Key messages

  • Mountains cover about 25 percent of the earth’s land area  and are home to 12 percent of the world’s population.
  • They provide between 60-80 percent of the world’s population with fresh water for drinking, domestic use, irrigation, hydropower and industry. 
  • They support approximately 25 percent of terrestrial biodiversity as well as vital genetic resources for locally adapted crops and livestock.
  • Mountain ecosystems are extremely vulnerable to climate change – and consequences such as rapid glacier melting are far-reaching and potentially devastating.  
  • Mountain people are among the world’s poorest and hungriest: in developing countries, a vast majority live below the poverty line, and an estimated 300 million are food insecure.
  • Climate change, inappropriate land use, deforestation and population growth can endanger livelihoods, threaten biodiversity and trigger disasters such as floods and landslides



Promoting mountain products for better livelihoods 4 November 2015 Mountains cover 22 percent of the world’s land surface and are home to some 915 million people, representing 13 percent of global population. Yet 1 out of 3 mountain people in developing countries is vulnerable to food insecurity and faces poverty and isolation. Mountain peoples, who are largely family farmers, base their livelihoods on highly diversified activities. Over generations they have developed unique, resilient and sustainable production systems adapted to their local environments which favour the production of niche and mountain-specific products and services. [more]
Mountain Farming is Family Farming 6 February 2014 A contribution from mountain areas to the International Year of Family Farming 2014. [more]
Mountains and the Sustainable Development Goals 6 February 2014 This call to action - by mountain countries, organizations, communities – aims to help ensure that mountains are included in the Sustainable Development Goals, which will take effect when the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015. [more]
Why invest in sustainable mountain development? 23 February 2011 By providing key environmental services such as freshwater, biodiversity conservation and hydropower to more than half of humanity, mountain ecosystems play a critical role in world development [more]
Highlands and Drylands 15 February 2011 Dryland mountains are of great strategic value to regional and global development. They provide up to 90% of the freshwater supply to surrounding dry lowlands. More than a quarter of the world’s biodiversity hotspots and six out of eight Vavilov Centres of Diversity are found in dryland mountains. Yet these mountain regions are under increasing threat from climate change and unsustainable forms of land use, including mining and tourism. [more]



Field projects

 FAO is an active member of the Mountain Partnership, a voluntary alliance of partners dedicated to improving the lives of mountain people and protecting mountain environments around the world. Through its membership and expertise the organization addresses the challenges facing mountain regions and stimulates initiatives that will ensure improved quality of life and environments in the world’s mountain regions.         
FAO has been actively conducting work in the fields of sustainable mountain development, watershed management and forest hydrology.                                                                                                      

last updated:  Monday, July 28, 2014