Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Armed conflict, hunger threaten sustainable mountain development in Asia-Pacific, says FAO

Nepal, 13 May 2002 -- Kathmandu ‑ Armed conflict and hunger are stalling efforts to reduce poverty and environmental degradation in Asia-Pacific mountains, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told senior government officers from these countries meeting here to discuss sustainable mountain development in the region.

“Peace in the mountains is a priority for the UN’s International Year of Mountains (IYM) being observed in 2002, FAO informed delegates from 27 Asia-Pacific countries at the 26th FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific. The world food and agriculture body is the lead UN agency for IYM activities”.

The conference, from 13 to 17 May, is reviewing the status of agriculture and food security in the region. It also aims to energise efforts to promote sustainable mountain development in the region.

[…] Armed conflicts have emerged as serious threats to mountain ecosystems and their inhabitants with 23 of the 27 major, armed conflicts in the world in the year 1999 being fought in mountain regions. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Asia was the theatre of 9 of the 25 major, armed conflicts that took place across the world in 2000. Most of these were armed separatist struggles.

“Mountain areas are home to most of the armed conflicts in the world as well as many of the world’s poorest and least food-secure populations,” says FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. “As we begin commemorating the International Year of Mountains, conflict may be the single greatest obstacle to achieving our goals. Without peace, we cannot reduce poverty. Without peace, we cannot ensure secure food supplies. Without peace, we cannot even consider sustainable development,” Dr Diouf added at the global launch of IYM at UN headquarters last year.

FAO is urging countries to tackle the root causes of conflict in the mountains. “Seek out your unique role as peacemaker,” said Dr. Diouf. “Once you establish that role, your role in sustainable development and conservation of mountains will also become clear.”

[…] Sustainable mountain development points to the need to identify and promote niches for mountain products and services such as specialised farm produce, environment and people-friendly models for hydroelectricity generation and tourism promotion, non-wood forest products and handicrafts. An example is the successful large cardamom agroforestry in the Eastern Himalaya in India, eastern Nepal and Bhutan. The agroforestry system combines a low labour intensity, high value, non-perishable crop with shade trees that control soil erosion, maintain nutrient balance and provide fuel, fodder and timber.

A primary aim is to integrate mountain and lowland economies. However, realistic and market-based prices must be ensured for mountain resources and produce. It is also important to promote local value addition to primary produce of mountain regions, improve post-harvest systems particularly storage systems for traditional crops, and provide basic physical and social infrastructure. The economic, environmental and social costs of externally driven resource extraction in the mountains must be accounted for.

[…] Another key requirement for sustainable mountain development is the availability of accurate information. Recent efforts to tackle the data scarcity on mountain ecosystems in the region include the Mountain Agricultural Systems Information Files (MASIF) being developed by the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). There is also need for the collection and analysis of data at regional, national and sub-national levels on population dynamics, natural resource inventories, economic output, poverty and other social indicators of mountain areas.

RAP 02/14

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