A voluntary product label for mountain goods that is meant to improve market access for small highland producers from developing countries and highlight mountain products as distinct and sustainable was launched by the FAO Mountain Partnership (MP) and Slow Food in September 2016.
The new label places a premium on goods that support local biodiversity and production methods that are linked to the cultural traditions of mountain communities. Products carrying the mountain label will be available in national markets, organic stores and specialty shops.
Among the flagship products that are part of the first phase of the Mountain Partnership Products initiative are apricots grown in the remote mountainous region of Batken in Kyrgyzstan and rare black amaranth grain produced in the Bolivian Andes. A variety of other goods ranging from coffee to tea and spices from different mountain areas of developing countries will also be marketed under the new label, which will be available free of charge to mountain producers following a review of their products and production methods.
Despite their rich culture and environmental heritage, mountain communities remain economically marginalized. One reason for this is that the remoteness and isolation of mountain areas often impede producers, limiting their access to markets, extension services, credit and information. Additionally, the high number of middlemen in the value chain of many mountain products means that producers do not always obtain fair compensation.
How it works
The mountain label is not mandatory for mountain producers nor does it replace other labels their products may have to carry under national laws. But it is an easy tool for small scale producers and associations to set their wares apart in a positive way.
Those who wish to apply for the label can contact the Mountain Partnership Secretariat directly or through local MP focal points. Requests will be evaluated based on a set of criteria, including factors like the size of production, impact on the environment and the altitude at which the goods are made.
The Partnership will also oversee a verification system through which an appointed expert or authorised entity will periodically monitor a random sample of products carrying the Mountain Partnership Product label to ensure the goods still meet all guidelines.
For a select number of products, including those in Kyrgyzstan and Bolivia, FAO 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 the Kyrgyz apricots– to helping start up an entirely new production and distribution chain - in the case of the revival of black amaranth in Bolivia.
Visit the Website of the Mountain Partnership