Mountain people among the world’s hungriest as biodiversity loss & climate change take their toll
International Mountain Day 2020 highlights need to protect ecosystems & improve livelihoods
11 December 2020, Rome – Mountains host about half of the global biodiversity hotspots & are home to a growing number of the world’s hungriest people, according to a new study launched by the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) & partners to mark International Mountain Day 2020.
The study conducted by FAO, the Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MPS) & the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), shows that the number of mountain people vulnerable to food insecurity in developing countries increased from 243 to almost 350 million between 2000 & 2017.
The joint study, “Vulnerability of mountain peoples to food insecurity: updated data & analysis of drivers”, was released today ahead of a virtual event to be hosted by FAO entitled “Mountain Biodiversity Matters”.
This year’s International Mountain Day highlights the social, economic & ecological value of mountain biodiversity as mountains account for 30 percent of the key biodiversity areas on the planet.
Mountains provide between 60 & 80 percent of the world’s freshwater, which is essential for irrigation, industry, food & energy production & domestic consumption. Many of the world’s most important crops & livestock species also originate in mountain regions & are a source for food & medicine.
Yet the joint study found that mountain ecosystems are becoming increasingly fragile, under pressure from changes to land use & climate, overexploitation, pollution, demographic shifts & other factors which threaten livelihoods & food security.
“The vulnerability to food insecurity of the mountain people in the developing world is compounded by the presence & occurrence of natural hazards & armed conflicts that disrupt livelihoods or put strain on the natural resources on which mountain people depend,” the study concluded.
It also noted that environmental degradation affects mountain people disproportionately. Climate change has increased the degradation of mountain ecosystems & the incidence of natural hazards such as landslides & droughts. Around 275 million rural people vulnerable to food insecurity were estimated to live in mountain areas that have already been affected by natural hazards.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added urgency to an already difficult situation as restrictions imposed by various countries have amplified the vulnerabilities of mountain communities that depend on agriculture & tourism for their survival.
“One in every two rural mountain people in developing countries do not have enough food to live a healthy life & they are now dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We must protect our mountains & the livelihoods of those who depend on them,” said FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo, commenting on the study’s findings.
The joint study recommended urgent action to address climate change & remove food insecurity & malnutrition in mountain areas. It called for policies to improve the resilience of mountain ecosystems & promote sustainable food systems that support innovation, research & community involvement.
“Ultimately, the goal of this study is to call on decision-makers & others stakeholders to strengthen cooperative action to reduce the vulnerability of mountain people, in particular local communities & indigenous people, & of the most vulnerable among them, often women & children,” the study said.
The Mountain Partnership, a voluntary United Nations alliance that includes 400 governments, NGOs & other members, works for livelihood improvement & natural resource management in mountain communities.
This year’s virtual event will feature a high-level segment, a session on collaborative actions & programmes, & a roundtable session featuring the Mountain Partnership Goodwill Ambassadors.
Yuka Makino, FAO’s Mountain Partnership Secretariat Coordinator, will moderate the event together with Mountain Partnership Goodwill Ambassador Jake Norton, a climber & filmmaker.