FAO Director-General kicks off International Mountain Day

Youth have a leading role to play in demanding support for fragile ecosystems exposed to hunger and climate risks

11 December  2019, Madrid - Youth are driving the world's climate agenda and can help on all fronts, including bolstering mountain ecosystems, FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said today in remarks opening International Mountain Day.

"Mountains matter for youth, and our future," he said at a high-level event held by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change during the COP25 climate summit.

"Nowadays, we are always looking forward, but forget to look back to where we are from. Our mountain ecosystems, and their benefits for the planet, are under threat," the Director-General said.

According to a recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, climate change is triggering the retreat of glaciers, while deforestation, degradation, mining and unsustainable farming also pose threats. 

FAO, the lead coordinating agency for International Mountain Day, also held a photography and mountain-food recipe contest for this year's celebration, which revolves around the theme "Mountains Matter for Youth".

Mountains cover almost 27 percent of the planet's surface and are home to more than 1.1 billion people. In 2017, 346 million people were vulnerable to food insecurity in rural mountain areas of developing countries - an increase of 12 percent since 2012 globally, and almost twice as much in Africa.

Mountains aso provide a vast amount of the world's fresh water and were the origin zones for maize, potatoes, barley, sorghum, tomatoes and apples - six of the 20 plant species that today supply 80 percent of the world's food.

Aim high with youth

Engaging youth has demonstrated results, as shown by the activities of the Mountain Partnership, of which FAO is a founder. For example, the partnership helped promote the specialty labeling of Jumla Beans - named after a district in Nepal - to boost local incomes and enable young women in farming families to further their education.

The availability of education and training, employment, and access to technology and services can ensure a brighter future for youth in mountains. When it comes to digital technologies, one pioneering  example involves, students in Japan and Kyrgyzstan who are using Skype to exchange technical knowledge on fruit processing and orchard management, particularly for a local mountain-grown variety of the seaberry, a vitamin rich fruit with a history of medicinal uses.

Each year, International Mountain Day generates a lot of interest around the world and presents an important opportunity to focus on improving and shortening value chains for products that mountain peoples' livelihoods depend on.

Photo: ©FAO/Karen Minasyan
Mount Ararat in Armenia.

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