Moving to organic and climate-friendly methods in Alpine farming

Basic information:

Mountain agriculture plays a central role in ensuring Alpine traditional landscape, regional breeds and species and preserving local culture, heritage and traditional techniques. The characteristics of Alpine food products & their market position call for higher quality that can have a considerable impact in reducing GHG emissions of agriculture.

Organic agriculture is known to exert less direct environmental impact on soils than traditional agriculture. Moreover, the use of heavy and energy-intensive methods that is often found in intensive farming and livestock farming is relatively scarce in Alpine regions also due to the limited attractiveness of the land for large productions. Against this background, farming in the Alps looks like a suitable place for adopting and testing organic and other low impact approaches to smaller food productions. This would require however a clear productive choice to be ideally supported by regional and national policy makers in order to achieve measurable targets.

Sequence of implementation steps:

Mapping of organic farming in the Alps including information on management techniques, use of pesticides and other chemicals etc. as well as their GHG reduction potential

Identification of the organic farming “gap” against the target of 50% of Alpine agriculture shifted to organic methods by 2050

  1. Development of a set of scenarios for organic/climate-friendly farming in the Alps.
  2. Gap analysis and business/strategic planning for filling in the gaps
  3. Identification of innovative management techniques being able to support the transition to a higher share of organic farming in the Alps at a reasonable cost (e.g., extensive agriculture, CO₂ storage of pastures and moorlands through grazing management plans, dual purpose breeds introduced, reduced use of fertilisers, low-taxation areas or production systems, incentivisation of small mechanization, etc.)
  4. Identification of possible solutions for the reduction of the costs of transition to organic farming

Inventory of existing initiatives at different territorial levels supporting a transition from traditional to organic farming in the Alpine regions

Identification of the multiple benefits of organic farming also through the Ecosystem Services (ESS) approach (including the social positive spillover effects e.g., in terms of contrasting out-migration, etc.)

Identification of the “policy gap” (i.e. existing legal or institutional barriers to a shift to organic/climate friendly farming) for different territorial units

First: Assessment of benefits and costs in alternative modes of farming (organic & traditional) in terms of e.g., yields and productivity, costs, demand for land, demand for crops and farming products and identification of situations where the transition can be sustainable (e.g., local level/alongside industrial production)

Elaboration of proposals of policy actions for increasing the share of organic farming in the Alpine regions up to 50%

Starting dialogue with relevant policy makers and stakeholders in the farming sector particularly regions, associations, firms aimed at introducing incentives/removing barriers to a wider use of organic farming in the Alps

The indicator/target could either refer to land use or to production (quantity or revenues or share of regional agricultural products, etc.)

Introduction/Implementation of or increase in (depending on different countries) voluntary initiatives for organic farming (schemes) by firms and administrations (e.g., “organic/climate-friendly” procurement by involved administrations and private entrepreneurs in the hospitality sector not necessarily limited to the stricter mountain regions; etc.)

Further Information:

This pathway needs the involvement of the following stakeholder categories:

  • Farmers’ associations, consumers’ groups (local and from larger towns), policy makers (regional, local including larger towns), consultancy firms or researchers/universities
Significant increase of the share of Alpine agriculture adopting climate-friendly and organic farming methods, resulting in the sub-outputs reported below:

  • Strong reduction in the use of chemicals in farming
  • Decrease in the use of energy and CO₂ -intensive methods in mountain farming
  • Increase of organic farming up to 50% of the Alpine farming by 2050 (with respect to agricultural land)
  • Introduction of Alpine scheme(s) for CO₂ -friendly or CO₂ -neutral agriculture in the Alps
  • Step 1a: Number of maps and assessment of gap
  • Step 1b: Number of scenarios and relative gaps
  • Step 2: Current share or extension of land used for organic farming
  • Step 3: Schemes developed and applied/tested
  • Report “Adopt an Alpine bio/organic valley” (2019)
  • Existing documentation of the mountain farming working group




Mountain agriculture plays a central role in ensuring Alpine traditional landscape, regional breeds and species and preserving local culture, heritage and traditional techniques. However, mountain agriculture is also highly environmentally sensitive and therefore especially vulnerable to climate change. This characteristic and the market position of Alpine food products as high quality and “niche” products pave the way for additional climate-change efforts of mountain farmers. Besides reducing greenhouse-gas emission of mountain agriculture, these efforts may also help increase value-added and income in the agricultural sector in the Alps.