The members of the Interim Bureau of the Adelboden Group, who were elected for two years in October 2004, met at FAO headquarters in Rome from 12-14 December 2005. The Adelboden Group, which is a platform for discussion of policies and policy instruments, exchange of experience and preparation of initiatives for sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD) in mountain regions, is comprised of representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society from all regions of the world. The Adelboden Group also serves as a consultative body for the SARD-M Project and identified the following inter-related priorities for 2005:
1. Assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of mountain policies, including social, economic, institutional and environmental aspects, in relation to SARD principles.
2. Strengthening of local institutions, by developing training materials and sessions, in close collaboration with NGOs, producers’ associations, cooperatives and community-based organizations.
3. Analysis of positive and negative externalities of mountain regions.
The main purpose of the 2005 consultation was to provide the Interim Bureau with an update on the activities being conducted for each of these three priorities for 2005, receive recommendations for improvement and obtain advice for proposed activities for 2006.
A good start to the project
The assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of existing policies, institutions and processes for SARD in mountain areas has been the major activity for 2005 and a logical starting point of the project. The SARD-M Project Team gave an in-depth presentation of the overall processes and activities involved in the implementation of these policy assessments, including an explanation of a database on SARD-M policy-related documentation and the main elements of a methodological framework developed to guide policy assessments. Assessments, which are being conducted in different regions of the world, try to bring about a better understanding of how the SARD framework is applicable to mountain regions and examine the types of policies and policy packages, institutions and processes that are important to achieve SARD in mountain areas. Attention is paid to how comparative advantages and specific qualities or specificities of mountains can be harnessed to promote development in a sustainable manner. More information on the activities can be found on the SARD-M website in the “Ongoing activities” section. Overviews were also presented concerning activities conducted with regard to the second and third priorities.
The Interim Bureau of the Adelboden Group expressed its satisfaction with the progress made since the launching of the Project in late February 2005, particularly considering the time required to establish partnerships with the Regional Focal Points (RFP), the key partners for the implementation of project activities. The Regional Focal Points have a major responsibility in the overall implementation of the project and the second meeting of the focal points planned for early 2006 will be a major opportunity to make decisions on how to manage the next steps.
The initial results obtained from assessments conducted in the Carpathian Mountains and Central America, and the direction being taken for assessments currently underway in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas, Mediterranean Basin and the Andes were also felt to be demand-driven and fully in line with the participatory nature and overall spirit of the project. As one of the members of the Interim Bureau noted following the presentation of activities in the Carpathians:
“The policy assessment activities in the Carpathian Mountains strongly reflect three ideas of the SARD-M Project philosophy. They provide a good example of synergy-building through its collaboration with the UNEP/Interim Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention, have responded to an existing demand, and are not just a one-off event but have yielded results and proposals for follow-up activities.”
The regional workshops that are held to discuss policy assessments conducted in each region were also seen as important. They not only allow stakeholders to share experiences but also allow for the identification of priorities for follow-up actions.
With regard to the second and third priorities of the project, the Interim Bureau supported the continuation of the efforts made by the SARD-M Project in developing synergies with other projects and programmes. In particular, collaboration with EUROMONTANA and the FAO Roles of Agriculture Project were considered to be important for further developing the third priority of analyzing positive and negative mountain externalities.
Flexibility and collective learning approach
The Interim Bureau expressed its appreciation for the methodological framework that had been developed by the SARD-M Project Team in collaboration with the Regional Focal Points and the FAO Interdepartmental Task Force for the SARD-M Project. This framework, which had been developed to ensure coherence and harmony between the policy assessments conducted in the various regions, will continue to be improved taking into account lessons learned from the field.
Given the vastness and complexity of SARD, one of the important elements of the methodological framework has been the need to select entry points (key policy areas such as livelihood promotion, environmental resources, etc.) in each country/territory of the regions, while taking into consideration the cross-sectoral nature of SARD in the final analysis. While “entry points” may differ, the “exit points” should be the same so that by the end of the project some comparable policy recommendations, within the framework of the SARD-M Project, can be made.
“The consultative process in developing and identifying policy assessment entry points is something that is much appreciated...the willingness to continually revise the methodological framework throughout the life of the project is also much appreciated as it reflects the collective learning approach being adopted by the project.”
Working towards improving project implementation
Overall it was agreed that the SARD-M Project should continue its activities in the identified priority areas and the propositions made for activities in 2006 were thought to be relevant. As the second priority on strengthening local institutions was considered to be a longer term goal, it was felt that for 2006 a greater emphasis should be placed on the first and third priorities.
Another issue raised by the Interim Bureau concerned the fact that while the economic and environmental aspects of sustainable development were well addressed by the project activities, a more conscious effort needed to be made to address social and cultural dimensions, notably issues concerning indigenous people. The activities to be developed with regard to the analysis of mountain externalities would also provide an opportunity to better examine social and cultural issues.
The SARD-M Project Team had also identified a need to foster closer links and interactions between Regional Focal Points. The Interim Bureau strongly supported such efforts and also encouraged the development of further linkages and synergies with other projects in each of the project priority areas, notably with the SARD-Initiative and the Mountain Partnership.
Future activities of the Adelboden Group
The Adelboden Group will continue its role as a platform for discussion on policies for SARD in mountain areas and as a consultative body for the SARD-M Project. Members of the Adelboden Group will also attend the upcoming International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD) in Porto Alegro, Brazil, in March 2006. The concrete contributions of the Adelboden Group to the conference will be developed in the coming weeks. It was also agreed that the next meeting of the Adelboden Group should be held at the end of 2006 or early 2007.