College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree

International Studies


Bolivia, quinoa, food sovereignty, non-traditional agricultural exports, development


This thesis offers a counterargument to the claims that Bolivian peasant farmers are acting in contradiction with their political support of food sovereignty by participating in a global quinoa economy. This research gives agency to the farmers by reframing the Bolivian quinoa story to show how farmers succeeded in overcoming “development” projects. My research is inspired by two brief periods of time I spent living in Bolivia volunteering with campesinos. This research offers insights into the unintended consequences producers experience when export of a regionally consumed food becomes a major economic development strategy to alleviate poverty. I take a historical perspective to analyze how a little known indigenous food from South America, quinoa, became a global commodity. My research is grounded in historical data that explains the necessity for farmers to seek new buyers for their crops. I problematize agricultural development programs by drawing upon critical development theoretical framework, which allows me to recognize farmers for the role they played in finding a new market for their product. I use a Global Value Chain lens to expose positive and negative effects on farmers of entering a global market. This thesis on the Bolivian quinoa economy serves as a case study on how community members need to be participants in “development” projects, how an unintended consequence of neoliberalism is the ability for peasants to use neoliberalism as a tool to resist against it and, cautions against focusing poverty alleviation only on market access.