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 115

Pakistan: ADB, National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF)

01.12.2016 - 30.11.2019

Pakistan faces significant disaster risk and lacks institutional capacity and finance to tackle it. The National Disaster Risk Management Fund will enhance resilience of vulnerable communities, especially in KP and FATA, to natural hazards and will strengthen institutional capacity of authorities to disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness. This will reduce socio-economic vulnerability of the people to natural hazards and ultimately poverty.


Climate and Clean Air in Latin American Cities Plus Programme (CALAC+)

25.11.2016 - 31.07.2021

CALAC+ supports clean air strategies in Latin American metropolises fostering normative and technological changes towards application of soot-free engines in public urban transport systems and off-road machinery. The reduction of air pollutants that are both an important impediment to sustainable development and a key contributor to climate change will be achieved by means of, targeted capacity building, sharing experiences and curbing private sector engagement in clean air issues.


Ecuador, Technical Support in Earthquake Resistant Reconstruction

18.10.2016 - 31.12.2018

An earthquake of the magnitude of 7.8 (Richter scale) hit Northern Ecuador, on 16 April 2016. Damages were widespread, collapsing structures within hundreds of km’s from the epicenter. Following SDC/HA’s emergency and early recovery interventions, SHA will provide the Ecuadorian government with technical support in capacity building on earthquake resistant construction, capitalizing SDC’s experiences from Pakistan and Haiti.


Global Credit for Outlook 2020 and Culture

01.07.2016 - 31.12.2018

The Swiss Cooperation Office (SCO) in Mongolia aims to utilise a flexible and efficient tool to pilot new areas, forms and modalities of cooperation for the strategic strengthening of the programme in view of the development of the new Country strategy and post- 2020 cooperation. Culture projects will support local initiatives that strengthen cultural and artistic diversity.


Microacciones AH

01.05.2016 - 31.03.2019

Toda la régión está experimentando vulnerabilidad las que pueden causar catástrofes cuya magnitud limitada en la myoría de los casos, no justifica la activacíon de una respuesta internacional, perso todavía puede causar cictimas y daños considerables. En la misma manera los fenómenos geoffisicos como terremotos, tsunamis, erupciones volcánicas, etc., afectan la región.

A través de pegueñas contribuciones Suiza se manifiesta como un socio de confianza para el fortalecimiento de su red y al mismo tiempo aumentar su visibilidad. 


Réduction des risques de catastrophes « naturelles » dans le Département du Sud-Est d’Haïti (RRC / Sud-Est)

01.02.2016 - 31.08.2018

Dans un contexte de catastrophes « naturelles » récurrentes qui minent les efforts de redressement du pays, le projet vise à réduire les risques de catastrophes pour les populations rurales et périurbaines de la munici­palité de Jacmel (département du Sud-Est) en créant d’une part des conditions favorables à la prise de me­sures de prévention grâce à des actions de formation et de promotion d’une gouvernance locale du risque, et en stimulant d’autre part une demande pour des mesures par une sensibilisation de la population.


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



Regional Arts and Culture Programme (RACP)

01.01.2015 - 31.12.2017

The regional arts and culture programme contributes to strengthening the capacity of art organisations to exchange and share expertise, resources, and artistic contents across the countries of the region. It further supports artists to reach out to new audiences with their art products. It explores through established organisations how artistic expressions that are rooted in the creative work can bring fresh perspectives and contribute to development endeavours.


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.


Object 85 – 96 of 115