East Africa’s mountains support large human populations. The Ugandan side of Mount Elgon, for instance, has an average population density of 900 people per square kilometre. The Rwandan side of the Virunga massif also harbours the highest density of population in a country that is already considered to be the densest on the continental Africa. This is partly because the mountainous regions of East Africa have cooler temperatures, more stable rainfall regimes and more fertile soils compared with lowland areas. The mountains of East Africa are not only highly productive agricultural areas; their rivers also have significant, but largely unexploited, hydropower potential. The offer other economic opportunities as well related to hiking and wildlife-based tourism (EAC, UNEP and GRID-Arendal, 2016). Given this big importance of East-African mountains for the development of the region, there is an urgent need to coordinate action to tackle the many issues that are hampering true sustainable development in these areas including climate change. Indeed, the IPCC climate models predict an increase of average temperatures of 3.2 °C by 2080 in East-Africa and such an increase will have disturbing impacts on agriculture, water, and people’s health. UN Environment has been stewarding this effort to develop a sub-regional mountain agenda for East-Africa to address the challenges that prevents the region to fully implement a solid Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) agenda. Among these is the weak governance systems for mountain regions and in particular the lack of specific policies that target mountains and climate change. As part of this on-going effort, the UN Environment is convening a regional meeting on 11 September 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda back to back to the Africa Regional Mountain Forum, an event that will offer a platform for stakeholder dialogue with the view of exploring how to anchor the elements of the SMD agenda into EAC processes and its different workstreams (climate change, biodiversity, etc.). Stakeholders will also explore possible areas for future joint collaboration in order to catalyse concrete project ideas in EAC countries. For More information, please get in touch with Dr Musonda Mumba, the head of Terrestrial Ecosystems Unit at the UN Environment.
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