Sustainable Mountain Agriculture

Mountain communities’ livelihoods have traditionally relied on farming which is essentially family-based. Indeed, mountain characteristics in terms of slope, accessibility, etc. are not conducive to large-scale commodity production and the agriculture sector in these areas has largely been dominated by small-scale, family-based and subsistence systems. This is not necessarily a bad thing though since mountain products have now grown a reputation of quality and originality, merits which are at the core of the rise in popularity of organic farming. Thus, in a world increasingly aware of “green” quality and organic products, mountain agriculture will provide high-value and high-quality products that cater to increasing market demand and generate income for local communities (Wymann S, et al (eds). 2013). Yet today, family farming in mountain regions is undergoing rapid transformation, due to both internal and external drivers such as population growth, economic globalization and market integration, penetration of urban lifestyles, outmigration of men and youth, and the resulting increased workload for women who remain behind, and increasing claims on land for conservation and large-scale resource extraction, such as mining. These have contributed to higher pressure on local resources, unsustainable practices in land use, disintegration of local customs and traditions, and increased vulnerability to global change. At the same time, however, these drivers of transformation can also provide opportunities for local development, enhancing the role of family farming and improving the quality of life of mountain farmers. For example, they offer opportunities for increasing farm production sustainably and for diversifying livelihoods by engaging in non-farm activities such as tourism and marketing of local handicrafts (ibid.) This session will discuss the foundation of developing the mountain brand as a key to sustainable mountain development and explore the requirements to enhance this brand and empower local mountain communities to take advantage of it as an opportunity to integrate in the global markets.

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