Community-led landscape approaches hailed as critical tools for Sustainable Mountain Development

Indigenous and traditional peoples living in mountains are known to sustain important traditional knowledge and a diversity of resilient genetic resources that are adapted to mountain conditions. As an example, mountain farmers have explicitly designed their agricultural systems to protect the soil from erosion, conserve water resources and reduce the risks of disasters triggered by natural hazards which are prevalent in these environments. In terms of variety in genetic resources for instance, farmers in the Andes know as many as 200 different varieties of indigenous potatoes and in the mountains of Nepal, they farm approximately 2000 varieties of rice. In that regard, mountain communities are the custodians of traditional knowledge on how to farm in difficult mountainous conditions and of important reservoirs of agricultural biodiversity. These both elements are key to achieving sustainable development. On the other hand, this traditional knowledge is now being challenged by the rapid changes imposed by climate change which is experienced very disproportionately in mountains. In fact, mountains are highly temperature-sensitive regions compared to surrounding lowlands and their physical characteristics as well as their socio-economic, historical and political background make them extremely sensitive to the impacts of climate change. This rapidly changing environment in mountains has ushered a new wave of solutions that are based on techniques that draw from modern science and technologies. However, it is essential not to lose sight of the traditional knowledge of mountain communities that have kept mountains safe for millennia through various episodes of changes that they have endured. Indeed, the UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement of December 2015 recognises that adaptation action should follow a participatory and fully transparent approach that takes into consideration vulnerable communities and ecosystems, based on traditional, indigenous and local knowledge, as well as science (article 7). This mixed approach to solving Sustainable Mountain Development challenges under the on-going global change is now what is advocated for and many programmes are popping up that harness both traditional knowledge and modern science to solve mountain problems. In this framework, a policy consultation workshop held on 19-20 May 2016 and co-organized by the Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy (CCAP)/Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) and others, explored community-led landscape approaches as critical tools for sustainable development, climate adaptation and poverty alleviation. The participants to the Lijiang policy consultation workshop included 40 professionals from various UN agencies, government, research institutes, NGOs and joined 35 community leaders and representatives from different countries around the world. They exchanged lessons and experiences on various indigenous knowledge systems in mountains, ranging from Sacred Natural Sites (SNS) management in Yunnan-China to Biocultural Landscapes Heritage (BLH) systems in Peru and china. This south-south exchange visit between community leaders from Peru and China and the policy consultation process that ensued in Lijiang both confirmed and emphasized the importance of indigenous knowledge systems in adapting to the various environmental changes happening in mountains, and their integration in modern science will really help mountain landscapes keep their major role as pillars of sustainable development. For more information on this workshop and the exchange visit, please read the full report here.

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