A major international initiative will help to meet the challenge of agriculture and rural development in mountain regions where high levels of malnutrition and hunger persist, in a manner that protects the environment for present and future generations, FAO announced today.
Mountains cover 22 percent of the world's land surface while 12 percent of the world's population, or 720 million people, live in mountain regions. Some 271 million mountain people, mostly rural, are vulnerable to food insecurity and, of these, around 135 million are chronically hungry, according to FAO.
High levels of malnutrition and hunger in mountain areas have much to do with the inaccessibility, complexity and fragility of mountain environments, and the extent to which mountain people are often marginalized, FAO experts say.
Following an international conference on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in Mountain Regions (Adelboden, Switzerland, June 2002), the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (September 2002) and other recent international meetings, FAO has now prepared a four-year project to promote policies that favour sustainable agriculture and rural development in mountain regions.
An excellent opportunity
The project, formulated with the support of Switzerland and the participation of governments, NGOs and other international organizations, will be presented at a meeting in Rome on 30 April 2004.
It represents an excellent opportunity for northern and southern countries to tackle the challenges of sustainable livelihoods in mountain regions.
Its long-term objective is to promote the formulation, implementation and evaluation of sustainable agriculture and rural development policies for mountain regions at national, regional and community levels.
Awareness raising, capacity building and support to implementation are key elements of the project, which targets developing countries as well as transition and developed countries.
With its focus on sustainable agriculture and rural development in one of the most important and fragile ecosystems, this project provides a unique opportunity for stakeholders around the world to identify common priorities and develop joint initiatives to achieve sustainable development, according to FAO experts.
The Adelboden Group
About 200 representatives of mountain people from 57 countries met in Adelboden in June 2002 and adopted a Declaration that called on governments, international organizations and civil society to develop and improve sustainable agriculture and rural development policies and action for mountain regions in order to enhance the livelihoods of their populations.
Among other issues, the Declaration recalled the importance of Chapter 14 on sustainable agriculture and rural development and Chapter 13 on sustainable mountain development of Agenda 21 adopted at the Rio Summit in 1992. FAO is task manager of these two Chapters.
The Adelboden Declaration gave birth to the Adelboden Group, which includes representatives from governments, civil society and international organizations and is "a platform for discussion of policies and policy instruments, exchange of experience, and preparation of initiatives" for sustainable development in mountain areas.
The Adelboden Group met for the first time in September 2003. It will meet again in July 2004 to refine priorities and action for follow-up to the international partnership on sustainable development in mountain regions.