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Enhancing Mountain Products: Insights from the TOP-Value EU Interreg Project

by | Feb 14, 2024 | European stakeholders

Author: Francesca Alampi (AREPO)

As part of the Horizon2020 project “MOVING”, AREPO is currently conducting an analysis on the implementation of the Optional Quality Term (OQT) “Mountain Product”. This initiative aims to update the report periodically published by Euromontana on this topic since 2016.

The initial desk research has drawn our attention to the results of TOP-Value, a three-year EU Interreg co-funded project that ran from January 2017 to December 2019. It aimed to encourage producers “”in the cross-border regions between Italy and Austria, specifically in Carinthia (Austria), Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto (Italy), to adopt the OQT “Mountain Product”.

Elevating mountain products

The TOP-Value project focused on leveraging the OQT to enhance the value of mountain area products, inform consumers more effectively, and strengthen territorial competitiveness. This approach was designed to increase local income and preserve local production practices and the natural environment.

Significantly, TOP-Value ventured beyond just enhancing the economic value of mountain agri-food production. It introduced an innovative approach to valorise mountain products by quantifying associated ecosystem services, such asbiodiversity, landscape aesthetics, animal welfare, and adherence to emissions regulations.

These aspects, often hidden within the broader concept of food quality, are the result of the constant hard work of farmers and are essential for both the social and environmental sustainability of high-quality products. They also play a critical role in meeting the expectations of tourists and consumers, as the presence of agricultural and livestock activities, coupled with proper resource management, sustains a vital socio-economic fabric in marginal areas, preserving local traditions and culture, This, in turn, safeguards the territory and makes it attractive for tourists and recreational activities.

Guiding a new perception

The project seeks to guide consumers and producers towards a greater recognition of the role played by mountain agriculture and animal husbandry. It promotes these sectors not just as primary goods production systems but also as essential service providers.

Key ecosystem services addressed by the project include:

  1. Plant and Landscape Biodiversity: Highlighting the role of mountain products in preserving unique plant and landscape biodiversity.
  2. Protection of Animal Welfare: Stressing the ethical treatment of animals in the production process.
  3. Environmental and Social Sustainability: Advocating for practices that reduce CO2 emissions and support the social sustainability of mountain farming.

This approach aimed to create effective communication strategies that showcased traditional mountain products, making them central to a lively and attractive transboundary area.

Practical solutions and tools

TOP-Value’s case studies have been instrumental in identifying challenges associated with adopting the OQT for mountain products, providing practical solutions for producers.

These solutions include the following tools:

  • A consumer guide on quality schemes: “Logos, Labels, Quality…A guide to the finer points of the schemes”, available in English, Italian, Dutch
  • An e-learning course for producers on different agri-food quality systems;
  • Guidelines for a methodological and organisational procedure to assist mountain dairies in managing milk supply traceability, in compliance with EU Regulation;
  • Scientific reports detailing data collection and processing protocols, summarising the results obtained from each ecosystem service study;
  • A Report assessing consumer awareness and willingness to pay for “mountain products”, alongside the economic impact on dairy farms post the adoption of the OQT. 
Discover more

The TOP-Value project might serve as a model of sustainable and holistic development in mountain regions. By linking ecosystem services to the OQT “Mountain Product,” it has not only empowered local producers but also has fostered a more sustainable, attractive, and economically viable cross-border area between Italy and Austria. This project exemplifies how enhancing productive activities in mountain areas helps maintain a balance between human action and the environment, crucial for ‘resilience’ against increasing climatic-environmental stresses.

More information is available here: https://keep.eu/projects/18309/Value-of-mountain-products-EN/ 

And in the website of the project partners: