Mountainous regions – sustainable development and adapting to climate change

People on a mountain in the Vilcanota range, Peru.
The SDC supports mountainous regions. In Peru it is helping upland populations cope with climate change. © FOEN

Mountains are home to one-fifth of the world’s population and the source of fresh water for half of all humanity. Mountainous regions are especially vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Switzerland is committed to the sustainable development of mountainous regions with an eye on climate change. To this end, the SDC works closely with Swiss and international partners.

The SDC's focus

As a mountainous country, Switzerland has a great deal of experience in harnessing the potential of its mountainous regions and in facing the challenges of sustainable (mountain) development. The SDC’s focus in this area is three-pronged:

  • Supporting initiatives and projects that promote sustainable mountain development with the aim of improving the living conditions of mountain communities and strengthening resilience against climate change.
  • Enhancing support for mountainous regions as vulnerable ecosystems that are essential to human needs and incorporating this support in global processes such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • Fostering knowledge generation, dialogue and sharing of information and experience between stakeholders at all levels.

In Nepal, for example, Switzerland has been helping better the living conditions of impoverished highland populations for over 50 years by supporting and improving infrastructure. Some 500 kilometres of roads and over 5,000 suspension bridges have been upgraded or built with Swiss support.

In Peru the SDC is engaged in a project to reduce the vulnerability of the Andean population to the impacts of climate change. The people here mainly subsist on small-scale agriculture, which is especially hard-hit by the effects of climate change. The SDC supports effective adaptation mechanisms to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change on the local population.

Through its global mountain programme, the SDC supports major regional mountain centres in different parts of the world, particularly the Andes, Africa, the Caucasus Mountains and the Hindu Kush Himalayan region. These regional knowledge centres contribute to the political dialogue on development of mountainous areas. Available knowledge is applied at these centres to develop concrete sustainable mountain development policies. At the same time, the SDC helps these centres to make this regional knowledge available to global networks so that other mountainous regions can benefit from it quickly and at little expense.

Background

Mountains are home to one-fifth of the world’s population and the source of fresh water for half of all people. Sustainable mountain development means making sensible use of mountain ecosystems for the present generation while preserving them for future generations.

Mountains were recognised as vulnerable ecosystems of global importance as early as the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio. The importance of mountains was reaffirmed at the UN Rio+20 conference in 2012. The protection of mountainous regions is also enshrined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Mountain ecosystems are extremely diverse. They are also highly sensitive to climate change, natural disasters, industrial exploitation, migration (especially upland-lowland migration) and mass tourism. These phenomena often threaten entire mountain regions, putting the livelihoods of many people at risk. Most affected are highland populations that rely directly on local water, soil, flora and fauna. But people at lower elevations also benefit from healthy ecosystems in the mountains: for example, the water supply of roughly half of the world’s population depends on water resources from mountainous regions.

The retreat of glaciers due to climate change will exacerbate water scarcity in the medium and long term. The SDC sustains various scientific projects in the Andes, the Himalayas and in Central Asia studying glacier shrinkage and its consequences in key partner regions. Switzerland too is seriously affected by the retreat of glaciers and is therefore able to share where needed its experience in observing glaciers and their influence on water supply. By training glaciologists in partner countries it is spreading this knowledge and helping these countries to adapt to climate change. Switzerland has an important contribution to make to the scientific dialogue on climate change and is successful in putting forward its position in the international political dialogue.

Facts and figures

  • Mountainous regions make up 24% of the Earth's surface and are home to 12% of the world's population in 120 countries. 
  • 281 or a third of all UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Sites are situated entirely or partially in mountainous zones. These include the ruins of the 15th century Inca city, Machu Picchu. 
  • 15–20% of worldwide tourism takes place in mountainous regions, with an annual turnover of USD 70–90 billion.
  • Threatened ecosystems: Mountain ranges are a source of life for around a third of all plant species. Across the globe they are home to half of the most important zones for biodiversity. 
  • Diversity of species: Six of the 20 plant species that provide 80% of the world’s staple foods originate in mountainous regions. The potato was first domesticated in the Andes; some 200 local varieties are cultivated there. Thousands of varieties of quinoa are also produced there. The cultivation of maize began in the Sierra Madre ranges in Mexico and millet was first grown on the high plateau of Ethiopia. Farmers in the mountains of Nepal cultivate some 2,000 varieties of rice. 
  • The retreat of glaciers: In the Cordillera Blanca in the Peruvian Andes, 755 glaciers stretch across 528 km2. Since the first national glacier inventory was compiled in the 1970s, this area has shrunk by around 27%. 
  • Mountain cities: People in mountainous regions do not necessarily live in remote areas but also in large towns or capital cities. Kathmandu (Nepal) has some 3.4 million inhabitants, Quito (Ecuador) 2.7 million. La Paz (Bolivia) at 3,640 metres above sea level, with its population of circa 900,000, is the highest capital city in the world. 
  • Glacier shrinkage in Switzerland: Over the past 10 years, a fifth of Switzerland’s remaining glacial ice has disappeared. For the 1,500 or so Swiss glaciers, a total loss of some 1,400 million cubic metres of ice has been estimated for the hydrological year 2017/18. This means that the currently existing glacier volume declined by more than 2.5% in 2018.

Documents

Current projects

Object 1 – 12 of 1082

Improving farm productivity in Georgia through dual vocational education and training

Three people in a greenhouse.

01.09.2018 - 31.08.2022

Agriculture is Georgia's most important sector. However, farming remains uncompetitive as farmers' skills are out of step with the job market and technological developments. Switzerland is continuing to support vocational education and training to improve productivity, farm income and the employment situation for students of agriculture.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Georgia
Vocational training
Agriculture & food security
Employment & economic development
Vocational training
Agricultural services & market
Rural development

01.09.2018 - 31.08.2022


CHF 6'352'000



Mozambique: Less illness thanks to better water supplies and sanitation

A villager in Niassa Province in northern Mozambique works a new handpump. She is surrounded by a group of people.

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2021

Many cases of illness in the poor region of northern Mozambique are caused by the poor condition of water supplies and sanitation.  The SDC is assisting the efforts of the local people and responsible authorities to improve the situation. Aim of the project: Better living conditions for half a million people – and less poverty.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Mozambique
Health
Health systems strengthening

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2021


CHF 7'445'000



Capacity building for Serbian municipalities

Around 50 parliamentarians in session at the Serbian parliament.

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2021

Switzerland is supporting the Serbian government’s public administration reform, which aims to make it more effective and accessible to both citizens and the private sector. SwissPRO project is being run in 99 municipalities (two-thirds of Serbia) to improve good governance, social inclusion and gender equality.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Serbia
Governance
Human rights
Gender
Decentralisation
Human rights (incl. Women's rights)
Women’s equality organisations and institutions

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2021


CHF 7'000'000



Decentralization and Municipal Support in Kosovo (DEMOS)

Two young people rollerblading on a cycle path..

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2021

Since the declaration of independence in 2008, Kosovo has been engaged in the reform and decentralisation of its public authorities with the aim of strengthening autonomy and local democracy in its 38 municipalities. The SDC's “Decentralisation and Municipal Support” project (DEMOS) aims to help municipalities enhance democratic governance and municipal management and provide better public services, thereby supporting Kosovo in its transition to a democratic and decentralised state.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Kosovo
Governance
Decentralisation
Democratic participation and civil society

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2021


CHF 12'800'000



Bosnia and Herzegovina: Improving nursing care for better health services

A nurse sitting in a treatment room.

01.12.2017 - 30.11.2021

In Bosnia and Herzegovina nurses make up the largest group of healthcare professionals. However, the potential offered by their proximity to local communities is underexploited. They are often responsible for administrative tasks rather than patient care and, with limited career prospects, many nurses are attracted by better working conditions in Western Europe. This is regrettable because nurses and the care they provide can be a gateway to better health services for people living in rural areas and marginalised communities.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Health
Education
Health systems strengthening
Primary health care
Education facilities and training

01.12.2017 - 30.11.2021


CHF 5'125'000



Improved Access to Markets for Female and Male Fresh Fruits and Vegetable (FFV) Small Scale Producers

