Mountain Partnership’s UN Food Systems Pre-Summit event on food systems in mountains


The role of sustainable food systems in mountains and how they can contribute towards a more equitable and inclusive development were highlighted during the Mountain Partnership Secretariat’s parallel session to the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit on 28 July 2021.

The session brought together over 130 participants for a fruitful discussion on how to improve and sustain food systems in mountain areas. The event was moderated by François Pythoud, Special Envoy for International Sustainable Agriculture to the Federal Office for Agriculture, Switzerland. This session included a diverse array of perspectives from governments, international organizations, private sector, United Nations representatives, and more.

“This Pre-Summit parallel session is the only one fully dedicated to mountains. In addition, it is the only one linking vulnerable ecosystems with food systems. It is indeed a unique opportunity to show the importance of the multiple functions provided by food systems, as they are central drivers of mountain rural development”, said François Pythoud, Special Envoy for International Sustainable Agriculture to the Federal Office for Agriculture, Switzerland.

The event highlighted the need for concrete solutions for mountain areas and the participation of different actors from all over the world to leverage the power of food systems to make progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In mountain areas, agriculture and food production are often the most important economic and development drivers.

Speakers included: Andrea Macchioni, Italian Development Cooperation and Chair of the Mountain Partnership Steering Committee; Fausto Jori CEO, NaturaSì; José Valls Bedeau Policy Officer, Food Systems and Food Safety Division, FAO; Izabella Koziell, Deputy Director General, ICIMOD; Dominique Barjolle, President, Origin, Diversity and Territories Forum; Louise Luttikholt Executive Director, IFOAM, Organics International.

“The Mountain Partnership is achieving the important result to raise the mountain agenda within the UN Food Systems Summit process, beginning in May 2021 with the Independent Dialogue event, followed by this Pre-Summit parallel session” said Andrea Macchioni, Italian Development Cooperation and Chair of the Mountain Partnership Steering Committee. He also underlined the relevance of the recent G20 Matera declaration for mountains and mountain peoples.

However, mountain food systems are also facing the challenges of rapid outmigration of rural youth, land abandonment, inadequate access to markets, agrobiodiversity loss, changing food habits, declining dietary diversity and low food purchasing power.

“At NaturaSì, we have designed our production system as a circular model which starts from the organic breeding of seeds that we then provide to farmers, and we support farmers with implementing a sustainable approach towards agriculture to reduce food waste and increase the sustainability”, said Fausto Jori, CEO of NaturaSì. “We are also striving to change the consumers’ approach to pricing, focusing on the right price for each products that recognizes the farmers work behind each product.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic has further worsened the vulnerability of mountain people to food insecurity. In this regard, it is important to highlight the vulnerabilities of mountain people, the potential of sustainable mountain food systems as development drivers, and the importance of mountain ecosystem services for the entire world in the discussions of the UN Food Systems Summit 2021.

“When it comes to mountain areas, we know that 346 million mountain rural people are vulnerable to food insecurity. This vulnerability is driven by the marginalization of the mountain people and mountain areas, as well as natural disasters, conflicts and of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has shed light on the need to take a food systems approach to mountain sustainable development”, said José Valls Bedeau, Policy Officer of the Food Systems and Food Safety Division at FAO.

“We must work together to solve some of the complex challenges that the region faces around water and land, which is being hit hard by global forces such as climate change, globalization, and pandemic. Despite these challenges, we often refer the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region as the pulse of the planet and water tower of Asia. Nearly three billion people depend on the food and water that is produced in the HKH region”, said Izabella Koziell, the Deputy Director General at ICIMOD.

“Mountain value chains are essential to the Origin, Diversity and Territories platform. It is important to promote and care for both cultural and biological diversity in vulnerable ecosystems that are in mountain areas. Finding new balances between production and conservation, innovating sustainable farming systems, and strengthening resilience to copy and adapt to crisis is needed”, said Dominique Barjolle, the President of the Origin, Diversity and Territories Forum.

“Mountain agroecosystems are very vulnerable, and best managed with agroecology. In Action Track 3, a coalition is being built to serve the purpose of restoring our landscapes and agricultural systems. Agroecology is an excellent tool to improve the nutrition status of the population”, said Louise Luttikholt, the Executive Director of IFOAM Organics International.

"I wish to thank the Mountain Partnership Secretariat for continuing with its mission of promoting the global discourse of why mountains matter and raising awareness of the role that mountains and mountain peoples play in the path towards sustainable food systems," concluded François Pythoud.

Read more about the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit
Watch the event recording and view speakers' presentations
Download the Mountain Partnership's info sheet on sustainable food systems in mountains

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