The majority of the people of the Hindu Kush-Himalayas depend on subsistence agriculture and natural resources for their livelihoods. It is well documented that traditional agriculture alone is not sufficient to meet the food requirements of the growing population. Thus it is necessary to address the need to develop local income and employment options to tackle the chronic and growing poverty in mountain regions. The diversity of mountain conditions provides a comparative advantage for these areas to produce a variety of high value niche products and services. Medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs), indigenous honeybees, and mountain tourism are of particular interest as they have a strong potential to provide sustainable livelihood options for mountain people.
The changing global environment and society mean that opportunities need to be generated locally for mountain people to strengthen and adapt the niche products and services systems. The high value products sector in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas suffers from a multitude of constraints that prohibit mountain people from adequately benefiting from the products they collect and produce. Property rights are not clearly defined, the access to resources and markets is poor, farmers are confronted with secretive and disorganised market systems and biased information flows, and narrow benefit reaps mainly due to unprocessed selling of the products. The increasing market demand for many high value products leads to large scale and unsustainable exploitation, thereby threatening the very basic resource base and livelihood asset.