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

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Appui aux économies locales des collectivités de Youwarou et de Niafunké (PACY) Programme de Soutien aux Economies Locales du Delta intérieur du Niger (PSEL-DELTA)

01.07.2015 - 30.06.2019

Dans les régions du delta intérieur du Niger, au centre et au Nord du Mali, les populations rurales sont confrontées à des crises structurelles multiformes dont l’insécurité alimentaire. La DDC appuie les autorités locales avec des projets économiques dans les filières agricoles porteuses pour assurer la sécurité alimentaire et réduire la pauvreté d’au moins 150'000 personnes. En plus, elle accompagne les municipalités de cette zone dans la maitrise d’ouvrage du développement territorial et la gestion pacifique des ressources naturelles.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Mali
Rule of Law - Democracy - Human rights
Agriculture and Food Security
Agriculture value-chain development
Decentralisation - local governance - democratization (incl. accountability)
Adaptation to the effects of climate change
MULTISECTOR or CROSS-CUTTING
GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY
GENERAL ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
Rural development
Decentralisation and support to subnational government (incl. accountability)
Environmental policy and administrative management

01.07.2015 - 30.06.2019


CHF 9'445'000



Exchanging knowledge and experience to protect Andean forest ecosystems

Part of the Andean forest covered in mist.

01.11.2011 - 31.12.2019

The forests of the Andes are valuable in a variety of ways: they store and purify water, provide protection against natural hazards, and absorb environmentally harmful greenhouse gases. With the ANFOR project, the SDC is contributing to the long-term protection of Andean forests.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Andean Region
Environment
Adaptation to the effects of climate change
Forestry
Adaptation to the effects of climate change
Mitigation of the effects of climate change
Biodiversity
Mitigation of the effects of climate change
AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY, FISHING
GENERAL ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY, FISHING
GENERAL ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
GENERAL ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
Forestry development
Environmental policy and administrative management
Forestry policy
Environmental policy and administrative management
Biosphere protection
Biosphere protection
Bio-diversity

01.11.2011 - 31.12.2019


CHF 8'072'000




Programme d’appui à la valorisation des produits forestiers non ligneux, phase 2 (PFNL2)

15.12.2016 - 31.12.2020

Au Burkina Faso, les produits forestiers non ligneux[1] (PFNL) constituent une importante source alimentaire pour les populations des zones affectées par les chocs climatiques et déficitaires sur le plan alimentaire. Les PFNL font partie de l’alimentation de plus de 43,4% des ménages ruraux et procurent de l’emploi et des revenus. Le programme  contribue à l’accroissement de la sécurité alimentaire, nutritionnelle et des revenus des ménages ruraux et périurbains[2] par la valorisation et la gestion durable des PFNL.



[1] Les PFNL s’entendent par « tout bien d’origine biologique autre que le bois et la faune à l’exception des insectes, dérivé des forêts et des arbres hors forêts, constitués de végétaux spontanés, domestiqués, et ceux destinés au reboisement ». (Source FAO)

[2] Le périurbain est un espace rural au sens où l’essentiel des sols est attribué à des activités agricoles; mais c’est aussi un espace urbain au sens où la majorité de la population active qui y habite travaille dans une ville, en effectuant des migrations alternantes. Le milieu périurbain connait une très forte compétition entre usage agricole et non agricole des ressources: terres, main-d'œuvre, etc. La production agricole est orientée principalement pour le marché du centre urbain.

 


BASAL – Proyecto Bases Ambientales para la Sostenibilidad Alimentaria Local.

01.11.2016 - 30.06.2020

BASAL contributes to the reduction of the vulnerabilities of the agricultural sector to climate change in Cuba. Its contributions concentrate on the identification, development and application, of measures and tools to promote the adaptation of the Cuban agriculture to the effects of climate change. The project also increases institutional and individual capacities to use the tools and methodologies, put at the disposal of the authorities and the Cuban institutions for the implementation of effective politics that contribute to a sustainable food production in a context of changing climate.


UNDP - Strengthening Disaster Risk Governance in Tajikistan (SDRGT)

01.08.2016 - 31.07.2020

Due to frequent occurrence of natural disasters the Government has endorsed number of laws and regulations, and developed relevant structure for DRM. However, the disaster risk governance requires further improvement. The project will assist the Government to expand approaches to risk governance at the national level involving the Government, civil society and the international community and improving local risk governance using risk assessments and risk informed land use planning targeting land owners and users.


FOCUS: Remote Geo-Hazards Capacity Building and Monitoring. Creating Opportunities in a Safe Environment (COSE): Integrating Risk Management

01.08.2016 - 31.12.2019

The high mountainous area of the Pamirs are highly prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides, avalanches, draughts, glacial lakes outbursts and other earth mass movements. The project will strengthen the communities' and government’s capacity to analyze and manage risks and effectively employ natural resources in a coordinated manner to contribute to increased protection against natural hazards, reducing populations’ vulnerability to natural shocks and to increase their overall resilience.


Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Programme

01.01.2016 - 31.12.2019

The sensitivity of the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) to changes in global climate has been recognised and given priority by the Government of India. However, knowledge and scientific information on climate change impacts on the IHR is still limited and capacities to adapt are weak. The Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Programme (IHCAP) aims at bridging the knowledge gap on climate change impacts and response measures by supporting collaborative research, capacity building and knowledge exchange and dissemination.


Community Driven Watershed Management for Climate Change Adaptation in Nicaragua

01.01.2016 - 30.06.2020

Environmental degradation and climate change are reducing the capacity of the Dipilto River watershed to provide ecosystem services (water, forest) to the population, increasing their vulnerability and deepening poverty. The program will strengthen dialogue among stakeholders, empower communities and provide economic incentives for restoring the hydrologic and environmental equilibrium of the watershed, increasing the resilience of its 27 thousand inhabitants.


GLACIARES+: Risk management and Productive use of water from melting glaciers

01.09.2015 - 31.08.2019

The Lima Call for Climate Action adopted during COP20 in Lima stresses the urgency for fast-track adaptation and building resilience in the developing world; climate risk management plays a key role. Glacial retreat triggers natural hazards and puts at risk water supply and key economic activities such as hydropower generation – globally impacting hundreds of millions of people. Lessons from Peru will be valuable input for the global dialogue the urgently needs evidence-based practical experience in risk management and successful adaptation in glaciated basins.


Innovation and dissemination of technologies for adaptation of agriculture to climate change – AGRIADAPTA

01.07.2015 - 31.12.2020

10'000 families in 19 municipalities of the country improve their food security and their situation of poverty by practising sustainable and climate-smart agriculture. The Project will provide resources so that small-hold farmers in environmentally degraded dry areas affected by climate change and variability develop capacities, exchange knowledge and apply technologies for climate change adaptation.


Programme Development North Africa

01.07.2015 - 30.06.2020

Originally conceived to support the development of activities under the Swiss North Africa Programme launched from scratch in 2011, the 5th phase with a much reduced budget allows deepening relevant thematic and context knowledge, developing and formulating future strategic priorities and setting-up adapted or new projects for SDC in a fragile and complex environment. For 2015-16 the focus is on preparatory work for the Swiss North Africa programme 2017-20.

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