On Earth Day, FAO Director-General stresses need to protect ecosystems

UN agency launches new mountain facility to tackle hunger in highland areas

22 April 2016, Rome --At a ceremony today marking Earth Day, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva stressed the need to protect the world's ecosystems, which form the basis of food security.

Earth Day, he said, "has called to our attention the fact that the earth and its ecosystems are our home. And we must take care of them. It has also served to help us reflect on the environmental challenges facing us in order to determine how we can best meet them."

On the campus of FAO's Rome headquarters, the Director General planted a symbolic tree to mark the occasion- later in the day, parties to the Paris Climate Agreement will come together in New York to officially sign the landmark climate treaty.

Earth Day also coincided with the launch of a new Mountain Facility that aims to address the needs of people living in highland areas in the world.

New mountain facility

Faced with rising levels of hunger in mountainous regions across the developing world, FAO launched the special funding-and-planning mechanism to ensure sustainable development and food security in highland regions, home to some 329 million people at high risk for hunger.

FAO research shows that one in three people living in mountain areas across the developing world are very likely to go without the calories and nutrients they need to live healthy lives -- in rural areas that number shoots up nearly half the population.

An FAO report released late last year found that vulnerability to hunger has risen by 30 percent in mountain areas between 2000 and 2012, at the same time that hunger levels worldwide have fallen.

Through the new Mountain Facility, FAO aims to respond to this alarming trend by supporting governments and NGOs in addressing long-term and emerging challenges related to climate change, market access and management of natural resources, among other issues.

Spearheaded by the Mountain Partnership within FAO, the Facility is raising funds to tackle the mountain hunger problem through five areas of intervention: local economies, climate change adaptation, natural resources, policy, and capacity building.

"We cannot talk about fighting hunger and boosting development worldwide without giving special attention to the plight and needs of mountain peoples. The numbers show this and our pursuit for progress requires it," said FAO Assistant Director-General Rene Castro Salazar.

Examples of interventions include improving value chains of environmentally-friendly mountain products, increasing access to training and credit for vulnerable groups including women and indigenous peoples, and creating disaster risk management plans that can help communities mitigate the negative impacts of shocks.

The action plan also foresees actions to preserve and restore water sources, soils and forests, and in protect precious mountain biodiversity.

Mountain zones cover 22 percent of the earth's land surface and are home to 13 percent of the human population. Ninety-percent of the people who live in mountains, live in developing countries.

For mountain peoples, the key factor is inclusive growth, meaning growth that promotes access for everyone to food, assets, infrastructure and training, particularly for poor people and women so they can develop their potential.

Including mountains in national development plans and developing strong mountain-specific policies and institutions are two specific areas to which FAO aims to channel resources through the Mountain Facility.

The facility was launched at an event in Rome convened by the Permanent Missions Costa Rica, Italy, Uganda and Switzerland to the United Nations, who through the Mountain Partnership have taken a leading role in promoting mountain issues in developing countries.     

Photo: ©FAO/ P Johnson
Vulnerability to hunger has risen by 30 percent in mountain areas between 2000 and 2012, at the same time that hunger levels worldwide have fallen.