We spoke with Anna Geiser (Zurich University of Applied Sciences) about the work on the MOVING Reference Region of Swiss Alps.
What role does the ZHAW play in the MOVING project?
The research team “Geography of Food” from the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) participates in MOVING as a case study partner and represents one of the best-known mountain regions in Europe: the Swiss Alps.
Why did you choose this value chain as a case study?
The cereal value chain in the Grisons mountains is an example of innovative diversification of agricultural production in a place that stands for difficult growing conditions. Historically, cereals have always been grown on small areas here, but production almost disappeared in the mid-twentieth century when the local mills started to disappear. Thanks to their pioneering spirit and the necessary ability to work together, a team of researchers and farmers revived organic cereal farming about 30 years ago. Today, about 90 farmers are united in a regional cereal cooperative that has created its own label (guarantee of origin and organic farming).
Who is the Multi-Actor Platform made up of?
Representatives of the cereal cooperative set the core of the regional MAP. So far, we have interacted with actors from all parts of the value chain such as government officials at cantonal and municipal levels, researchers, local nature park and – very important – representatives of the GranAlpin label, including grain producers. In the future, the platform hopes to include processing plants (mills and silos), tourism and gastronomy sectors, as well as local business actors.
What problems have you identified up to now?
Through the participatory vulnerability analysis that all MOVING reference regions are carrying out with the MAPs, we have identified that farmers we have met or questioned online are highly motivated to grow cereals. However, they also encounter many challenges. They can not increase the acreage as it would be in competition to the necessary fodder production for their cow herds – an essential part of the local transhumance farming system and high investments and support were set in organic milk production. We have also identified that water shortage and extreme weather events are the main problems triggered by climate change. They can already be felt today and will increase in the future. Beyond the farm gate, there is a severe lack of drying and storage infrastructure, which is old and used by other supply chains, like the conventional cereals from the lowlands. This means that extra effort for coordination must be made.
What has MOVING brought to the region so far?
We are still learning a lot about the mountain cereal value chain in Grisons, but we have been able to identify some problem areas together with stakeholders and have started to network the right people. In our last workshop we were able to bring together representatives from production and politics.
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