Smallholder agriculture accounts for the livelihoods of the most marginalized people in Mexico. In order to address poverty, food security, and migration, it is crucial to strengthen the viability of family farming. Currently, 52% of the family budget in the lowest income brackets goes to food and beverages (INEGI, 2010). By increasing family food production, rural families will reduce expenditures on food purchases from external sources. Feliciano Vasquez, a local promoter, was asked what food soverignty means to him. He shared that when food prices skyrocketed in 2010, his family was not as affected because they grow their own food. In the context of the Right to Food, written in to article 4 of the Mexican Constitution in 2011, the law guarantees effective access to land, to grow and produce healthy, sufficient, and quality food.
As a native grain with a C-4 photosynthesis process, amaranth can survive with less water than other food crops. Amaranth’s drought resistant properties (Amarantus means “does not wither” in ancient Greek) mean that it is an excellent option to diversify cultivations, especially given the unpredictable global weather patterns that have recently impacted farming and livelihoods in Oaxaca. Amaranth is particularly advantageous because as a local crop it can be adapted to the distinct environmental contexts of Oaxaca. In good growing conditions, each amaranth plant will produce 40,000 to 60,000 seeds seasonally.
Additionally, amaranth's market value is such that farmers can earn considerably more growing amaranth than other grain crops. The net-profit of amaranth is more than three to five times the net profit of corn, oats, or wheat. Along the same lines, amaranth’s storage ability (the grain can be stored for up to 15 years) means that people can maintain reserves in times of bounty, and have a source of food when harvests fail.
How to grow it in your garden or farm? Here are some general guidelines, and for more detail you can download our Amaranth Production Manual: