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May 2004

Donors and Partners meet to support Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in Mountain Regions

A Donors’ and Partners’ Meeting took place on 30 April 2004 in FAO, Rome, to discuss FAO’s activities on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in Mountain Regions (SARD-M) and examine a proposal for a multi-donor SARD-M Project.

This major international activity is developed to meet the challenge of agriculture and rural development particularly in mountain regions where high levels of malnutrition and hunger persist, while protecting the environment for present and future generations, and taking into account upland-lowland linkages.

Following an international conference on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in Mountain Regions (Adelboden, Switzerland, June 2002), the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (September 2002) and other recent international meetings, FAO has prepared a four-year multi-donor project to promote policies that favour sustainable agriculture and rural development in mountain regions.

Some 720 million people live in mountain regions worldwide, 135 million of them are chronically hungry and another 135 million are vulnerable to food insecurity. Over 70% of mountain populations are rural. However, agriculture alone can not ensure their livelihoods. With 22% of the world’s land surface, mountains constitute a wealth of natural resources like fresh water, but also fragile ecosystems.

High levels of malnutrition and hunger in mountain areas have much to do with the inaccessibility, complexity and fragility of mountain environments, and the extent to which mountain people are often marginalized

A multi-stakeholder support

The four-year multi-donor Project for SARD in Mountain Regions, formulated by FAO with the support of Switzerland and the participation of governments, the civil society and other international organizations, was presented at a Donors’ and Partners’ Meeting in Rome, Italy, on 30 April 2004.

About 30 participants attended this meeting, including representatives from China, Columbia, Ecuador, the European Community, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Norway, Peru, Slovenia, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland and Venezuela.

Donors and partners expressed strong interest for the project. Participants particularly appreciated the need “to foster sustainable agriculture in less favoured areas like the mountains and to support livelihoods, while protecting landscape and biodiversity".

Participants also underlined the project’s “elasticity”, its multi-stakeholder nature “involving governments, regions, private sectors, civil society and NGOs” , as well as its importance in “bridging” the gap between various initiatives.

“Switzerland is willing to provide one sixth of the outlined funds for the 4-year period on condition that the total funding needed is found and ensured. Switzerland intends to allocate its financial contribution to the overall implementation of the project and not to link it to specific activities”, declared Mr Hans-Jörg Lehmann from the Federal Office of Agriculture of Switzerland, a strong supporter and advocate of the project, during the meeting.

Other European countries announced their willingness to support the project, contributing for instance to capacity-building and sharing of experiences.

Some Latin American countries reaffirmed their “deep interest in mountains in general and in the SARD-M project in particular”, and offered logistic support such as the organization of regional workshops as a concrete commitment. Similarly, the Mediterranean area could benefit considerably from this project.

The project was also presented on 6 May 2004, in Montpellier, France, during an information session organized as a side event of the 24th FAO Regional Conference for Europe.

Tackling farmers’ concerns

The SARD-M project represents an excellent opportunity for northern and southern countries to tackle the challenges of sustainable livelihoods in mountain regions. With its focus on sustainable agriculture and rural development in one of the most important and fragile ecosystems, it provides a unique opportunity for stakeholders around the world to identify common priorities and develop joint initiatives to achieve sustainable development.

Its long-term objective is to promote the formulation, implementation and evaluation of sustainable agriculture and rural development policies for mountain regions at national, regional and community levels.

Awareness raising, capacity building and support to implementation are key elements of the project, which targets developing countries as well as transition and developed countries.

During the donors’ and partners’ meeting, Mr Lehmann recalled the farmers’ concern expressed at the Adelboden Conference. "Farmers’ representatives from both the northern and southern hemispheres raised the issue of insufficient incomes in the agricultural sector. (…) As part of the project and with the support of project staff and the FAO, this issue would be analysed at a regional level, available experience and case studies would be taken into consideration. The stakeholders would be invited to take part in the discussion and conclusions would be drawn. These regional results would subsequently be discussed by the Adelboden Group, which would then make corresponding recommendations to the stakeholders".

The Adelboden Group

About 200 representatives of mountain people from 57 countries met in Adelboden, Switzerland, in June 2002 and adopted a Declaration that called on governments, international organizations and civil society to develop and improve sustainable agriculture and rural development policies and action for mountain regions in order to enhance the livelihoods of their populations. “To respond to the many challenges of SARD in mountains appropriate and coherent policies, instruments and programmes need to be developed and applied in a participatory way across all domains”, reads the Adelboden Declaration.

Among other issues, the Declaration recalled the importance of Chapter 14 on sustainable agriculture and rural development and Chapter 13 on sustainable mountain development of Agenda 21 adopted at the Rio Summit in 1992. FAO is task manager of these two Chapters.

The Adelboden Declaration of 2002 gave birth to the Adelboden Group, which includes representatives from governments, civil society and international organizations and is "a platform for discussion of policies and policy instruments, exchange of experience, and preparation of initiatives" for sustainable development in mountain areas. The Adelboden Group met for the first time in September 2003.

Strengthening partnerships and finalizing the process

On-going bilateral discussions will continue in order to mobilize more of the resources needed for this project.

The Adelboden Group will meet again in September 2004 to make concrete decisions regarding the SARD-M Project. Priorities and a schedule of activities will be selected. Countries or regions where the project will first be implemented will be agreed upon. Implementation and organization modes will be defined, including the role of regional focal points, and the linkages at all levels to optimize synergies. The mandate and composition of the Adelboden Group will also be discussed.

Partnership reinforcement at all levels, resource mobilization, convergence of interest from Southern and Northern countries will contribute to meeting one challenge: improving agriculture and rural livelihoods in mountain areas.

For further information on the project

Presentation of the project in:


SARD in Mountain Regions: a four year project document to be submitted to donors and other partners in late April 2004:

International Conference on SARD in Mountain Regions, 16-20 June 2002, Adelboden, Switzerland:

Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development website:

Audio file in French:

For specific information

Please e-mail or subscribe to the SARD-M electronic mailing list by sending an e-mail to with the subject line blank and the following text in the first line of the message: subscribe SARD-M-L (your address).


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