Mountain Partnership Products Producer Stories

Small groups of women producers in Kyrgyzstan live on what was once the Silk Road - the network of trade routes that enabled cultural exchange between Asia and Europe for centuries. In the spirit of tradition, history and culture, these mountain women create silk scarves adorned with felt decorations. 

Damira, age 61, loves her job working with the bees in her highland village, At-Bashy, in the Naryn region of central Kyrgyzstan. She harvests white honey at an altitude of 2 000 metres. In the warm season, she spends most of her time in the mountains looking after her hive and studying and collecting plants. The climatic conditions of the Naryn region are unique – being far from urban areas, the air and water are clean and wild herbs grow freely.

Women farmers have found a common purpose in the Meghalaya State of the Indian Himalayas. Every day, they gather in the paddy fields and jhum (a piece of land that has been cleared and is used to grow crops until its fertility is depleted) to cultivate the valuable pink and purple sticky rice of their ancestors. Their many hands become one as they gently sew the rice in collective harmony. 

In the headwaters of the Ganges river basin, 1 500 metres up in India’s Kumaon Himalayas, chamomile production is helping to improve incomes for the growing number of women-headed households in Uttarakhand State. Tulsi Devi, her daughter, Dhana, and the other women in their self-help group have pioneered the cultivation of chamomile in these mountains.

Born in the village of Gatlang in the Rasuwa district, Nepal, Sanjaya Tamang is one of his hometown’s youngest farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs. Situated at an altitude of more than 2 200 metres in the north of Kathmandu, bordering China, Gatlang is a touristic village and a home of the Tamangs, a local indigenous community. Sanjaya carries on his family’s traditional occupation of farming, which they have been doing for centuries.

Lalita Rokaya is a 25 year old farmer living in the Sinja valley of the Jumla district, one of the most remote mountain areas in Nepal. She lives there with her parents and three siblings in their small village. She studies part time, but spends most of her time farming and herding cattle in high mountain pastures. Lalita grew up in a marginalized family who faced food insecurity, illiteracy and health problems due to the lack of income from insufficient production of their main crop: Jumla mixed beans.

 

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The golden powder of the maca plant brings health, happiness and security to the peoples of central Peru in the Andes, both past and present. Maca producers in Peru follow the traditions of the Incas – a civilization of 15th and 16th century South America - in cultivating this high Andes plant that is cherished for its root.

The Barretos of Huari, Ancash, Peru know exactly how perfect the goldenberry is for a delicious jam. Gabriel and Marina Barreto have recently returned to their ancestral tradition of cultivating goldenberries as their primary source of livelihood. This opportunity was perfect for the couple, who are too old to work in the copper mines, which are the main source of employment in their town, where 70 percent of the population lives in poverty. The fruits of the Barretos’ harvest are used for the creation of “Marmelada Aguaymanto”, or goldenberry jam. 

In the mountains of Bolivia's Serranía del Iñao National Park, at the foot of the Eastern Cordillera, María Méndez carefully harvests honey from stingless bees. She works alongside about 160 women of all ages united in six honeybee associations in Monteagudo and Villa Vaca Guzman in the Chaco Province. Maria uses a syringe to delicately extract the honey, known for its distinct sweet and sour flavor and dark amber color. The women are solely responsible for the careful maintenance of these special, fragile bees. The producers collect enough honey for their families and sell the rest to make extra money that they use as they see fit.

Encarnación and Maria Rodríguez have owned and operated “Finca Orgánica Maria y Chon”, their small family farm in the Santa Fe mountains of Panama, for more than 40 years. They have one hectare of farmland in which they grow a variety of plants, including Arabica coffee. Tourists come to visit their small farm and taste the rich, shade-grown mountain coffee, which they call “Ceibal Coffee”.

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