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 25 – 36 of 91

Climate Risks and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) Partnership

01.12.2018 - 31.12.2025

The global Climate Risks and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) Partnership supports Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States in creating necessary human capacities to generate and communicate climate and weather risks timely and effectively. This allows to save millions of lives and significantly reduce economic losses caused by natural disasters and a changing climate. Providing Swiss development, humanitarian and insurance expertise to the CREWS Partnership will contribute to increased impact and sustainability of public and private investments in this field.


BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (BioCF-ISFL)

01.12.2018 - 31.12.2030

The BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (BioCF-ISFL) is a multilateral fund managed by the World Bank catalysing the development of low-carbon rural economies, fostering livelihoods and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the land sector. It engages national and sub-national governments and the private sector through impact-based payment systems. Switzerland has an interest piloting such incentive systems in order to shape development cooperation that is fit for the future.


Disability: Community Based Development Muzaffargarh, Pakistan

01.12.2018 - 31.12.2020

Die CBM fokussiert auf die ärmsten und schwächsten Bevölkerungsgruppen – getreu dem Grundsatz «Niemanden zurücklassen» (Leave no one behind) im Hinblick auf die Umsetzung der Agenda 2030. Deshalb spielt die CBM seit über dreissig Jahren eine wichtige Rolle bei der Inklusion von Menschen mit Behinderungen, namentlich von sehbehinderten und blinden Menschen. Die DEZA wird über die Abteilung Institutionelle Partnerschaften, die für das Thema «Disability» zuständig ist, einen Pilotbeitrag zur Verbesserung der Lebensbedingungen von Menschen mit Behinderungen leisten.


Support to Climate Change Management (GestionCC )-Phase 2

01.12.2018 - 31.05.2021

All countries are faced with the challenge of translating the landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change at the national level. Switzerland and Peru have both innovated in setting up the governance structures needed to tackle climate change. This project aims to improve Peru’s ability to successfully implement its commitments under the Paris Agreement[1] and to share its experience in Latin America and globally in order to raise ambition in climate change adaptation and mitigation.



African Forests, People and Climate Change

15.11.2018 - 31.12.2021

The African forestry sector holds considerable potential for mitigating and facilitating adaptation to adverse impacts of climate change that severely threaten the development of Sub-Saharan Africa. Support to the African Forest Forum ensures that policies and action base on the improved understanding about the relationship between climate change, forests and trees and that these elements will be reflected in their revised nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the climate convention.


UNDP – Disaster Risk Management in Cox’s Bazar District

01.11.2018 - 31.10.2020

The location, climate and topography of Cox’s Bazar District makes it vulnerable to tropical cyclones and associated storm surges, flash flooding, and landslides. The influx of the Rohingya refugees have raised the population of an already poor, disaster prone-district to 3.5 million people, requiring significant upgrading of disaster risk management capacities. The project supports a comprehensive approach to developing local capacities and enables risk informed-decision making.


Cosecha de Agua (Water Harvesting)

01.11.2018 - 31.12.2022

This project strengthens the food security of 2,500 families and responds to the challenges of climate change and the economic crisis in Nicaragua’s dry corridor. The second phase of the project is intended to systematize and replicate on a larger scale water harvesting and other practices for more efficient use of water resources. In the interest of enhanced implementation efficiency and effectiveness, the participation of the government is reduced and a contribution to a specialized international organization is proposed.


Air Pollution Impact on Health

air polluted suburban area in UB

01.10.2018 - 31.12.2022

This project aims at reducing the risks of air pollution to maternal and child health in urban Mongolia targeting the most polluted areas of Ulaanbaatar and one province centre. This sector governance project establishes evidence linking air pollution and its health impact, pilots and improves risk reduction measures for children and pregnant women, and both will inform policy making. Swiss know-how will be applied, i.e. through involvement of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.


Plant Variety Protection Legislation and Farmers’ Rights in Developing Countries

01.10.2018 - 30.09.2022

Plant variety protection legislation in accordance with the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) is gaining importance in developing countries. This kind of legislation often neglects the existing informal seed systems and Farmers’ Rights. SDC supports APBREBES, a network of civil society organizations, to raise awareness and contribute to capacity building on alternative legislation that better reflect smallholders’ needs and practices.


China: Rehabilitation and management strategy for over-pumped aquifers under a changing climate

01.09.2018 - 31.12.2021

In the past 30 years the aquifers in the North China plain have been over-exploited. Based on cutting-edge Sino-Swiss expertise in real-time groundwater monitoring and modelling, the project will implement groundwater and agricultural management policies to stabilize groundwater levels as a buffer to climate change induced droughts. The project will work with farmers and local authorities to facilitate policy uptake. Findings are relevant for many water-stressed countries and will be shared globally.


Disaster Risk Reduction for Sustainable Development in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Joint UN Project

01.09.2018 - 31.12.2022

High exposure to natural hazards coupled with insufficient technical, organizational, and financial capacities of BiH’s institutions and governments directly impede the country’s socio-economic development and increase population vulnerability. This Project, jointly implemented by five UN Agencies, will reduce the social and economic vulnerabilities of citizens and institutions affected by disasters and climate change by introducing and operationalizing an integrated model of disaster risk governance and livelihood enhancement starting with selected local municipalities.

Object 25 – 36 of 91