Members’ Voices: CIMO - Vice-Director João Azevedo


Founded in the International Year of Mountains (IYM) 2002, the Centro de Investigação de Montanha (CIMO) is devoted to research and development in Mediterranean mountains. The multidisciplinary research centre is based at the Polytechnic Institute of Bragança (IPB) in Portugal, the institute at which I am a Professor.

My background is in forestry; throughout my life my interests have varied, but never strayed far. My first job was in nature conservation, but a few years later, I moved to academia and became interested in landscape ecology: the field of study I have been involved in for most of my life. Mountain landscapes naturally became of interest to me, considering the importance of forests in mountains.

Faculty and staff at the institute were deeply inspired by the IYM and thus created the first and only Portuguese research centre dedicated to mountain research.

A Mountain Partnership (MP) member since 2014, CIMO now represents the Europe Major Group Organizations on the MP Steering Committee. Being part of the MP Steering Committee means a lot to us. To represent more than 90 major European organizations on the board of a United Nations Partnership - comprising governments, intergovernmental organizations and major groups from all over the world - is a level of responsibility we value.

We also represent Euromontana on the Steering Committee, who has always been involved in international fora such as the MP. CIMO, however, is still establishing itself and getting used to the new and exciting challenges that the Steering Committee presents. Our organization began as a small, local research centre and has been able to scale up to the global level due in part to the Steering Committee.

The involvement of CIMO in the MP is part of our ongoing commitment to actively participate in national and international mountain research and development initiatives and organizations. Being part of the MP has broadened our perspective on mountain issues and cued us into the priorities of development across the world.

At CIMO, we believe that the sustainable development of mountains is strongly related to knowledge and education, and social and technological innovation in mountain communities. These components are essential for communities to have the capacity to explore new opportunities to build resilience. CIMO emphasizes the importance of both scientific knowledge and technology, combined with traditional knowledge. Using both, mountain communities can sustainably improve the job market and increase families’ incomes, thus curbing outmigration from mountain areas.

One example of how we have made a tangible impact is the innovation of a biological control product for the treatment of chestnut blight, which has had a tremendous social and economic impact on thousands of chestnut producers in Portugal. Chestnut is the crop that contributes most to the incomes of rural communities in the lower mountains of northeastern Portugal. Research and developments, such as this biological control product, increase mountain communities’ socioecological resilience.

Today, 80 integrated researchers and 40 doctoral students work with CIMO in leading the Mediterranean region on topics as varied as mountain products, sustainable engineering, bio-based ingredients and more. Recently, we were able to expand our reach with the establishment of a sister research centre in Cabo Verde (CIMO-Cabo Verde).

CIMO is a special organization in several ways. Our concept of research in connection with sustainable mountain development is innovative and, I am sure, will significantly improve the livelihoods in Mediterranean mountains, which is extremely motivating. To see how many areas of research can interact in a positive way for sustainable mountain development and to imagine the prospects of this interdisciplinary (and possibly transdisciplinary) research is something truly unique.

News and photo from João Azevedo-CIMO

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