Specials Environment
AGENDA 21 10 Land resources 11 Deforestation 12 Desertification 13 Mountains
14 SARD 15 Biodiversity Climate Energy

Progress Report
FAO, June 1997
Chapter 13:
mountain development

The challenge

Complex environmental and socio-economic problems affect many of the world's mountain areas. In countries such as Nepal, Ethiopia and Peru mountain communities are among the world's poorest populations. With the growing emigration of males in search of employment, much of the subsistence farming is now performed by women and children. Frequently, farmers lack legal title to land and have little access to finance, extension advice or decision making processes. Mountain populations are often neglected in programmes for education, health and infrastructure.

Agenda 21/Chapter 13 calls for action to improve our knowledge of mountain ecosystems, to foster integrated watershed development and to create alternative livelihood opportunities for mountain peoples. However, international agencies lack programmes for integrating mountain development in national economies; at country level, government agencies and legislation rarely deal in a comprehensive way with mountain issues.

Action for sustainable mountain development must begin with recognition that long-term conservation of mountain areas is not simply a matter of creating lowland industries to encourage upland depopulation. Sustainability depends on increased technical assistance and services, and empowerment of mountain people through land titling, improved social organization, decentralization and job creation. Women need special assistance, through reproductive health and nutritional services, literacy programmes and involvement in technology development and transfer.

Governments need to reconsider the flow of resources and services to and from mountain areas. Water tariffs, forest and mining royalties, grazing leases, fees for access to national parks and licences for tourist operations are all potential sources of income for mountain communities.

Progress since UNCED

In support of the "Mountain Agenda", an inter-agency Chapter 13 network was created in 1994 made up of representatives of UN agencies and international NGOs involved in mountain development and conservation. The active participation of organizations from outside the UN system helped include a wide range of views and perspectives.

International and regional consultations have generated greater awareness of the Mountain Agenda and improved coordination in sustainable mountain development. These fora - including intergovernmental consultations for Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, and a regional NGO consultation for Europe - have produced key recommendations for global and regional action. Other important meetings include an international NGO consultation in Lima, Peru in 1995. A regional meeting for North America is planned in 1997.

New institutional arrangements at global and regional levels - including creation in 1995 of the Mountain Forum, a network of organizations and institutions with a shared interest in sustainable mountain development - have helped improve networking and provided clearing houses for information.

Progress has also been made in biodiversity conservation - governments have established new protected areas, begun trans-frontier collaboration in protected area management, and supported initiatives to create large protected bioregions using mountai range corridors.

Land-use planning and management tools are being developed for mountain watershed development programmes. Work on criteria and indicators for sustainable mountain development is continuing, with greater involvement of end-users and practitioners at country level, where there is a great need for practical tools to assess sustainability.

Key issues

Future directions

A new level of awareness of mountain issues has been achieved since UNCED. However, action is needed to improve institutional arrangements at national level, address the special concerns of mountainous island countries, and improve, through integrated survey work, the global knowledge base on mountain ecosystems.

FAO will continue to play a leading role in moving the Mountain Agenda forward - for example, through information collection and dissemination to reinforce the exchange mechanisms that are developing through decentralized networks such as the Mountain Forum.

FAO and other UN agencies are responding to the challenges of the Mountain Agenda by adapting their programmes and operational methods. FAO has already revised its traditional approach to watershed management and protection to embrace a much broader vision of conservation and development in mountain regions through participatory and integrated approaches.

An international meeting on sustainable mountain development should be the next step in the consultation process begun under Chapter 13. The meeting should focus on clearly defined key issues, such as mobilizing financial resources and defining legal and institutional mechanisms. Several governments have already expressed support for such a meeting.

The outcome of this meeting, and other action taken over the next few years, will be an important indicator of how far Chapter 13 has progressed. Increased awareness must necessarily be followed by new legislation, institutional reform, networking and development of planning.

A continued spirit of partnership and commitment is crucial to future progress. Although consensus has been reached on many important issues, the real challenge will be finding the political commitment and financial means to address them adequately.

The role of FAO

As Task Manager for Chapter 13, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is playing a lead role in promoting and coordinating the Mountain Agenda at all levels. It directly supports initiatives aimed at alleviating poverty in mountain areas and at strengthening international cooperation and information exchange in such areas as watershed management and farming systems development.

FAO is also helping governments and organizations in generating national capacity for sustainable mountain development. It provides advice in the formulation of mountain action plans and investment programmes, encourages the participation of mountain community representatives in national development planning, and promotes conservation and development of mountain-specific technologies and cultures. As a global forum for discussion on rural development, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, FAO will continue to draw attention to the need for a balanced approach to mountain development.

Institutional arrangements

FAO works in partnership with many agencies and organizations involved in mountain development and conservation.

Global level. The Chapter 13 inter-agency network has proven effective in ensuring full collaboration in implementation of the Mountain Agenda. Collaboration with The Mountain Institute has produced a new publication, Investing in mountains, which presents findings of the 1996 Mountain Forum electronic conference.

Regional level. FAO has helped promote and organize intergovernmental and NGO regional consultations. Through these consultations, new partnerships have been developed with IUCN, ICALPE, CIP, ILRI, ICIMOD and other organizations.

National level. FAO's Field Programme provides technical assistance to governments in watershed management and sustainable mountain development. In Latin America, the FAO Regional Office sponsored a regional consultation on watershed management and is helping to formulate related national programmes. There is growing demand for this type of assistance.

FAO contacts

El Hadji Sene
FAO Forestry Department
fax: 39-6- 5225-5137
e-mail: elhadji.sene@fao.org
Douglas McGuire FAO Forestry Department
FAO Forestry Department
fax: 39-6 5225-5137
e-mail: douglas.mcguire@fao.org

Agenda 21 Progress: Introduction | 10 Land | 11 Deforestation | 12 Desertification | 13 Mountains | 14 SARD | 15 Biodiversity | Climate change | Energy

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