Agriculture and food processing are important economic and development drivers in many mountainous areas and are essential features of mountain landscapes, cultures and societies.
However, the majority of the world’s mountain rural population does not have secure access to food and to the daily calories and protein necessary to guarantee a healthy life: one out of every two mountain dwellers in the rural areas of developing countries is estimated to be at risk of food insecurity.
The persistence and high incidence of vulnerability to food insecurity among the 1 billion people living in mountains in the developing countries is a matter of great concern and is hindering the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 2 – zero hunger.
This publication has been compiled with the objective of raising awareness about the importance of applying sustainable production practices to mountain agriculture as an accelerator for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A joint initiative by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MPS), the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture and the Italian Development Cooperation, it also aims to contribute to the milestone UN Food Systems Summit in 2021.
Applying sustainable practices offers opportunities for mountain agriculture to balance economic development with cultural and environmental preservation. Special focus has been given to the potential of agroecological approaches for improving mountain people’s livelihoods and creating environmental benefits. These environmental benefits include conservation of biodiversity, improved resilience to extreme events, and water management for highland populations as well as lowland populations living far away. Agroecological approaches can also help to tackle some of the vulnerabilities of the food system exposed by COVID-19 and to “build back better” after the pandemic.
The case studies presented in this publication clearly show the opportunities for empowerment – particularly of women – generated through the production of high-quality mountain products with strong market value, which can increase incomes for mountain communities. The case studies also emphasize the need at institutional level for policies, investments and cooperation that specifically target and support mountain people, their production systems and their incomes.
Mountain farming systems that have evolved under varying agroclimatic conditions – frequently in difficult and inaccessible terrains ill-suited to intensive, high- productivity crops – have often maintained a highly diversified genetic base for crops and domestic animals. This publication shows that sustainable approaches in mountain agriculture are varied, rich and dynamic, with innovative and traditional farming practices that are being tested, used and promoted by farmers, researchers, practitioners and policy makers. Such practices seek to protect biodiversity, improve resource efficiency, strengthen resilience and promote social equity, while enhancing the livelihoods of mountain communities.
Harnessing the potential of mountain farming systems is key to attracting youth back to agriculture and food-based livelihoods, and to ensuring that healthy mountain ecosystems can continue to provide their essential services. Our organizations are all deeply committed to sustainable mountain development. It is our hope that this publication will encourage others to join us in providing political support and investment for sustainable mountain agriculture and sustainable food systems for the future.