Local mountain communities key to sustainable economies


Professors, students and researchers of economics from around the world discussed the importance of sustainable mountain economies and how to promote development in mountain areas in Guiyang, China, on 6-8 May 2014. Organized by Guizhou University of Finance and Economics (GUFE) with support from the Guizhou provincial government and the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, the International Symposium on Mountain Economy zeroed in on the interrelated social, environmental and economic components that together make up the framework for sustainable mountain development.

GUFE President Chen Houyi explained that good governance, strong rural institutions and inclusive policies are essential to strengthening economies in remote areas. Recommendations by panellists and participants to strengthen mountain economies included:

- build upon traditional knowledge;
- empower local government authorities; and
- involve local communities in decision-making processes.

Traditional knowledge of mountain peoples in China, Panama, South Korea was cited as a source of  household income. For example, the Dong minority in the southeastern Guizhou province of China, explained Yuan Juanwen  of GUFE University, developed effective forestry techniques in planting and harvesting herbal medicines, terracing, paper making, fire prevention and rodent control.

Tourism, a strong economic sector in many mountain areas as it attracts 15-20 percent of the industry worldwide, was addressed by Vlatko Andownovski of Makmontana, who said that tourism can expand employment opportunities and raise the standards of living of remote communities. He underlined that  local communities should be involved in the businesses and benefit from the revenues generated.  

In discussing the implications of climate change for the livelihoods of mountain peoples and the protection of biodiversity, Bashir Wani of Mountain Areas Conservation and Development Services (MACDS) noted that climate change is affecting the agriculture sector in Bagrote Valley, Pakistan. Moreover, agricultural production is impacted by  sub-alpine invasive species moving to higher elevations, the greening period of pastures changing, crops and fruits ripening earlier and the Hinarchi glacier receding. 

Adrian Ward of Queensland University encouraged the use of climate finance for promoting projects and programmes in mountain areas. Several agricultural practices used in mountains - such as pasture rotation, revegetation of watersheds and zero tillage farming - contribute to carbon emission mitigation. In addition to mitigating climate change, these techniques hold economic potential since dedicated carbon markets or climate finance schemes are available to finance them.  

“Participants recognized that ensuring sustainability in the uplands actually means to take care of the sustainable growth of our planet as a whole,” said Alessia Vita of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, adding that mountain goods  and services are essential to both upland and lowland communities.

Chen Houyi thanked the Mountain Partnership Secretariat for facilitating international cooperation and exchanges towards the common goal of broadening the research on mountain economies. The three-day international gathering concluded with a visit to the new campus of GUFE University and to Xiaochehe Wetland Park.The 16-square kilometre  park is part of the Ecological Demonstration Zones plan of the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection to endorse cities and provinces that invest in improving their ecological performance.
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Photo:Adrian Ward

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