Improved access to markets for fresh fruits and vegetable (FFV) small scale producers (men and women), occupied Palestinian territory

01.12.2017 - 30.11.2021

With focus on private sector-led agriculture and agribusiness, this program pursues systemic change in the agriculture sector and supports business modalities that favor small scale producers in the occupied Palestinian territory. The overall goal is to contribute to build a resilient economy with equitable agricultural growth, whilst contributing to protect small scale producers’ entitlements to natural resources and access to markets.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Palestinian Authority
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural development
Agricultural services & market
Agricultural policy

01.12.2017 - 30.11.2021


CHF 3'900'000



Revitalising labour market in Moldova

Two young women checking cables.

01.12.2017 - 31.12.2021

With Moldova facing high unemployment and a slowdown in growth, the SDC is funding a project designed to offer young job seekers alternatives to emigration and to improve the country's economic situation. Switzerland is supporting reforms aimed at training a qualified workforce and improving the investment climate. This will not only promote demand-driven training but also help create new jobs in the private sector.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Moldova
Vocational training
Vocational training

01.12.2017 - 31.12.2021


CHF 5'350'000



Reducing youth unemployment in Kosovo with the help of the private sector

Two people on an adventure park ropes course.

16.11.2017 - 15.11.2021

The Promoting Private Sector Employment (PPSE) project is strengthening companies in the food and tourism sectors and spurring job creation in Kosovo.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Kosovo
Employment & economic development
SME development

16.11.2017 - 15.11.2021


CHF 7'320'000



A more inclusive job market for women in the South Caucasus

A women reads information

01.11.2017 - 31.07.2021

In the three countries of the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia), many women face job market discrimination. In the absence of policy to create equal opportunities and jobs for women in the formal economy, women work unprotected in the informal sector. The Women’s Economic Empowerment in the South Caucasus project seeks to promote women's economic empowerment to facilitate their equal access to employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
South Caucasus
Gender
Vocational training
Women’s equality organisations and institutions
Vocational training

01.11.2017 - 31.07.2021


CHF 3'400'000



A toolbox for sustainable sefl-reliance

Workers learn how to build stable houses in cyclone-affected Southwestern Haiti.

06.09.2017 - 30.06.2021

Haiti has been repeatedly devastated by earthquakes and hurricanes in recent years. SDC engineers are now working with those affected to build more stable houses from local materials. Five hundred new homes are to be built by 2021.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Haiti
Climate change and environment
Vocational training
Governance
Disaster risk reduction DRR
Vocational training
Public sector policy

06.09.2017 - 30.06.2021


CHF 3'423'500



Support to Municipal Development Project (MDP-3)

Support to municipal development project (MDP-3), occupied Palestinian territory

01.09.2017 - 31.12.2021

Since 2009, the Municipal Development Project (MDP) has been the main vehicle for policy reform in the Local Governance sector in the oPt. It has channelled funding to Municipalities to support infrastructure projects and capacity-building activities in a transparent and equitable manner, despite huge challenges linked to 50 years of Israeli Occupation and to 10 years of intra-Palestinian divide. MDP-3 (2017-2021) is supported by 7 donors and the Palestinian Authority: SDC’s contribution is in line with Swiss Cooperation Strategy for the oPt (2015-2018).

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Palestinian Authority
Governance
Decentralisation
Democratic participation and civil society

01.09.2017 - 31.12.2021


CHF 5'300'000



Water and Sanitation for Syrian Refugees and Their Lebanese Hosts

a 1000 litre water tank

15.07.2017 - 15.06.2020

The crisis in Syria has a significant impact in Lebanon. The country is home to over one million Syrian refugees. Basic needs are unmet due to this unprecedented population growth and lack of public facilities. The SDC supports a project of the Lebanese Red Cross on water and sanitation for Syrian refugees and host communities in the Akkar Governorate bordering Syria.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Lebanon
WATER SUPPLY & SANITATION
WATER SUPPLY & SANITATION
DISASTER PREVENTION AND PREPAREDNESS
Disaster prevention and preparedness

15.07.2017 - 15.06.2020


CHF 1'100'000


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