Database of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities living in Mountain Areas


Most of the world’s mountain chains are home to indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) whose livelihood strategies, food systems and cultural identities are intimately connected to the mountain environments in which they live. These mountain peoples are the custodians of the mountain chains they call home and the biocultural heritage that makes them unique, but they are also the first to be affected by climate change, unsustainable development and other destructive processes that are transforming mountains and watersheds around the globe. The Map of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities living in Mountain Areas and database are meant to provide international visibility to mountain peoples, mapping the world’s mountain chains not only by their physical characteristics, but by the cultures and lifestyles of their inhabitants. 

The map, which is connected to a database, is also intended as live repository of shared knowledge and best practices that can provide a more comprehensive outlook of indigenous communities living in mountain areas around the world providing data about where these communities live, their main food systems, the organizations working with them and some of the main cultural traits. 

Creating a map that associates indigenous territories with mountain chains presents a number of difficulties that are worthy of mention. There are specific features of certain indigenous cultures that defy the standard characteristics of the types of maps used to mark country borders. In some cases, indigenous territories can be overlapping, or multiple groups can make use of a same landscape, for example harvesting forest products. In the case of transhumant pastoralists and nomadic peoples, a mountain territory may be considered their home only during certain parts of the year. In short, the demarcation of indigenous territories usually has little resemblance to the neat lines of nation states.

In order to account for these complexities, the mountain peoples map does not attempt to define the exact borders of indigenous territories or to determine which indigenous group exerts the most influence on a determined mountain. Instead, the world’s principal mountain chains have been identified, and each of these has been associated with one or more IPLCs who call it home. The database is a work in progress, which remains incomplete despite the growing body of data. As the database develops, a series of interviews will be carried out to provide more specific information on the environmental and sociocultural importance of each mountain chain.

The two most important sources of information for developing this tool have been the GMBA Mountain Portal, which has provided the polygons defining the world’s mountain chains, and LandMark, which has provided a large volume of reliable information on the location of indigenous territories. Other FAO teams – including the Indigenous Peoples Team and Gender Advocacy – as well as a number of Mountain Partnership members and technical experts worked with us and made this project possible. A special thanks goes to indigenous organisations and NGOs working in indigenous territories, whose focal points have provided clarifications and information regarding the environmental and sociocultural significance of specific mountains and mountain chains.


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