Course 2015: Food security in mountain areas EXtraordinary POtential


Food insecurity is possibly the main threat faced by mountain peoples and one of the main obstacles to achieve sustainable development. Even though mountains often house freshwater, agrobiodiversity and livestock that can contribute to food security, for millions of people who live in mountain areas, hunger and the threat of hunger is a daily reality.

Many people who live in mountain regions are food insecure and their diets lack key nutrients. A  study conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) in 2002 showed that about 40 percent of the mountain population in developing and transition countries is estimated to be vulnerable to food insecurity. Nearly all of those people, 90 percent, live in rural areas and almost half are likely to be chronically hungry.  This study is currently being updated but the preliminary findings show that the situation in mountain areas has not significantly improved.

Mountainous terrain, with its steep slopes and frequently harsh climate, presents farmers and herders with challenging conditions to live and work in. Crop growth is slower at high altitudes, so many mountain farmers have only one harvest per year. In addition, mountain soils are often degraded and do not provide enough nutrients for plants to grow well. Climate change, if not timely addressed, is likely to worsen the living conditions of many mountain farmers who are already food insecure. All this, combined with political and social marginality, expose mountain people to food shortages.

Traditional mountain diets were quite balanced, providing various nutrients and adequate levels of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Nowadays, globalization and changes in lifestyle have led to diets characterized by low diversity,  entailing low levels of micronutrients and an abundance of carbohydrates. No or difficult access to basic health services increases the risk of illness already exacerbated by malnutrition. Infant mortality and maternal mortality rate in mountains are also higher than in the lowlands. For many households, permanent or seasonal migration in search of complementary income has become an integral part of the livelihood system.

It is important to understand that hunger and malnutrition are not merely a symptom of poverty in mountain communities – they contribute to perpetuate poverty and increase the gap between the livelihoods of highland and lowland communities.

Policies must foster equitable growth, employment, social protection, infrastructure and investments to ensure that both poverty and hunger in mountains are eradicated.



The course will be held in Ormea and Edolo, both in northern Italy, for about 30/35 officers, researchers and technicians from all over the world, providing a technical and scientific overview of the issues related to food security and nutrition in mountain areas.

It will focus on several features of food security in mountains, looking at the prevailing mountain economic systems, the impact of global changes, the role of soils and water, gender, governance and land tenure issues, just to name a few.

As EXPO2015, whose focus is on nutrition, will take place in Milan, the participants will spend a day visiting EXPO and taking part in an event called “Rural mountain: worldwide EXtraordinary Potential”. The closing ceremony of the course will also take place at EXPO2015.

Structure and Venue


The activities will start on 23 June 2015 with an overview of the course and end on 3 July 2015 with a closing ceremony; the course will include lectures, seminars, group work and a field trip. The lecturers will be experts from the UN system, universities, international organizations and NGOs. As in previous years, the activities will be organized by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat,  FAO, the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Turin and the Centre of excellence "Mountain University " – (GESDIMONT) - DISAA - Milan University, with the logistic support of the Edolo management and training group and the financial support of the Cassa Rurale Alta Val di Sole e Pejo.

Basic information


Scientific Directors:
Professor Michele Freppaz - Department of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences - Research Centre on Natural Risks in Mountain and Hilly Environments, University of Turin, Italy

Professor Anna Giorgi - Centre of excellence "Mountain University" (GESDIMONT) - Milan University

Mauro Bassignana - Institut Agricole Régional - Aosta, Italy

Logistics and programme manager:

Danilo Godone - Department of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences - Research Centre on Natural Risks in Mountain and Hilly Environments, University of Turin, Italy

Technical coordinator:
Rosalaura Romeo - Mountain Partnership Secretariat, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), Rome, Italy

Official language of the course: English


Excellent command of English
Advanced scientific degree 



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