There is not much to connect the Andes mountain range, which spans seven South American countries, including Bolivia, to the dusty terrain of Bundelkhand; except quinoa. The ancient Andean peasant grain, which can grow in tough climates and is now a trendy health food, is being grown by farmers in Rath Tehsil of Bundelkhand’s Hamirpur district in Uttar Pradesh.
The super seed, which Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) thinks can help end hunger and poverty, has enabled farmers to overcome drought that has hit Bundelkhand for four years. “Quinoa needs just one cycle of irrigation, compared to five for wheat,” says Kaushal Kishore, a farmer in Umaria village. “Margins are better than wheat or peas ,” adds Jagdish at Rigwara Khurd village. Around 266 farmers are growing quinoa over 2,100 acres in the area.
The quinoa initiative has been seeded by Krishan Gupta. He is the founder of Organic Wellness Products, a company that retails products such as organic tea, moringa (drumstick) capsules and supplements such as Triphala. Gupta was earlier with Organic India, in which Fabindia acquired 40 per cent stake.
Gupta introduced quinoa here, choosing it over millet, and the reason was pure economics. Organic quinoa retails for as much as ₹1,200 per kg in metros and also has a high export demand. Gupta helps the farmers with seeds and training. His company buys the produce at rates ranging from ₹45-50 per kg, processes the quinoa at a factory in Jhansi and ploughs back 10 per cent of the revenues into community. Going forward, Gupta says he is exploring the idea of giving farmers shares in the company.
At Umaria village as we are treated to a delicious lunch of Madde and dal, a local preparation, we ask the farmers if they consume quinoa. The answer is no. Gupta intercedes to say that he will organise cooking classes. That would make the integration of this foreign super seed complete!
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