Mountain communities share experiences at Terra Madre

15 January 2021

Slow Food initiatives from mountain communities Austria, India, Italy, Morocco and the Philippines took the spotlight at a session moderated by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MPS).

From the Terraces to Mountain Huts

The two-part event featured morning and evening panel discussions with mountain communities from across the world, comparing their experiences of mountain agriculture, safeguarding traditions, and increasing resilience. Two members of the Mountain Partnership Products (MPP) Initiative – Anita Paul of the Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation in India and Lam-en Gonnay of the Indigenous Terra Madre Network in the Philippines – participated in the morning panel moderated by Lindsey Hook of the MPS.

The importance of women in the Himalayas

The event opened with a brief video produced by Slow Food. During her intervention, Paul underlined the importance of the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR). “The IHR forms 16 percent of India’s land area and is home to 4% of the Indian population. It also hosts 70% of India’s biodiversity and is one of the world’s largest providers of freshwater. For this reason, what we do in the Himalayas has impacts downstream on more than 300 million people.”

Chamomile producers in India

Paul discussed how high levels of migration, primarily among men, have left farming and production in the IHR to women. Her organization has has been working with these women since 1992. “We formed women farmers into collectives to help them access markets,” she said. “Our mountains do not have economies of scale, but they do have economies of quality, niche products; so through aggregation and collectivization, we strengthen our producers’ hands.”

Chamomile Tea, Pink Rice and Purple Rice are three products from the IHR made by groups working with the Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation that participate in the MPP Initiative.

Passing on traditional knowledge and seeds in the Philippines

The next speaker to follow Paul was Lam-en Gonnay. He described how the people of the Pasil River Valley, Kalinga in the Philippine Cordillera use traditional seed varieties and farming methods to cultivate indigenous rice in terraced landscapes. He also stressed the importance of knowledge transmission across generations. “Using high-yielding seeds would kill what we inherited from our forefathers. The varieties that they kept and protected for many years,” he said.

Lam-en Gonnay

He explained how the people of the village live in harmony with their natural surroundings by abiding by certain principles. “We have beliefs that that we pass on from one generation to the next, of how and when to harvest wild things for food. For example, you cannot just cut down trees you did not grow or maintain.”

Ulikan red rice, cultivated by women farmers in the Pasil River Valley, is another product involved in the MPP Initiative.

Slow villages from Austria to Morocco

The session continued with presentations on promoting tourism in Austria’s mountains through Slow Food Travel and Slow Food Villages projects; the recovery of the terraced landscape around the Trappa monastery in Italy, home to the Upper Elvo Raw Milk Butter Presidium and part of the network of Slow Food Travel; and the Slow Food community for the traditional agriculture and cuisine of Serwa Mountain in Morocco.

This article is adapted from an original which appeared on the FAO’s Mountain Partnership website.