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 85 – 96 of 96

Strengthening and sustaining results for children and women in fragile, conflict-affected as well as climate and disaster-prone contexts

01.07.2016 - 31.12.2021

UNICEF through its 138 Country offices (CO) supports governments (especially at local level) and partners to reduce risk and strengthen resilience. To achieve this, UNICEF is currently increasing its focus on fragility and supports disaster risk reduction (DRR), climate change adaptation (CCA) and peacebuilding (PB) while also promoting a multi-hazard approach to Risk Informed Programming (RIP).


Innovation and dissemination of technologies for adaptation of agriculture to climate change – AGRIADAPTA

01.07.2015 - 31.12.2022

10'000 families in 19 municipalities of the country improve their food security and their situation of poverty by practising sustainable and climate-smart agriculture. The Project will provide resources so that small-hold farmers in environmentally degraded dry areas affected by climate change and variability develop capacities, exchange knowledge and apply technologies for climate change adaptation.


Sustainable water and pasture management to alleviate the plight of Ethiopian pastoralists

A group of Ethiopian men and women beside a half dried-up pool of water, using picks and shovels to dig new basins.

01.06.2015 - 31.12.2021

Drought, fodder scarcity and conflicts over natural resources make life difficult for pastoralists in southern Ethiopia. The SDC has taken various measures to improve their food security and their resilience to crisis situations, ranging from the rehabilitation of pastureland and water points to the introduction of land use plans and the diversification of income sources for women.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Ethiopia
Agriculture & food security
Conflict & fragility
Climate change and environment

Agricultural land resources
Household food security
Conflict prevention
Disaster risk reduction DRR

01.06.2015 - 31.12.2021


CHF  8’653’920



Blue Peace Central Asia Strengthening of the Regional Institutional Framework for Integrated Water Resources Management in Central Asia

01.09.2014 - 31.07.2022

In response to the explicit demand of the five Central Asian States, and building on over 20 years of cooperation in the field of water, SDC facilitates transboundary water resources cooperation consistent with the Blue Peace approach implemented in the Middle-East and at the global level through the establishment of a High Level Dialogue Platform, the promotion of sustainable water practices as well as capacity building of a new generation of water professionals and champions.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Central Asia
Water
Climate change and environment
Water diplomacy and security
Meteorological services
Water resources conservation
Water sector policy

01.09.2014 - 31.07.2022


CHF  6’000’000



Restoration of the Strumica River Basin

01.07.2014 - 31.12.2022

As a continuation of the support to the Macedonian water and nature sector, Switzerland developed a group of projects that will assist the country to have cleaner water and a healthier environment, as well as to move forward in meeting its obligations towards the EU. Through this project, Citizens and farmers in the Strumica river basin will benefit from improved economic wellbeing as a result of a better ecological status of the river basin and reduced flooding hazards.



Home Garden

16.01.2014 - 31.12.2021

Small and marginal farmers in Nepal, especially women and children, are regularly exposed to malnutrition and are vulnerable to external shocks such as health risks and natural hazards. Home garden aims to improve family nutrition and reduce vulnerability of such individuals and households. Objectives are to diversify dietary sources of disadvantaged groups in homestead for family consumption and increase capacity for adaptation to natural hazards and climate change. The project strengthens the safety net and the coping strategy of the most vulnerable in Nepal.
 


Aga Khan Foundation: Integrated Health and Habitat Improvement (IHHI) Rasht Valley

01.07.2013 - 31.12.2017

Tajikistan is the poorest country of the former Soviet Union and is marked by a sluggish transition and fragility patterns. This project contributes to improving the Rasht Valley (the most neglected and fragile area of the country) population’s quality of life through better provision of and access to water and health services, as well as increased resilience against natural hazards. Moreover, it enhances professional skills and empowers the local population in planning and investing in its communities.


Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development - Research Module on Ecosystems

15.05.2013 - 31.12.2023

Enhancing sustainable and climate-friendly use and management of ecosystems for human well-being is at the core of a new research module in the context of SDC’s and the Swiss National Science Foundation’s (SNSF) joint r4d Program (Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development; www.r4d.ch). Researchers from Switzerland with their partners in Africa, Asia, and Latin America will jointly generate new insights and develop innovative concepts and tools for a more sustainable and equitable provision of ecosystem services benefiting the poor.


Catastrophic Microinsurance in Central America

01.03.2013 - 31.03.2022

Central America is a natural disasters prone region where large vulnerable populations suffer over-proportionately from increasing frequency and impact of climate change events, as traditional disaster coping mechanisms are eroding with growing environmental pressures and rising urbanisation. The public-private development partnership with Swiss Re, FOMIN, and KfW’s Climate Adaptation Fund supports MiCRO in strengthening the disaster resilience of at least 80’000 vulnerable households by 30.9.2016.


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

01.11.2012 - 31.12.2023

Providing sustainable access to modern and climate friendly energy services to households, health centres, schools, and small enterprises impacts the lives of the beneficiaries in many ways: improved cooking reduces the burden on women and girls of fire-wood collection and their exposure to indoor air pollution; access to improved lighting reduces health hazards and allows children to study; energy availability improves access to information and communication and extends the range of productive activities; and energy access improves the conditions and quality of services such as education and health; all while reducing CO2 emissions.


Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development - Research Module on Employment

01.09.2012 - 31.12.2023

SDC and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) are offering a new long-term funding scheme for development-relevant research on global issues (www.r4d.ch). The main focus lies on the generation of new insights and solutions as well as on the application of research results into policy and practice through partnership projects between researchers from Switzerland and from developing countries. The overall r4d.ch program consists of five thematic modules and a module for thematically open research. The second module focuses on employment in the context of sustainable development.

Object 85 – 96 of 96