Quinoa to make a grand entry to Lebanon’s agriculture calendar

BEIRUT: The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization is looking to introduce the nutritious cereal crop quinoa to Lebanon’s agricultural calendar, the organization said in a statement issued this week.

Although it’s imported and rather expensive, several Lebanese restaurants have started to introduce quinoa into their menus, and the South American cereal has become an essential component of every salad bar. Some homes and restaurants have started replacing burgul (crushed wheat) with quinoa as one of the ingredients of the country’s celebrated parsley salad tabbouleh.

The FAO has launched a regional project for technical assistance for the introduction of quinoa and the institutionalization of its production in Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen.

At the request of the Lebanese Agriculture Ministry, the FAO has responded positively, and included Lebanon with other countries in the region to benefit from this regional technical cooperation project.

“As the world faces the alarming challenge of enhancing the production of quality food to feed a growing population in a changing climate, quinoa could offer an alternative food source for countries suffering from nutrition and food insecurity,” an FAO statement said.

Quinoa, a nutritious cereal crop for millions of people throughout the Andes, could also play an important role in eradicating hunger, malnutrition and poverty in the Middle East and North Africa region. Quinoa is the only plant food that has all the essential amino acids, trace elements and vitamins, and it is also well able to adapt to different ecological environments and climates.

With exceptional resistance to drought, poor soils and high salinity, it can successfully be grown at any altitude between sea level and 4,000 meters, and it withstands temperatures between -8 and 38 degrees Celsius.

“Through the project, FAO is assisting Lebanon to assess the potential for ... adopting quinoa, to foster and strengthen transfer of knowledge competencies, to build and develop local capacities and develop a basis for a national sustainable strategy for the integration of quinoa in the farming systems,” the organization said.

The project’s activities are being implemented in coordination with the Lebanese Agriculture Research Institute, together with the Agriculture Ministry.

In 2014, demonstration plots were established in Tyre in south Lebanon and in the Bekaa Valley towns of Tal Amara and Kfardan.

The first farmers’ field days were held Wednesday in Tal Amara and Kfardan. Other workshops, training sessions and field days will be organized for farmers and agricultural engineers during the project’s implementation period.

In 2013, which The United Nations declared “International Year of Quinoa,” the FAO, together with international movement the Slow Food Movement, officially launched the book, “Quinoa in the Kitchen,” to continue to promote awareness about the food’s potential.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 11, 2014, on page 2.




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