Mountain agriculture, key to achieving zero hunger in Asia


The Regional Initiative on Zero Hunger in Asia and the Pacific has identified the “strengthening of mountain agriculture and food systems” as one of the key programmatic work areas. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “International Workshop and Regional Expert Consultation on Mountain Agriculture Development and Food Security and Nutrition Governance” took place in Beijing, China to identify entry points and policy mechanisms promoting mountain agriculture development, strengthening food security and nutrition governance for zero hunger and poverty reduction.

The Committee for Food Security (CFS), Vice Chair Mahmoud El Solh, highlighted in his keynote speech the vulnerability to food insecurity and malnutrition of mountain people, compounded by the vicious circle of poverty and exploitation of natural resources. Thomas Hofer, FAO’s Regional Office Asia and Pacific Senior Forestry Officer pointed out the challenging situation in Asia, where according to the vulnerability study in 2012, 43 percent of mountain people in Asia were considered food insecure (402 of 915 Mio).

In the session titled ‘Promoting integrated Value Chain and Market Access for Mountain products’ Michelle Geringer, Mountain Partnership Secretariat officer, presented the Mountain Partnership Products Initiative as an approach to tap into the niche market for high-quality mountain products. She mentioned in her presentation that Jumla Mixed Beans in production in Nepal has increased by 40 percent and sale has increased by 25 percent since the labelling in 2016. Nevertheless, she said that is a difficult task to promote an increase in production while guaranteeing environmental sustainability.

Eight Asian countries (Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Lao PDR, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) in which the FAO RAP Zero Hunger Initiative has been implemented in their country studies, shared their constraints, gaps and opportunities on mountain agriculture development for poverty reduction and zero hunger. The reports revealed that despite positive development of reducing poverty nation-wide the countries are suffering with similar problems such as the disinterest of youth in agriculture, feminization of agriculture and out-migration as well as changing climate which impacts the natural resources management.

On the final day, experts and participants convened for three different policy dialogue sessions to discuss gaps and challenges of mountain agriculture within national policies and strategies for mountain agriculture, food security and nutrition governance development.

As an outcome of the workshop Mahmoud El Solh presented ‘Recommendations for Policy Makers for Sustainable Development of Mountain Agriculture.’ He highlighted that it is crucial to raise awareness internationally about ecosystem services provided by mountains.

In the closing remarks David Molden, Director of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) highlighted the need to stand up collectively for mountain issues and raise the voice of mountain people not only nationally but internationally, as mountains are hotspots for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), climate change and migration. Additionally, FAO’s DDG Daniel Gustafson raised his concerns for the existing imbalance between the recognition of mountains internationally and their importance. He advocated for increased joint efforts in order to bring added-value to mountain products and to empower mountain people, in particular mountain women.

The workshop was organized by FAO and the University of International Relations (China) in collaboration with the FAO Special Ambassador of the International Year of Pulses 2016, the Mountain Partnership, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, ICIMOD and the University of Western Australia. The participants included experts, national focal point on zero hunger, government officials, academics and research partners.

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