A focus on sustainable mountain food systems


The fifth edition of the Forum "Origin, Diversity and Territories" (ODT) was held on 1 December 2017 in Bulle, Switzerland and celebrated mountains under the theme "Designing sustainable mountain food systems". The forum explored the richness and dynamism of mountain territories.

In her opening remarks, Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), underlined how high-quality mountains products can improve livelihoods and preserve local ecosystems when producers' access to markets is supported and their value chains and marketing strategies are strengthened. These actions, she explained, are essential to the development of sustainable mountain food systems. Semedo highlighted the Mountain Partnership Products Initiative, a joint initiative by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat and Slow Food to develop mountain economies, as a communication tool for conveying to consumers the quality and importance of buying mountain products.

Carlo Petrini, Founder and President of Slow Food International, gave a keynote speech on the crucial role smallholder farmers play in sustainable, healthy food systems and on the rich biodiversity of food products found in mountain areas. "We need to value food again. Value is not just about price, it is about where the food comes from, the know-how, the tradition and the earth," said Petrini.

In the following session, the sustainability of mountain agro-food systems was discussed based on an analysis of policies in Switzerland and the European perspective. Two examples of novel initiatives in European mountain territories were presented, including the creation of a regional cookbook of cuisine in the Alps, called The Culinary Heritage of the Alps, and the Alpfoodway Project.

Parallel workshops were held in the afternoon that covered topics related to the sustainable development of mountain food systems, including promoting food traditions, linking health to traditional diets, developing organizational strategies for the valorisation and marketing of local products, creating participative certification methods, and bringing together culinary heritage and tourism.

While the Forum ODT was taking place, the Salon des Goûts and Terroirs was held simultaneously. FAO was invited as the international guest of honour. FAO also had a stand at the Salon that showcased the Organization's work in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The stand included a shop where attendees could purchase the products of small producers, some of which were products involved in the Mountain Partnership Products Initiative.

Visitors of the Salon were able to participate in a live cooking demonstration and tasting session in the "L'Arena Gourmande", where Mountain Partnership member Anita Paul, Director of the Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation, prepared Kheer, an Indian rice pudding with purple rice. The one-hour live cooking session was moderated by Swiss Ambassador François Pythoud.

Prior to the Forum ODT, a training was organized on the study of collective actions that support mountain products and territories. Three Mountain Partnership members involved in the Mountain Partnership Products Initiative participated, including the Agency for Development Initiatives, Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation and Red de Agroindustria Rural del Perú.

Read more:
Mountain Partnership Products Initiative 

Photo: FAO 

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