Regional Value Added


Framework Conditions

Importance of Cooperation and Networking

Herb cultivation for the production of organic tea is an example for initiative co-operation among different stakeholders (Source: J. HEEB).
When creating regional value added, it does not suffice to focus only on economic development. It is particularly important to foster informal activities such as networking between project groups and initiatives, as this contributes to building consensus among the local population and increases the potential for regional development (DAX 2001; MÜHLINGHAUS & WÄLTY 2001; JOHNSEN, UMBACH-DANIEL & SCHNELL 2003).

But building up successful co-operations, networks or clusters is often very difficult due to individual strategies of stakeholders and active competition.
The establishment of "communication platforms" and "innovation co-operations" as two possible types of co-operation are seen as successful in regard to regional development in the Alps. They help to build up network structures, co-operation and clusters among different stakeholders and are an innovative way of dealing with arising problems (ROUX & HEEB 2002).

  1. Communication platforms are loosely structured social networks in which representatives of a particular action system are brought together with respect to a particular set of goals; these goals are the basis for communication. Platforms are thus a key factor for implementing change. Yet, due to their non-committal nature, platforms do show weaknesses when it comes to the implementation of project ideas. They are often constrained by the lack of clear structures and longer-term involvement.
  2. Innovation co-operations take on the task of realising the ideas developed by the communication platform. They also assurethe quality of the resulting products and services through the use of suitable quality control tools (see also tutorial "Change Management")
There are many benefits which result from co-operative action. Examples include:
  • economic benefits: production of a larger variety/quantity of products, use of a shared infrastructure (e.g. machines, transport system, training programs)
  • social benefits: profit of know-how and social networks for partners.
It is obvious that territorial and societal interrelations deserve particular attention for a long-term perspective. Moving from individual projects to cooperative and concerted action is a central learning process for all initiatives and guarantees a successful and sustainable generation of value added within a region.
Further Readings & Links

JOHNSEN et al. (2003)
This paper describes an ongoing project for the development of a monitoring system for sustainable tourism in the Swiss Alps.

DAX (2001)
Endogenous development in Austria's mountain regions: From a source of irritation to a mainstream movement.

Endogenous development in Swiss mountain communities: Local initiatives in Urnäsch and Schamserberg.

Valplantes Bio Alp Tea

Valplantes is a farming co-operative for organic herb teas and medicinal plants which was established in 1987 in the French-speaking part of the Swiss Canton of Valais. Some 150 families living in Sembrancher and the surrounding mountain communities grow, gather, dry and process organic medicinal herbs in keeping with the rules and quality standards of BioSuisse, the Swiss organisation for ecological farming. In doing so, the families of farmers not only earn an important additional income; they also help to keep alive mountain communities threatened by exodus.
The diversity of herbs ranges from edelweiss, sage and mint to pimpinella, ribwort and thyme. With their Bio Alp Tea the growers, who are advised by the RAC research centre in Conthey Châteauneuf and the Ecole d'Ingénieurs (engineering university) of the Canton of Valais, have successfully brought to market the world’s first organic iced tea.

Sage and Thyme Help to Secure Jobs

The farmers not only earn an important additional income, but keep alive mountain communities threatened by exodus (Source: VALPLANTES).
The project has had a positive effect on the environment and the economy by preserving traditional jobs in agriculture through organic cultivation, protecting the Alps’s unique meadow flora, and attracting green tourism as a secondary effect. Five jobs have been created at the co-operative itself. At the annual meetings, large and small-scale producers have equal voting rights. The energy balance is also noteworthy. As no machinery can be used on the steep slopes, all the harvesting is done by hand. And the fact that the herbs are dried naturally means substantial savings of energy and transport costs.
The Valplantes Bio Tea co-operative is also an asset item for the regional value added. Each year, more than 100 tonnes of organic herbs are produced, harvested and marketed to large Swiss food chains. The co-operative boasts an annual turnover of up to €1.3million. It means that older family members and also women farmers unable to work off their farms because they have small children have an opportunity to earn a living – and preserve traditional know-how.

The Role of Centres

Sion in Switzerland, with a typical Alpine agglomeration (Source: Joujou/
The urban centres of Alpine agglomerations play an essential role:
  • They have a supply function for the surrounding areas, which are reliant on workplaces and the functionality of the centre regions.
  • They guarantee for the public transport and
  • for the basic social and economic infrastructure which is essential for regional development.

Due to the marginal position of Alpine towns within national urban systems, they do not constitute an interrelated urban system and no primary centre exists.
In order to prevent the double disadvantage of lack of tertiary activities and dependency on the non-Alpine tertiary sector, a policy of strengthening small and medium towns in the Alps in order to increase the value of inner-Alpine lifestyles and economies and enhance town-country relations is preferable and should be encouraged within the boundaries set by ecological principles (PERLIK et al. 2001).

PERLIK et al. (2001)
This article presents a demarcation of urbanized zones in the Alps based on the French method of European functional urban areas (EFUAs). The comparison of 1980 and 1990 data on employment shows that growth sectors in the Alps are lagging behind those in peri-Alpine conurbations.

The Influence of Landscape

In the Alps, the landscape is considered an imported resource:
  • Protected zones have been set up in high-alpine regions where the flora and fauna are rare and glaciers are dwindling. The protection of the cultural landscape also increasingly ought to take priority over purely economic investments.
  • The surface area covered by mountain forests has grown by more than 30% since 1850. Recent studies show that visitors welcome these forests while locals bemoan the loss of the typical meadow and pasture landscape of their forefathers. Alpine forests also have a special protective function, helping to consolidate steep slopes and prevent avalanches and landslides.
Beispiel Beispiel
The surface area covered by mountain forests has grown by more than 30% since 1850. (Source: K. Conradin /
  • Many alpine huts and refuges, stables and haylofts have now been converted into holiday homes and secondary residences. Preserving some of these old structural assets certainly makes sense.
    But the seasonal utilisation rates of the buildings in and around winter sports centres has also disrupted the "traditional" alpine landscape and, as a result, impeded the establishment of "green tourism" in summer.
Beispiel Beispiel
The seasonal utilisation rates of the building in and around winter sports centres has also disrupted the "traditional"
alpine landscape and impeded the establishment of "green tourism" in summer (Source: G. Caminada).
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WALZ (2006)
Land use modelling for an integrated approach to regional development in the Swiss Alps.