For centuries, mountain agriculture has been a model for sustainable development. Today, family farming in mountain regions is undergoing rapid transformation, due to population growth, economic globalization, the spread of urban lifestyles and the migration of men and youth to urban areas. It results in increased workloads for women, higher pressure on local resources and the increased vulnerability of mountain farmers to global changes.
At the same time, these changes can also provide opportunities for local development. For example, mountain people can diversify their income by engaging in non-farm activities such as tourism and the marketing of local handicrafts.
In a world increasingly aware of ‘green’ quality and organic products, mountain farmers producing high value and high quality niche mountain products using sustainable methods can both tap into markets demand and generate income. But too often they do not receive their fair share of profits because of the many intermediaries involved in marketing their products.
Communities need assistance to improve the whole value chain of their products, so that they can improve their capacity in production, processing and marketing. Access to credit, secure land tenure, empowering of women and public investment in education, health, transport and research are among the key requirements needed to promote sustainable family farming in mountain regions.