This paper presents emerging findings from ongoing work in Latin America from SEI’s Bioeconomy Pathways Initiative. It discusses the quinoa biomass value web in Bolivia – its products and its commercial, financial and knowledge connections, then looks at challenges and ways forward for a sustainable quinoa sector in Bolivia.

The authors identify current and potential quinoa biomass uses in Bolivia, using the value web approach, and assess which key stakeholders and which relationships or links exist among them, and which are important for generating and diffusing new knowledge and innovations in the quinoa sector.

The assessment is based on the concept of the “national innovation system”, which highlights the need to understand the learning capacity, the financial support, and the businesses that generate and exchange knowledge in a particular context. The participatory Net-Map tool was also applied to identify who is involved in the quinoa value web and how the actors are linked with each other, with an emphasis on commercial, financial and knowledge connections. In addition to a literature review, the authors also carried out 14 interviews between October 2018 and April 2019 with Bolivian companies, experts, governmental and research institutions, and with the Chojñacota community in La Paz.

The authors conclude that any increase in the use of quinoa for value-added products will require public and private investment in research and development, as well as better links between industries and research institutions and universities. These links include national policies and funding supporting not only the agricultural production but also the industrialization and commercialization of quinoa. But there is also a need for policies and regulations to ensure that a landscape approach is used to promote sustainable practices, taking into account the environmental limits of land and water resources.

Without such an approach, the potential increased support to the quinoa value web in the name of bioeconomy might not necessarily be sustainable, in particular if it only focuses on satisfying economic or commercial ends.