Nusta Juira's Gift of Quinoa: Peasants, Trademarks, and Intermediaries in the Transformation of a Bolivian Commodity Economy



Farmers and activists in the Los Lipez region of Bolivia have created a symbolic commons that links their identity, quinoa crop, and work. Since 2005, farmers have worked with regional activists and marketers to create a denomination of origin in order to project their work and connection with quinoa into international markets for their crop. Yet sales certified with the denomination of origin trademark have not significantly displaced other sales to buyers for the national cooperatives or to local intermediaries. Based on 4 months of ethnographic research with growers, local resellers, and leaders of the denomination of origin initiative, this case documents how the Bolivian quinoa market is a composite of varied market channels, interests, and values that inhibit the full realization of any single development approach. However, the complexity that actor agency introduces into commodity circulation results in earnings at different scales, the movement of multiple qualities of quinoa, transactions in formal and informal settings, and a more resilient life sphere of agricultural production.