Peanut was domesticated in the Andes of southern Bolivia and northern Argentina. As the result of thousands of years of farmers’ breeding and stewardship, Bolivia has the greatest peanut biodiversity in the world. Some of Bolivia’s peanut varieties are very special and can command high prices on the world market, particularly if they are organically grown. Accessing these markets for organic native peanut can provide income to smallholder farmers who otherwise face severe poverty. Mycotoxins, toxic products of molds that often grow on peanuts and other crops, are an obstacle to accessing these markets. The most important mycotoxins for peanut is aflatoxin, which is the most potent known natural carcinogen and which has many other negative health impacts. This is a problem for Bolivian peanut farmers and consumers, as well as for farmers in other parts of the world. Careful management and surveillance can overcome this market barrier and public health menace.
Since 2010, the CCRP has enabled Fundación Valles to promote the improvement in living conditions of vulnerable populations who grow peanuts in diverse agroecological systems in the Bolivian inter-Andean valleys of Chuquisaca, Cochabamba and Potosi. Project thrusts included strengthening of the peanut value chain through sustainable access to domestic and foreign markets, participatory research for technology generation and transfer, and services and systems development for aflatoxin management. The project team gathered and analyzed data on aflatoxin levels in peanuts and corn in three municipalities. In addition, they monitored agricultural systems trends associated with peanuts, to avert a possible shift toward peanut monocropping due to market pressure. The project reinforced institutional, technological and market mechanisms of growers’ organizations so they could participate competitively in the safe production and sustainable commercialization of organic peanuts in domestic and export markets. Currently, five organizations with over 500 peanut growers have successfully entered the market, and one organization (APROMAM SRL) was incorporated to negotiate with a peanut importer on their behalf. Over 160 tons of organic peanuts have been exported since 2009, at a price of $379,000.
In this phase, the project team will determine how to expand its successes in the first two phases through safe production in diverse agricultural systems and sustainable access to domestic and export markets for native and certified organic peanuts. They will further research the role of mycotoxins in the peanut cropping system, investigate and develop opportunities in domestic and local markets and innovate and learn with farmer organizations on how to become more sustainable and independent. The project will use research findings to influence decision makers at the local, departmental and national government levels. It will reach 37 communities in five municipalities and double the organic peanut export volumes to 120 tons, as well as increase the current number of farmers involved.