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Mountain communities highlighted at Environment Day

05.06.2014

Learning from the traditional practices and adaptation solutions developed by mountain communities to achieve a sound model for sustainable development was one of the key messages mentioned during a seminar held today at FAO to celebrate Environment Day.

The seminar, co-organized by FAO, Earth Day Italia and the Mountain Partnership, was titled “Intelligent territories: opportunities for future investment - social, environmental and financial innovation.” The first roundtable highlighted the role that mountain and rural communities can play in future scenarios of social, environmental and financial innovation.

Panelists included, among the others, Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Assistant Director-General, Forestry FAO and UN Commissioner for EXPO 2015, Pierluigi Sassi, President, Earth Day Italia and Renato Grimaldi, Director General, Nature Division, Ministry of Environment, and Rosalaura Romeo, Mountain Partnership Secretariat FAO.

Eduardo Rojas-Briales, in his opening speech underlined “the huge potential of natural resources for development, and how a sustainable management, in particular of forests and mountains, is fundamental to achieve not only the safeguarding of our planet but the wellbeing of the whole of humanity.”

Forest and mountains can be important social and economic drivers, as proven in those countries where they have been sustainably managed.  Rojas-Briales reminded the audience that FAO is supporting Member States in drafting the targets and indicators for achieving and monitoring the sustainable development goals, so that the process towards 2030 can be a truly universal development path. 

Mountain peoples’ relationship with the environment, the sustainable management of the natural resource base, the balance between traditional knowledge and capacity of adaptation to global changes makes them much more resilient compared to communities who live in the lowlands or in the cities. Their ability to work in groups, such as cooperatives or farmers associations, and their tendency to diversify their income is a model that could be applied and replicated elsewhere.

The current economic crisis, the consequences of climate change and the increasing scarcity of natural resources require a new approach.  “We now need a change,” said Pierluigi Sassi. “We know that this change is necessary and possible, so we need to build on different social enterprises, new financial models and partnerships between the private and the public sector.”

Rosalaura Romeo, Mountain Partnership programme officer, highlighted how mountain agriculture can also provide high value and high quality products that cater to an increasing market demand and generate income for local communities.  “Mountain products like saffron, coffee and argan oil offer a great opportunity for the development of local economies and for investments,” she explained. “The Mountain Partnership is at the moment working with several partners to develop a mountain brand which we hope to launch during Expo 2015.”

Romeo however reminded how mountain peoples are among the poorest and hungriest of the world, and require adequate policies and investments to so they can prosper and remain in mountains. 


Photo: FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli

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