Growing quinoa under extreme conditions for food security

Argentina works with Morocco on food production in the face of climate change and desertification.

Quinoa is recognized for its nutritional value, but also for its ability to adapt to different environmental conditions. For this reason, and as it can develop under extreme climatic and soil conditions, it is important for present and future food security (FAO, 2023).

Although native to the Andean region, quinoa is now cultivated in different parts of the world. For example, it was introduced into Morocco in 1999, in the area of ​​Khénifra, through a project of the Institute of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine Hassan II (IAV) (FAO, 2013). Nowadays, this country’s rural area is facing serious food security problems due to climate change and land desertification, which quinoa cultivation could help to counteract.

In this context, Argentina is supporting Morocco to develop quinoa as a complementary food and non-traditional cash crop, as it adapts to environments that suffer from drought and salinity stress. Indeed, Lucas Guillén, one of the Argentinian technicians participating in the project explains “there are places that only depend on rain to produce and have little irrigation water” (Zonda de San Juan Newspaper, May 10th, 2023). This South-South Cooperation initiative also seeks to increase small farmers’ income, alleviate poverty, generate new employment opportunities and integrate women into the value chain of this seed.

In addition, Guillén, engineer in charge of the Extension Agency of the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA by its Spanish acronym) in Calingasta (San Juan, Argentina) states that “there are very few researchers working on quinoa in the world” (Zonda de San Juan Newspaper, May 10th, 2023). For this reason, this initiative has the additional value of promoting the circulation of the knowledge both countries have been generating, and of fostering collaboration among researchers.

Since 2019, the Argentinian technical team has carried out three missions to Morocco in which “field experiments were developed in order to learn about and innovate in the management of quinoa cultivation in marginal areas of Morocco (Bouchane and Rabat)” and “progress was made with the development of a Field Manual on quinoa cultivation for small producers in French and Arabic” (INTA, 2022). During 2021, due to mobility restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the project continued virtually with the socialization of harvest results from experimental plots of land (INTA, 2022). The fourth stage took place in April 2023, with the mission of two IAV technicians to different Argentinian provinces (Tucumán, Catamarca, La Rioja and San Juan), where they were able to visit experimental fields and participate in seminars and technical training. Two more stages are yet to be carried out in 2024.

The project is financed by the Argentine Fund for International Cooperation (FOAR by its Spanish acronym) and is executed by INTA and the Miguel Lillo Foundation (FML by its Spanish acronym). The technical counterpart in Morocco is IAV Hassan II.

Between 2010 and early 2022, INTA has carried out 158 South-South and Triangular technical cooperation projects with FOAR and different national and international partners from various regions worldwide, involving more than 450 missions and more than 1,100 professionals, on a variety of topics (INTA, 2022). The publication Alianzas estratégicas del INTA (Strategic Alliances of INTA, 2022), which analyzes the cooperation of these years in detail, points out that:

In most projects, complementary trainings beyond those planned were carried out, publications to showcase outstanding results were prepared. INTA participated in calls to access international funding from third parties and received donations to purchase inputs to strengthen projects. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the current projects made progress based on virtual activities in spite of the limitations to on-site exchanges (Pág. 121).

The abovementioned study concludes that South-South and Triangular Cooperation must continue to be strengthened in order to find solutions to the problems that hinder sustainable growth and the well-being of populations, especially for future generations (INTA, 2022).

October 2023


Source: SEGIB based on Agencies and Directorates-General for Cooperation, Zonda de San Juan Newspaper (2023), FAO (2013) (2023) and INTA (2022).

Photos: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina.