Fellow Since 1996
Representante de Slow Food
This profile was prepared when Mario Tapia was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
On the basis of more than two decades of field research and participation in rural development projects in Andean settings, Mario Tapia is convinced that quinua, lupinus and other indigenous grains could play a key role in reducing childhood malnutrition, particularly in poor rural communities in which that problem is particularly prevalent. Unfortunately, for various reasons, those grains are currently produced and consumed only on a very small scale. But Mario has developed a plan for stimulating their production and encouraging their use on a widespread basis.The first of three principal components of Mario's plan is a concerted effort to persuade Andean farmers to expand their production of quinua, lupinus and other highly nutritious grains. Field research has identified high-yielding varieties of those grains that are particularly well adapted to various ecological conditions, and seed banks required for a rapid expansion of their production have already been established. What remains to be done, however, is to demonstrate, in key Andean locations, that such varieties can be readily and profitably produced on a much expanded scale.The second component of Mario's plan is the development of processing plants in rural locations that will prepare the grains for easy household use and generate by-products of significant economic value. Pilot processing plants have already been developed and tested, and the required technology is thus readily available.The third element of Mario's plan is an imaginative nutritional education initiative that will heighten awareness of the important benefits of using the indigenous grains (instead of markedly less nutritious wheat and rice) in household diets and offer other inducements for their use.