Indigenous Peoples and local communities

The involvement of Indigenous Peoples and local communities is a prerequisite for sustainable mountain development. The traditional knowledge and food production systems of Indigenous Peoples and traditional mountain communities provide important lessons on how to adapt to climate change, and are a reflection of value systems that place ecosystem preservation at the centre of their belief systems.

For Indigenous Peoples and local communities living in mountain areas, land, water and forests are not simply natural resources to be used. As their ancestors before them, today’s mountain dwellers understand that their well-being, their group identity and their children’s future depend on the careful stewardship of the environment. This ‘intangible heritage’ also enriches the global community, providing inspiration and insights for realizing a more sustainable relationship between humankind and the environment.

Mountain peoples cultivate a wide variety of crops that are adapted to a range of different elevations, slope conditions and microclimates. Moreover, Indigenous local farmers in mountains around the world have explicitly designed their agricultural systems to protect the soil from erosion, conserve water resources and reduce the risks of disasters triggered by natural hazards. These agricultural systems contribute to the protection of ecosystems, with tangible benefits also for communities downstream. In fact, it is widely recognized that while Indigenous Peoples only make up 5% of the world’s population, they are considered custodians of as much as 80% of the world’s biodiversity.

Therefore, mountain-dwelling Indigenous Peoples and local communities serve as custodians of traditional knowledge and biodiversity, including agrobiodiversity. It is important to recognize in Indigenous Peoples' mountain communities that men and women often have different areas of knowledge, experience and responsibility that contribute to preserving biodiversity, therefore special attention should be given to the knowledge and contributions of Indigenous women.

Despite the demonstrated importance of Indigenous Peoples' food systems and the broader set of cultural practices from which they derive, these are in danger of being transformed beyond recognition by the demographic, economic and environmental changes underway in mountain areas today. Many Indigenous Peoples in mountains are losing their lands as a result of phenomena such as encroachment, forced displacement, rural-to-urban migration and soil degradation. Indigenous Peoples' foods, stigmatized as ‘foods of the poor’, are often abandoned in favour of non-local foods that may be more readily available or convenient to cook but often contain high levels of sugar and fat and have relatively low nutritional value. This phenomenon compounds the problem of relatively high rates of iodine and vitamin A micronutrient deficiencies found in impoverished mountain communities.

With climate change scenarios strongly suggesting that if current trends continue, extreme weather events are likely to become ever more common and more intense in mountain areas, it is necessary to integrate Indigenous Peoples' agricultural systems and their historical perspectives on climate variability as key-tools in climate change adaptation strategies. The Mountain Partnership advocates for global attention and tangible commitments from the international community to achieving sustainable mountain development. This includes the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples' knowledge in responding to climate change adaptation, as stipulated by the UNFCCC COP21 Paris Agreement, and the right of Indigenous Peoples to their land, territories and resources, as stipulated by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous Mountain Peoples Map

 

 Achieving sustainable food systems in mountains

Achieving sustainable food systems in mountains

peak to peak

The February 2024 issue of Peak to Peak highlights recent international events focused on mountains, including the conference "Enabling resilient and sustainable food systems in the Hindu Kush Himalaya" in Nepal and the European foresight workshop for resilient mountain areas in Belgium. Top news stories and features cover the declaration...

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UNESCO recognizes the cultural significance of two transhumance traditions

UNESCO recognizes the cultural significance of two transhumance traditions

news

European transhumance and the Swiss alpine pasture season have been recognized as intangible cultural heritage by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Transhumance refers to the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between geographical or climatic regions. It is also a common practice in several mountainous...

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Sharing knowledge throughout the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration: Good practices for the restoration of mountain ecosystems

Sharing knowledge throughout the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration: Good practices for the restoration of mountain ecosystems

event

To support and scale up efforts to restore degraded ecosystems worldwide, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2021–2030 as the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (UN Decade), co-led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). To help achieve...

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Restoring mountain ecosystems - Challenges, case studies and recommendations for implementing the UN Decade Principles for Mountain Ecosystem Restoration

Restoring mountain ecosystems - Challenges, case studies and recommendations for implementing the UN Decade Principles for Mountain Ecosystem Restoration

publication

Mountains are home to a variety of ecosystems that provide vital services directly to 1.1 billion people and billions of others living in connected lowland areas. Half of humanity depends on mountains for the provision of freshwater alone. Mountain ecosystems cool local temperatures, increase water retention, provide carbon storage, and...

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Safeguarding Mountain Ecosystems: A Global Challenge

Safeguarding Mountain Ecosystems: A Global Challenge

publication

Safeguarding Mountain Ecosystems: A Global Challenge provides an overview of the relevant research in mountain regions worldwide, identifying existing challenges and providing an understanding of the diversity of mountain ecosystems in different regions. Mountain ecosystems are increasingly vulnerable to modified climate conditions and other global changes (demographic, migration, urbanization). In...

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Restoring mountain ecosystems: celebrations to mark International Mountain Day

Restoring mountain ecosystems: celebrations to mark International Mountain Day

peak to peak

The December 2023 issue of Peak to Peak highlights the upcoming events to celebrate International Mountain Day. Top news stories cover innovation in mountains and communities coming together for change. This month's newsletter also features the work of two members of the Mountain Partnership, the International Network for Bamboo and...

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