New project promotes indigenous food and sustainable tourism in the Philippines
Slow Food and the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, hosted by FAO, have signed an agreement to improve the livelihoods of mountain people, with special focus on Cordillera’s mountain community in the Philippines. The agreement came ahead of today’s International Mountain Day – a day celebrated each year on December 11 to highlight the importance of mountains to people’s lives and livelihoods.
The two organizations committed to creating stronger synergies between mountain food products and sustainable tourism services. This includes promoting high-quality, indigenous, mountain food products and helping vulnerable mountain communities to tap into the rising demand for sustainable, fair-trade, quality food.
At the centre of the new agreement signed today lies a pilot project – “Food & Tourism for Mountain Development” – developed by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, Slow Food and the Department of Tourism in the Philippines.
“The project will connect small-scale producers with tourism service providers, help promote high-quality mountain products from Philippines’ Cordillera region, and allow visitors to discover and support unique biodiversity, like heirloom rice,” said FAO Project Coordinator Giorgio Grussu.
“It will help safeguard indigenous foods whilst boosting the local economy, promoting climate resilient agriculture and generating more income for Cordillera’s mountain communities,” he added.
“This collaboration shows how the global development community can seek to successfully leverage sustainable tourism in the drive to strengthen the sustainability of food systems and protect agricultural biodiversity while providing alternative but crucial livelihood strategies to smallholder farmers and food value chain actors at a local, regional and global level,” said Slow Food Secretary General Paolo di Croce.
The project builds on the voluntary labelling scheme for mountain products (MPP) developed by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat and Slow Food in 2016. The scheme promotes access to markets for small mountain producers in developing countries, enabling them to obtain a fair price for their products, and helps customers make more informed purchases. It also draws from the Slow Food Travel initiative, which creates travel itineraries that promote local culture and gastronomic diversity.
Food and tourism for mountain development in the Philippines
“The Department of Tourism of the Philippines will be an active partner in the development and implementation of a sustainable model of tourism. We want to promote an approach that celebrates the bounty that our magnificent mountains offer and raise awareness about the importance of preserving biodiversity, mountain products and cultural heritage,” said Secretary of the Department of Tourism of the Philippines, Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.
The Cordilleras is the most mountainous region of the Philippines. It is also one of the poorest and most marginalized, with poverty levels above 40 percent – twice as much as the national average.
The new project, funded by Italy, will be implemented in Cordilleras’ Benguet and Ifugao provinces, for the benefit of more than 800 000 people.
The region’s mountains host unique rice terraces, including the Ifugao Rice Terraces – recognized as both a UNESCO World Heritage site and an FAO Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS).
Over the last century, the Ifugao Rice Terraces have provided a range of goods and services – food, timber and water. However, more recently, these remarkable terraces have been under threat – suffering from the severe negative impacts of climate change, environmental degradation, unregulated development and neglect.
The project will help identify high-quality mountain products, such as the Ifugao rice, enlist them in the voluntary labelling scheme for mountain products, train small-scale producers in agro-ecological and Slow Food practises, and support them to market their products, by connecting them to tourism service providers, chefs and specialised food businesses and outlets across the country.
The Cordillera region has a high number and range of quality, heritage food products that are endangered.
The Slow Food – Ark of taste – an international catalogue of endangered heritage foods – lists 62 products from the Philippines, including from the Cordilleras. These include: Ayusip (wild berry), Baya Rice wine, Benguet coffee, Cordillera Black native pig/Alingo, Imbuucan/Tinnawon Rice, Ifugao Diket/Ingapur rice, LuyingDilaw/Coing Wild Ginger, Nipa vinegar/Sukang Nipa – all from the provinces targeted by the project.
The Cordilleras are also home to wild plants used in Chinese medicine, such as the Sarcanda Glabara herb, or Gipah – valued for its anti-inflammatory and detoxifying qualities.
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