International awareness of the need for a global drive to improve the lot of mountain people first was stirred at the Earth Summit in Rio in 2002. The International Year of Mountains followed in 2002, as did the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. The international conference on sustainable agriculture and rural development in mountain regions organized by the Swiss Government in collaboration with FAO at Adelboden, Switzerland in June 2002 provided the impetus and means to begin formulating the project.
Under the FAO umbrella, leading civil society groups, international organizations and governments that had shown a commitment to improving mountain conditions formulated and in 2005 launched the project, which will run until 2008. Activities will take place at country level, all over the world, marshalling the all-important good will, skills and knowledge of people and organizations. The SARD-M project will build on existing structures, networks, projects and programmes, and will create a network of regional focal points to manage the project on the ground.
The project provides a bridge between Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development and Mountain issues. It aims to facilitate the design and implementation of new policy packages for sustainable agriculture and rural development in mountain regions, taking into consideration the essential linkages between mountain and lowland populations.
Priorities areas of action are the following:
1- Assess the strengths and weaknesses of mountain policies, including social, economic, institutional and environmental aspects, in relation to sustainable agriculture and rural development principles;
2- Strengthen local institutions by developing training materials and courses, in close collaboration with NGOs, producers’ associations, cooperatives and community-based organizations;
3- Analyze positive and negative externalities of mountain regions through a comparative review of existing methods and tools.
The SARD-M project is being implemented by FAO with the support of France, Japan and Switzerland.