Mountain food systems


Protecting mountains through sustainable food systems is a prerequisite to lift mountain communities out of food insecurity and marginalization.

Mountain people globally face high rates of food insecurity and malnutrition. As of 2017, one in two rural mountain people in developing countries lived in areas where the local food availability risked falling below the minimum threshold to ensure healthy lives. 

Agriculture and food production are important economic and development drivers in mountain areas, where 6 out of 10 people live in rural areas. They contribute to sustaining the livelihoods of 1.1 billion people living in the mountains as well as those of a much larger number of people in the lowlands who depend on healthy mountain ecosystems for freshwater and the conservation of key plant and animal biological diversity.

Worldwide, more than 80 percent of all food is produced by small-scale farmers. Small-scale farmers and pastoralists are predominant in mountain regions, where generally harsh weather and limiting topographical conditions prevail. Progress towards sustainable food systems cannot happen without improving the situation of small-scale mountain farmers worldwide.

Farming according to agroecological principles increases the resilience of mountain agroecosystems and supports the stability of local food production. Traditional and Indigenous Peoples' agricultural knowledge and practices are essential sources for a sustainable management of mountain commons and biodiversity conservation.

Why a food systems approach in mountains: In mountains, sustained poverty, remoteness, limited access to goods and services, degradation of natural resources, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic challenge the food security of mountain people. To ensure mountain people are not left behind and to build back better from the pandemic, sustainable food systems in mountains must be supported and further developed in a holistic manner.

Learn more about sustainable food systems

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