The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has created a Mountain Partnership Product label for products grown in remote mountainous regions, says a report by Reuters. This label would be placed on products such as purple rice from the Himalayas, hairless apricots from Kyrgyzstan and black amaranth grain from the Andes, which account for only some of the high-quality products grown in remote mountain regions. The incentive behind the new label is to help these farmers get fair compensation for their wares, by placing the products at a premium.

Currently, expensive middlemen transport the crops down from the mountains which, by the time they reach the marketplace, get mixed up with similar but inferior produce and are sold at the same price. Mountain farmers only get a 10% of the market price while lowland farmers get 50%. FAO hopes that by working with retailers to get a better price on these products and reduce the number of middlemen for some crops, these farmers will have a larger stake in the marketplace.

Not only that, but by incentivizing mountain farmers to continue their trade, FAO is also supporting custodians of fresh water and biodiversity in these regions. According to the mountain partnership, 70% of the world’s fresh water supplies and 25% of the planet’s biodiversity come from these mountainous regions, which are also home to 900 million people. Unfortunately, many of these communities are indigenous, often lacking the rights and access to school and hospitals enjoyed by lowland areas as well as a greater susceptibility to hunger, forcing the men to find work outside of their communities and leaving behind the women to tend the land.

The label was designed in partnership with Slow Food, an international grassroots movement. FAO will issue the label for free to small-scale farmers and farmers’ association who can substantiate that their produce is only found in the mountains with low environmental impact. It will not replace other certification like Fair Trade.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine November 2016