Workshop in India connects mountain producers


A workshop dedicated to exchanging good practices, sharing lessons learned and assessing the results on several surveys on the perception of mountain products was held on 18 December 2015 in New Delhi, India.

Organized by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat and the Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation, the workshop was attended by 25 Mountain Partnership members from Latin America, Central Asia and India and was opened by Sunder Subramanian of the Food and Agriculture Organization India office, who underlined his office’s commitment to the mountain agenda with a whole new set of sustainable mountain development projects in the region.

The event was a chance to reflect on the different perceptions that consumers have on mountain products in different regions of the world. Examples of surveys included samples from Altai, Bolivia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Panama and Peru. While each survey yielded different specific findings, they all revealed that regardless of whether consumers are familiar with the concept of 'mountain products' or not, they consume and associate positive values with them. “The surveys show that a mountain products label would be appreciated and that consumers would be willing to pay a premium price for products and services having a mountain label,” said Sara Manuelli, Communication and Programme Officer with the Mountain Partnership Secretariat.

Karma Bhutia, Regional Livelihoods Coordinator of The Mountain Institute (TMI) in Nepal, showcased projects from the several districts where TMI supports mountain farmers using and trading different medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) as a part of their livelihoods. “Today over 10 000 farmers have received training on cultivation and commercialization of different species,” said Bhutia.

Organized in cooperatives, the farmers are cultivating MAPs in over 100 hectares of land and in 2014 they earned USD 500 000 from the sales in the raw form, which were exported to Tibet and India.  “TMI has also supported women in the eastern mountain communities in Nepal to improve the methods of harvesting and spinning of the Himalayan stinging nettle plant – Allo (Girardinia diversifolia), as well as diversifying the products, and creating market linkages,” said Bhutia.

The private sector was represented by Gikma Sherpa, Managing Director of Wild Earth Nepal, a website that sells Nepali mountain products including soaps, oils, coffees and teas. The website, which is based on equitable and fair trade principles is now selling to foreign markets such as China and the United States.  

During the workshop, members shared experiences including on issues, such as the need for capacity development and the complexities related to regional and national certifications.

Slow Food will become a member of the Mountain Partnership and will collaborate closely with the implementation of the Mountain Products Initiative, providing valuable experience and networks in particular relating to their narrative label approach, workshop participants were told.

Overall most members welcomed the creation of a Mountain Products labelling scheme and expressed interest in joining the Mountain Products initiative taskforce. As a next step, many members suggested the creation of a portal that would be able to sell online mountain products from all over the world.
The workshop was held during an 11-day exhibition of mountain products called “Mountain High! Festival of Peoples and Products”.

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