The Yacón, recovery of an Andean crop by the community

Producers from the community of Chorrillos-Bárcena, located south from Quebrada de Humahuaca, have developed an agroindustry based on the recovery and revaluation of Yacón, a multi-purpose traditional crop in the Andean region.

El Yacón, recovery of an Andean crop by the community 1

A plant recovered and revaluated by the Chirrillos-Bárcena community.

For many years, cultivation and sale of fresh yacón had been a source of wealth for the people of Chorrillos-Bárcena. The railroad station Bárcena, in the Belgrano railroad line was one of its main markets. In the 1990s this railroad branch was closed down, and this traditional activity collapsed and the community of Chorrillos-Bárcena suffered from unemployment and impoverish of this area.

Early in 2000, 5 producers from Bárcena were identified, who had kept a small number of plants. Their small but significant contribution allowed starting a process of recovery of this crop, and through it, the revaluation of their local identity.

Supported by the Foundation for the Conservation of Species (FUCEMA), an entity that is engaged in the conservation of the biodiversity of Andean crops, the community of Chorrillos-Bárcena could implement a project for the recovery of the yacón. This initiative was financed by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation, through the Federal Council for Science and Technology (COFECyT), to recover the productivity lost by this activity.

This recovery process was based on two main axes. On one hand, the Center for the Development of Productive Technologies was created in the community to strengthen productive recovery, developing added value options for such products and to face the challenges posed by the market. On the other hand, a TrainingCenter for Transformation Practices was created to disseminate practices and knowledge among local farmers.

This organization enabled the community of Chirrillos-Bárcena to generate technological innovations and developed products out of the yacón, by means of participative processes. Also, they developed easy technologies and practices that were easily acquired by such community.

In this manner, this initiative enhanced the abilities of organization, distribution of roles and participative management and accompanied such achievements by creating a space for training, reflection and motivation of producers.

This initiative was also designed for encouraging transfer of knowledge to the Chorrillos-Bárcena community, while becoming an experience that may be replicated by other communities.

A crop with multiple benefits

The yacón (Smallanthus sonchifolius, it is technical name) is a plant that produces edible roots similar to the sweet potato.

Its pulp is orange yellow and is sweet, smooth, and rich in water. It may be consumed as fruit, marmalades, candies, and tea.

Its high nourishing value is associated with the presence of fructooligosaccharide, special types of sugars that do not raise the level of glycaemia in blood. Among its advantages we can find:

  • It prevents cavities, as it may not be metabolized by bacteria developed in the teeth.
  • It contributes fewer calories than the regular sugars, such as sucrose.
  • It is not transferred to blood; therefore, it does not change the amount of glucose in blood, which is good for diabetic people. It improves the assimilation of calcium.
  • It decreases the level of cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • It strengthens body defenses.
  • It prevents gastro-intestinal infections.
  • It reduces the risk to develop some type of colon cancer.

Its production and research have increased lately in different parts of the world, for its food and commercial potential in different markets: Fruit and vegetables, natural products, medicinal products, regional and/or exotic products.

Its technologies and production are not complex, as it may be grown at small scale, without any agrochemicals, it may be associated with other crops and forestry components, and its roots, leaves, and even its stalk may be used.

Recover and Value our Products

Community production of yacón in Chorrillos-Bárcena proved to be a competitive agroindustry while it creates the desire of younger people for staying in such locations.
Sample Cases
Social Development
  • El Yacón, recovery of an Andean crop by the community 1
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El Yacón, recovery of an Andean crop by the community 1

A plant recovered and revaluated by the Chirrillos-Bárcena community.

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