A dream called Quinoa

To learn more about the history of Quinoa in Guatarilla, we approach Don José, a farmer leader who devoted his life, body, and soul, to the planting of the food that far from his land they call for his surprise and rejoicing: the grain of gold.

However, for him and other families, the famous golden grain has always been the purple and fine grain plant, the plant that grandmothers planted, a symbol of their ancestors’ traditions, and now by the news that come from the healthy food lovers, the food of the future. Future for those who consume it and the future for those who grow it. The QuinuaGuay project has filled them with hope. José Miguel Cerón Benavides is a sensible, secure, hardworking gentleman. And it’s because he has been dedicated to agriculture, quinoa, maize, and wheat for many years of his life, and he is one of the leaders in the sector, in the municipality of Guaitarilla, Nariño.

Before, he was only dedicated to sowing wheat; he sold about 2,500 tons, but this business was changing because of the price drop. Due to that situation, Joseph saw in quinoa a hope to fulfill his dreams, to survive, although, he confesses, it is a business that also goes through a complicated present: “At this time, we do not have a collection center and a machine to be able to pillar it or process it, and then take out the market to sell it internationally, to get it out of the country, because I believe that in Europe or in the United States it sells better”.

He says that they cannot store the product and it must be sold to the intermediary at a very low price. At first, when they started growing, the price was on average five thousand to seven thousand pesos a kilo. In 2014, it was sold at three thousand pesos. Last year it was a summer season and, in the absence of an irrigation system, the grain did not resist and the production was low. However, José continues with the idea of bringing this market forward. He hopes that, in the near future, the situation will improve, thanks to the work of a group of farmers that is being organized and to the support Corporación Universitaria Minuto de Dios -Uniminuto- and the SOLREIR- foundation, Solidarity, Love and Service, of the Carlos Alberto Solarte Solarte group. “The sowing of quinoa is to obtain resources for our daily lives because, since we are people of the countryside and we have not studies preparation, we have nothing but to continue working the land and cultivate what is presented to us as an alternative. And right now, the alternative is to sow quinoa because they have offered us good buying opportunities,” he says. To do this, the farmers organized themselves in an association and José, as the legal representative, invited his 50 associates, a meeting convened by the Corporación Universitaria Minuto de Dios -Uniminuto- and the foundation SOLREIR- solidarity, love, and service, to participate in the project that takes forward a collection center, vital for the business, and gets a machine to process quinoa. “This has a process and you have to give it time, but I think it’s on track and that’s what we’re waiting for,” says the farmer.

“I believe we will overcome this difficulty and we will be pleasant. That is what we are waiting at the moment, that our municipality can have a collection center and a machine to be able to work because, if it happens, we would be very well prepared to face this situation. I think we’d all, most people, would plant quinoa,” he adds.

Preparing the land José will sow together with Efraín Cerón, Felix Cerón, Nicolás Cerón, Alejandro Benavides, among other farmers. The second phase of the project, possibly in October of the same year, includes the remaining 30 families. “Because the ideal is to sow with all the partners, we are 50 and we are all going to sow and we have to collaborate and help them to make all this happen,” says the leader. Everyone dreams about new opportunities, better prices, trading improvements. “Because if we had a trade, we are sure that we will be able to sell or export it,” says Joseph, “then that would be our livelihood for the future, for the new generations.”

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