Crop diversity and livelihood security in the Andes

Andean farmers have traditionally adapted and selected varieties of quinoa and potatoes to reduce their vulnerability to a range of environmental risks. Data suggest that this strategy is being undermined. Market pressures, particularly the requirements for consistency and quantity along with the import of subsidised wheat products, are leading to the displacement of quinoa and indigenous potato varieties. This paper explores the feasibility of maintaining crop diversity while ensuring that farmers benefit from market opportunities. For potato, the most promising approach is one of `conservation through use' whereby development practitioners identify market niches for local rather than cosmopolitan varieties. Meanwhile, quinoa production and consumption has been enhanced by government-sponsored initiatives that use quinoa in food- support programmes. The success of these efforts to enhance livelihood security requires an enabling policy environment that encourages extension approaches, where the emphasis is on farmers' active participation, and supports public and private interventions in remote rural areas.