Quality mountain products at Slow Food forum
An initiative to promote mountain products and empower small-holder mountain producers in developing countries was presented at the international Slow Food Forum "Terra Madre Salone del Gusto" in Turin, Italy on Saturday, 24 September. During the session "Living in the Mountains", mountain producers, Mountain Partnership (MP) members from Bolivia, India, the Italian Development Cooperation and the National Union of Mountain Municipalities, Communities and Councils (UNCEM) and Slow Food delegates, called for the promotion of mountain products and ecosystem services as well as for policies that can empower mountain communities.
"Italy, a long-time supporter of the Mountain Partnership, has always been concerned with the present and the future of mountain areas," said Mauro Ghirotti, food security and environmental officer from the Italian Cooperation. "The Mountain Partnership, established almost 15 years ago, acknowledges that mountain areas require a different approach. Mountains suffer from isolation, from physical, political and environmental fragility. They lack infrastructure and have limited land for agriculture. Yet they are sources of water and provide essential goods and services. They are cultural strongholds and places full of heritage. Mountains have a lot to offer and we believe that the Mountain Partnership can address the challenges of mountain environments and peoples concretely."
Giorgio Grussu, FAO project officer and coordinator of the initiative, presented the Mountain Partnership Products (MPP) voluntary label designed to promote mountain products and a short promotional video. The label is part of the Mountain Partnership Products Initiative, which merges the strengths of the MP in addressing mountain-specific challenges and working with a global network of mountain actors with Slow Food's experience in sustaining biodiversity and recovering traditional processing methods.
"With the MPP label we want to communicate that the values usually associated with mountains - such as purity, biodiversity, sustainability - are also values that belong to mountain products," said Giorgio Grussu. “We believe that a narrative label that tells the story of the product will create an emotional connection with the producer and bring consumers to pay a little bit more for a mountain product."
"By tradition, mountain producers farm organically, produce small quantities and find it difficult to reach markets," said Anita Paul, Director of Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation in India and MP member. "A label will allow producers to fetch a better portion of the consumer's rupee and bring it back into the households."
Currently, the initiative is working in Bolivia with Slow Food to restore the cultivation of black amaranth, an indigenous Andean species, among the communities and cooperatives in the Chuquisaca area with the support of Fundación Pasos, a non-profit organization that builds the capacity of small producers to sustainably cultivate crops and improve their access to markets. "Bolivia has many microclimates and indigenous species, both plant and animal. Over the past 20 years, we have seen these drastically diminish. Communities have no access to seed banks and rely upon the work of organizations like FAO or small NGOs like ours," said Antonio Aramayo, coordinator of Fundación Pasos. For a select number of products, including in Kyrgyzstan and Bolivia, the initiative is providing additional support. These interventions range from teaching producers new ways to scale up and add value to their existing production - in the case of Kyrgyz apricots - to helping start up an entirely new production and distribution chain – in the case of the revival of black amaranth in Bolivia.
"Slow Food is keen to give value to biological and cultural diversity through food. The Slow Food network is committed to mapping food diversity and highlighting the value of the incredible heritage of food products and through that give value to the people, to the territorial sustainable management and the local economies," said Ludovico Roccatello of Slow Food. "The label for us represents a tool, a step of a process, a chance to give value to the whole system."
Read more about the event
Watch the promotional video
Read more about the Mountain Partnership Products Initiative