Indigenous peoples and local communities

The involvement of indigenous peoples and local communities is a prerequisite for sustainable mountain development. The traditional knowledge and food production systems of indigenous and traditional mountain communities provide important lessons on how to adapt to climate change, and are a reflection of value systems that place ecosystem preservation at the centre of their belief systems.

For indigenous peoples and local communities living in mountain areas, land, water and forests are not simply natural resources to be used. As their ancestors before them, today’s mountain dwellers understand that their well-being, their group identity and their children’s future depend on the careful stewardship of the environment. This ‘intangible heritage’ also enriches the global community, providing inspiration and insights for realizing a more sustainable relationship between humankind and the environment.

Mountain peoples cultivate a wide variety of crops that are adapted to a range of different elevations, slope conditions and microclimates. Moreover, indigenous local farmers in mountains around the world have explicitly designed their agricultural systems to protect the soil from erosion, conserve water resources and reduce the risks of disasters triggered by natural hazards. These agricultural systems contribute to the protection of ecosystems, with tangible benefits also for communities downstream. In fact, it is widely recognized that while indigenous peoples only make up 5% of the world’s population, they are considered custodians of as much as 80% of the world’s biodiversity.

Therefore, mountain-dwelling indigenous peoples and local communities serve as custodians of traditional knowledge and biodiversity, including agro biodiversity. It is important to recognize in indigenous mountain communities that men and women often have different areas of knowledge, experience and responsibility that contribute to preserving biodiversity, therefore special attention should be given to the knowledge and contributions of indigenous women.

Despite the demonstrated importance of indigenous food systems and the broader set of cultural practices from which they derive, these are in danger of being transformed beyond recognition by the demographic, economic and environmental changes underway in mountain areas today. Many indigenous mountain peoples are losing their lands as a result of phenomena such as encroachment, forced displacement, rural-to-urban migration and soil degradation. Indigenous foods, stigmatized as ‘foods of the poor’, are often abandoned in favour of non-local foods that may be more readily available or convenient to cook but often contain high levels of sugar and fat and have relatively low nutritional value. This phenomenon compounds the problem of relatively high rates of iodine and vitamin A micronutrient deficiencies found in impoverished mountain communities.

With climate change scenarios strongly suggesting that if current trends continue, extreme weather events are likely to become ever more common and more intense in mountain areas, it is necessary integrate indigenous agricultural systems and their historical perspectives on climate variability as key-tools in climate change adaptation strategies. The Mountain Partnership advocates for global attention and tangible commitments from the international community to achieving sustainable mountain development. This includes the inclusion of indigenous knowledge in responding to climate change adaptation, as stipulated by the UNFCCC COP21 Paris Agreement, and the right of indigenous peoples to their land, territories and resources, as stipulated by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous Mountain Peoples Map

 

White/Wiphala Paper on Indigenous Peoples

White/Wiphala Paper on Indigenous Peoples' food systems

publication

This White/Wiphala paper on Indigenous Peoples’ food systems is the result of collective work by Indigenous Peoples’ representatives and experts, scientists, researchers, and UN staff. Over 47 different units, organizations and institutions, including the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, have contributed to the Paper from the seven socio-cultural regions. This final version...

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Members’ voices: Mathew John, Last Forest

Members’ voices: Mathew John, Last Forest

news

Last Forest is a social enterprise pioneering sustainable living choices by connecting communities to markets. We promote eco-friendly, thoughtful and meaningful products made by indigenous communities in the mountains of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in South India.

Indigenous communities represent 8.6 percent of the population of India. They are the...

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A wild Andean blueberry boosts livelihoods in Peru

A wild Andean blueberry boosts livelihoods in Peru

news

The Callejón de Conchucos is a set of valleys located above 3 000 metres running along the eastern slope of the Cordillera Blanca in Ancash, Peru. Remote villages and archaeological sites abound here between breathtaking mountainous views.

It is here, high in the Andes, that a wild variety of blueberry, Vaccinium...

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MP

MP's dialogue highlights sustainable food systems in mountains

news

The diversity of mountain food systems and the role of mountain people as custodians of knowledge and agrobiodiversity were highlighted in an Independent Dialogue organized by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat to inform the first-ever UN Food Systems Summit. This milestone Summit, which will take place in New York in September...

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Mountains and sustainable food systems: Drivers of sustainable development

Mountains and sustainable food systems: Drivers of sustainable development

event

As a contribution to the UN Food Systems Summit 2021, the Mountain Partnership Secretariat will host an independent dialogue on "Mountains and sustainable food systems: Drivers of sustainable development" on 18 May. The dialogue aims to show the specificity of mountain food systems as well as generate innovative and...

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Highlighting sustainable food systems in mountains for the UN Food Systems Summit 2021

Highlighting sustainable food systems in mountains for the UN Food Systems Summit 2021

publication

As a contribution to the discussion on sustainable food systems in mountains in the lead up to the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, an info sheet has been developed by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat and Theresa Tribaldos, Centre for Development and Environment.

Mountain agriculture and food production sustain the livelihoods of...

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