This study, conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Mountain Partnership Secretariat and the Global Mechanism of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification UNCCD), clearly indicates that the number of mountain people who are vulnerable to food insecurity is still increasing.

At the same time, mountains have a high potential to support greener development building on their sustainable food systems and rich biodiversity. We need to unlock this potential for the benefit of all humanity.

A total of 346 million people in rural mountain areas in developing countries were estimated to be vulnerable to food insecurity in 2017. The number increased by 39 million people between 2012 and 2017. These findings confirm those presented by the study “Mapping the vulnerability of mountain people to food insecurity”, published by FAO in 2015 and of which this study is an update.

Vulnerability to food insecurity is related to a complex system of environmental, social and economic factors, which include, among others, land degradation, climate change, natural hazards, and insufficient access to infrastructure and services. These factors add to the already high exposure of mountain people to multiple risks and reduce their ability to cope with food shortages and other shocks.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions adopted by countries to respond to it have amplified the existing vulnerabilities of mountain communities. Mountain livelihoods – which rely mostly on agriculture, tourism and remittances – have been particularly affected by the global lockdowns. The prolonged recession that is unfolding will require special attention to ensure that the most vulnerable among mountain people, particularly women and youth, are not pushed into poverty and further deprivation.

This publication is an example of how data collection that makes use of new technologies and methodologies can generate information to support policies and decision-making aimed at combating poverty and eradicating hunger.

Ensuring food security, promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, reducing land degradation and protecting mountain ecosystems are global priorities and shared goals of FAO and UNCCD. The Mountain Partnership, a UN alliance with over 400 members, advocates for the sustainable development of mountain areas, by drawing attention to the plight of mountain people and supporting local and global action among its members and outside, beyond the mountain constituency circle.

The information produced in this study is a call to national authorities and the international community to give urgent attention to the threats affecting mountain people, their livelihoods and ecosystems in the spirit of the UN 2030 Agenda of leaving no one behind.

We trust that this publication will contribute to this noble goal.

Affiliate Partner

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Type of publication


Type of Ecosystem


Download Link(s)