Call for more strategic approach to mountain development
Big picture strategy needed to tackle chronic underdevelopment and new challenges like climate change
4 October 2007, Rome - Over 60 representatives from governments, civil society and international organizations from mountain countries across the globe have called for a more coherent approach to sustainable agriculture and rural development in the world's highland areas.
They did so in a statement issued at the close of the third meeting of the Adelboden Group for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in Mountain Regions held 1-3 October at FAO's Rome headquarters.
Physically isolated and socially and politically marginalized, mountain populations are among the most vulnerable in the world, FAO figures show. A disproportionate number of the world’s 840 million chronically undernourished people live in highland areas -- about 270 million mountain people lack food security, with 135 million suffering chronic hunger. Large numbers of additional people in lowland areas also depend on mountains for water, food and employment.
Despite these facts, mountains are rich in cultural heritage and natural resources -- better policies could help local communities make the most of these.
"Higher priority should be given to mountain issues in national, regional and global policymaking either through incorporating mountain specific requirements into general policies or through specific mountain policies," the Group said in a statement read at the end of its meeting.
Governments with mountain regions were urged to undertake systematic evaluations of mountain-relevant policies, better integrate mountain areas into national economies, and foster economic diversification in highland regions by helping farmers, craftsmen and foresters add value to their products. The Group noted that to be successful, such activities would require active participation by civil society and the private sector.
Empowering indigenous peoples, meeting new challenges
The group also stressed the need to provide policy support to indigenous mountain communities, whose traditional local knowledge and know-how often help conserve the mountain environment and biodiversity and represent a sustainable approach to highland agriculture.
In addition to existing issues of underdevelopment, a more strategic approach to mountain policy is also needed to help cope with new, emerging priorities such as climate change, growing levels of internal and regional migration in mountainous zones, and issues of gender equity in highland communities, the Group said.
The Adelboden Group was established in June 2002 in Adelboden, Switzerland. It serves as a forum for discussion of policies, exchanges of experience, and coordinated planning. It also acts as an advisory board for FAO's project on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in Mountain Regions (SARD-M).
Group members from various sectors of society agreed to take individual and collective action to promote the SARD-M approach to mountain development.
International organizations like the UN Development Programme and the UN Environment Programme, for instance, committed themselves to incorporating SARD-M principles into their work.
Civil society organizations, like the La Asociación Nacional de Fomento a la Agricultura Ecológica (ANAFAE) network in Central America and the world-wide Mountain Forum network also agreed to discuss the SARD-M approach with their memberships and encourage policymakers to adhere to the Adelboden Group's call for coherent mountain policymaking.
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Reservoirs of water, biodiversity, and culture
FAO estimates that mountains provide freshwater to roughly half of the global population, either by storing it, causing it to precipitate, or channelling it. In dry and arid zones as much as 90 percent of all freshwater comes from them.
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