International Mountain Day
There is great potential to improve the livelihoods of mountain people by building on the comparative advantages of mountain resources and promoting the wide variety of unique products and services that mountain regions and communities can offer - from foods and beverages, to medicines, cosmetics, crafts and tourism. However, in the current context of global trade liberalization, producers in mountain regions who face problems related to high transport costs, weak infrastructure, inadequate technology and difficulty in accessing markets, are confronted by increasing competition from low-cost systems and areas of production. To be successful in the marketplace, mountain producers must therefore concentrate on developing the quality of the products and services that their regions can offer.
The FAO Mountain Products Project was launched in September 2003, with funds from the Government of France, with the overall goal of promoting and protecting local high-quality products as a strategy for sustainable development in mountain regions. The project was structured in different phases.
During Phase 1 (Sept. 2003 - March 2004) a database with information on mountain products world-wide was developed, five regional and one inter-regional case studies were written, as well as a report analyzing the common key factors of success. The information was gathered in partnership with the Mountain Forum (Latin America, North America, Asia Pacific regional nodes), the Africa Highlands Initiative (ICRAF) and Euromontana.
During Phase 2 (Sept. 2004 to Nov. 2005) a number of sub-sector studies on promising mountain quality products (including identification of constraints and opportunities along product value chains) were carried out. CIHEAM analysed the medicinal/aromatic plants, arboriculture and rural tourism sectors in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region. CIP analysed the native potato, cheese and specialty coffee sectors in Peru and Bolivia.ICIMOD studied the potential for growth of wild mushrooms and medicinal plants (Bhutan), Tasar silk and forest honey (India), as well as handmade paper and other medicinal plants (Nepal). CAB International focused on the specialty coffee, honey and macadamia sectors of the highlands of Kenya.
Based on the report produced by CIHEAM, the French Government committed funds for two years (2005 - 2007) to develop a Mediterranean web-based resource centre on mountain quality products, which will allow small-scale producers living in North Africa and the Middle East to access information (e.g. EU Laws and policies on trade and safety of food products, organizations working to promote quality products in the region, training materials, publications, access to funding, etc) useful to increase their competitiveness in view of the creation of a new EUROMED free trade area in 2010. The resource centre was developed in partnership with CIHEAM.