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 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 agro biodiversity. It is important to recognize in indigenous 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 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 mountain peoples are losing their lands as a result of phenomena such as encroachment, forced displacement, rural-to-urban migration and soil degradation. Indigenous 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 integrate indigenous 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 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

 

United Nations General Assembly Report: Sustainable mountain development (2022)

United Nations General Assembly Report: Sustainable mountain development (2022)

publication

Report of the Secretary-General on Sustainable Mountain Development

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Kyrgyz Republic presents “Five Years of Action for the Development of Mountain Regions”

Kyrgyz Republic presents “Five Years of Action for the Development of Mountain Regions”

peak to peak

The June 2022 issue of Peak to Peak opens with an overview of an event hosted by the Permanent Mission of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United Nations to present the concept of the "Five Years of Action for the Development of Mountain Regions" to the permanent missions of the United...

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Using cultural monitoring to understand bison in Banff National Park

Using cultural monitoring to understand bison in Banff National Park

news

The Stoney Nakoda First Nations are combining traditional knowledge with “Western” science to create a more holistic understanding of the bison reintroduction in Mînî Rhpa Mâkoche, also known as Banff National Park, in Canada.

In 2017, 16 bison were released in the northeast section of Banff National Park. This herd has...

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United Nations declare 2026 the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists

United Nations declare 2026 the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists

news

On 15 March 2022, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York unanimously declared 2026 the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists (IYRP). This final approval is the culmination of an IYRP movement that grew over several years to become a global coalition of over 300 pastoralist and supporting...

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International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development, 2022

International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development, 2022

publication

On 16 December 2021, the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution proclaiming 2022 the International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development at the proposal of the Kyrgyz Government. The resolution was sponsored by 94 governments and invites the Mountain Partnership to facilitate the observance of this Year.

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Philippine mountain producers engage in national Participatory Guarantee System

Philippine mountain producers engage in national Participatory Guarantee System

news

Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) are gaining recognition and empowering small-scale organic farmers and fisherfolk in the Philippines, including Mountain Partnership Products (MPP) producers.

According to IFOAM - Organics International – a member of the Mountain Partnership and the only organization worldwide collecting, compiling and publishing global data about PGS initiatives...

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