The Adelboden Group met for the second time in Rome, Italy, on 4 and 5 October 2004. About 70 participants from 35 countries representing governments, international organizations and civil society participated in this international meeting in order to prioritize project activities for 2005, finalize partnerships and discuss project implementation. This one and a half day meeting was organized by FAO and co-chaired by Ms Jeannette Gurung, Director of Women Organising for Change in Agriculture, an NGO which is the focal point for the Major Group on Women, and Mr. Miguel Palomino de la Gala, Director of Sustainable Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Peru.
One year after their first meeting, the Adelboden Group members – key partners of the SARD-M project – emphasized the need to eradicate poverty in mountain regions by creating an enabling policy environment through combining their voices, efforts and resources in support of the project.
Participants in the meeting emphasized the common concerns shared by the mountain communities worldwide, despite very diverse climatic, social and economic conditions. “In Peru, twenty two of the twenty five regions of the countries are composed of high mountains”, said the Peruvian representative. “Therefore, Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in mountain regions is essential for the country. Peru has a particular interest in the SARD-M Project”, he added.
“We, in Switzerland, have in our Constitution the mandate to support sustainable rural development and agriculture in our mountain regions. Therefore we are willing to learn not only from the Swiss experience but also from the experiences of others”, the Swiss representative informed the meeting. “We have much to gain in sharing good and bad practices, as far as the policy framework is concerned. Farmers from various mountain regions in the world can benefit from concrete experiences in biodiversity, crop production or marketing”, he added.
Similarly, countries like Morocco which recently adopted a National Charter, Algeria which has just formulated a National Strategy for Sustainable Rural Development, and Bolivia which has conducted an interesting review of National Policies on the topic, offered to share their work with other stakeholders in the SARD-M Project.
The strong mobilization of all stakeholders – governments, international organizations and civil society – and the participatory approach developed in the meeting testify to “the Adelboden spirit”.
The civil society organizations emphasized the key role they play in the project. Experience shows that the participation of civil society is a key to success. In this regard, much can be learned from the Major Groups, essential stakeholders in the SARD-M Project which, in other fields, have created the enabling conditions for rural communities’ participation. The representative of the Major Group on Women demonstrated this point: “We have a wonderful success story in Nepal where an FAO-IFAD forestry project was made highly successful thanks to the combined efforts of rural women who formed a strong alliance. This professional group of women managed to challenge and to change attitudes, while strengthening capacities”, she said. Similarly, more than a dozen other civil society organizations – whether Major Groups or regional mountain organizations, representing all regions of the world – reported on their experiences in the field and their future contributions to the SARD-M Project.
Switzerland confirmed its US$ 1 million commitment for the four-year SARD-M project, while France and Japan announced their support through the secondment of experts, respectively with a Project Coordinator and an Associate Professional Officer.
In addition to these financial and human resources, the project will benefit from significant in-kind support. In the working groups and in their report to the plenary, various governments together with Major Groups and other civil society organizations from the Mediterranean region, Latin America, Asia and Africa, announced their assistance and logistical support for case studies, workshops and training sessions.
The participants approved the project activities proposed by FAO for 2005. Questioned on which areas they considered as priority, the participants gave the highest ranking to the following three activities:
The participants also emphasized the need for raising awareness on sustainable agriculture and rural development in mountain regions. Finally, consensus was built around the importance of communication, coordination and networking, “essential for the implementation of the Project”, said the participants.
Participants underlined that the regional focal points will be the corner stones of the project, developing synergies with partners and related projects, building the link between global and national levels, enhancing communication, coordination and networking in the region, while supporting the design and implementation of project activities. The participants suggested the designation of focal points also at the national level.
In the closing session, the Chairpersons provided a synthesis of all the participants’ concerns, wishes and commitments, and recommended that the project be launched in early 2005, focusing on the priority activities identified by the participants, with the financial contribution of Switzerland, staff seconded by France and Japan, as well as in-kind support provided by various governments and civil society organizations. Participants agreed to mobilize additional resources from European and international funds. Next steps also include the finalization of the work plan and agreements with the regional focal points.