain!

Although most of our day was spent absorbing Bolivian culture from a Toyota Land Runner, we enjoyed our time with one another and with the Association of Quinoa Producers.
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More to come tomorrow from the administrative capital city of La Paz.

Haley Thompson
University of Missouri

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