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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Clean Air Project in India (CAP India)

01.07.2018 - 30.09.2023

India is one of the most severely affected countries by air pollution in the world. This project will respond to a demand for support raised in India’s new National Clean Air Programme, with the aim to improve air quality with co-benefits on public health, environment and climate change. Capacity building and technical assistance through Swiss expertise will support data measurement and analysis, city level clean air action plans and awareness raising campaigns to take precautionary measures and mitigate air pollution.


Clean Energy Policy (CEP)

01.06.2018 - 29.02.2020

India has put forth an ambitious plan for decarbonisation of its economy as part of the post 2020 Nationally Determined Contribution under Paris Climate Agreement. The achievement of these targets needs development of appropriate energy transition in the coming two years (2018-19). This single-phase project will support the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation to setup a Platform which will deliberate on the energy choices and solutions.


Global Alliance for Health and Pollution

01.06.2018 - 31.12.2028

Through political, technical and financial support, SDC together with other Swiss partners aims at actively co-shaping the agenda of the still young Global Alliance on Health and Pollution. The alliance brings together different stakeholders to produce evidence for awareness raising and to curb toxic pollution of air, water and soil in low- and middle-income countries in order to reduce its harmful effects on public health.


Opérationnalisation de la filière semencière au Tchad

01.05.2018 - 30.11.2023

Au Tchad, le système de production agricole est rudimentaire et les rendements sont faibles. Le pays est régulièrement confronté à l’insécurité alimentaire. La semence est le principal intrant utilisé par les agriculteurs. C’est pourquoi, la DDC contribue à faciliter l’accès à des semences de qualité et adaptées à leur environnement. Ce programme permet aux exploitations familiales d’améliorer leur production et leur revenu et développe l’auto-emploi des femmes et des jeunes grâce à la multiplication de semences.


Clean Air China (CAC): Breaking Down the Dome: Sino-Swiss Cooperation on Air Pollution Source Apportionment for Better Air

01.05.2018 - 31.10.2022

The project will support the development of advanced air pollution source apportionment techniques with a Swiss and Chinese joint expert team to enable the design of more effective air pollution control policies beneficial for public health, the global climate and the environment. The techniques and experience of science-based policy making will be piloted in Chinese cities and shared with other developing countries strongly affected by air pollution to accelerate progress towards cleaner air.


REPIC: Interdepartementale Plattform zur Förderung der erneuerbaren Energien, der Ressourcen- und der Energieeffizienz in der internationalen Zusammenarbeit

01.04.2018 - 31.03.2022

Die REPIC Plattform zur Förderung der erneuerbaren Energien, der Ressourcen- und Energieeffizienz in der internationalen Zusammenarbeit ist eine gemeinsame Initiative des Staatssekretariates für Wirtschaft (SECO), des Bundesamtes für Energie (BFE), des Bundesamt für Umwelt (BAFU) und der Direktion für Entwicklung und Zusammenarbeit (DEZA). REPIC ermöglicht die Unterstützung von Bottom-Up Pilotprojekten aus der Privatwirtschaft, der Zivilgesellschaft und der Akademie.


Core Contribution for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 2018 - 2020

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2021

SDC has been granting core contributions to IUCN since 1997. The new Core Contribution for the period 2018 – 2020 aims to highlight IUCN’s comparative advantage and development relevance. With this core contribution SDC contributes to the implementation of the IUCN Programme 2017-2020 and in particular to the integration of healthy and restored ecosystems into SDGs water (SDG 6), climate change (SDG13), environment (14/15) and food security (SDG2).


Support to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC)

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2021

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has been supporting the Climate and Clean Air Coalition since 2014. Today, the Coalition is a recognized platform bringing together country, inter-governmental and non-governmental partners to take action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants. In the continuation of the programme, the Swiss contribution aims to build on previous success and achieve further emission reductions and increasing the climate resilience of poor population groups.


Energising Development - Support to the Energising Development (EnDev) Partnership

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2022

Providing sustainable access to modern and climate friendly energy services to households, health centres, schools, and small enterprises improves the lives of beneficiaries through, for example, reduced indoor air pollution; improved access to information and communication; enabling of revenue generating activities; and enhanced quality of public services; all while reducing CO2 emissions. The Energising Development Partnership (EnDev) is an impact oriented donor partnership supporting energy access.


lntegrated Health and Habitat lmprovement in the Rasht Valley, Tajikistan

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2021

Through the project the population living in one of the poorest and fragile regions of Tajikistan (Rasht Valley) will gain access to basic social services (water and health). The interventions in the selected watersheds will empower the local communities enabling their active participation in decision-making and effective management of the resources. As a result, people in the project area will adopt healthier, more environmentally sustainable, and disaster-safer behaviours.


Integrated Health and Habitat Improvement (IHHI) Rasht Valley, Tajikistan

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2021

Rasht Valley is the most neglected and fragile region in Tajikistan - the poorest country of the former Soviet Union republics. The region marked by a sluggish transition and fragility patterns – remnants of the Civil War in the country. This project will improve quality of living conditions of Rasht Valley’s population by increasing access to better quality drinking water, sanitation and healthcare services, as well as strengthening resilience of communities to the impact of natural hazards.


Cocoa value chain

Cocoa Chain Value Family

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2023

Actors in the Central American cocoa value chain improve their productivity, establish public-private alliances, respect economic, social and cultural rights, and reduce their environmental impact. Thanks to the program 4,500 producer families will increase their net annual income by at least 10%, while 4,000 young adults and 2,000 women gain access to sustainable jobs. This will boost the local economy in the poor and peripheral areas in which cocoa is grown.  

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