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 13 – 24 of 106

COVID19-Prévention et réponse face à l’impact environnemental et épidémiologique

01.07.2020 - 30.06.2022

Ce projet soutient les efforts de la Tunisie en réponse à la crise COVID19 et renforce ses capacités de gestion des risques avec une approche plus intégrée et décentralisée. Il adresse essentiellement les risques liés à la gestion de déchets dangereux solides et liquides sanitaires ainsi que les eaux usées. Le partenaire de mise en œuvre est le PNUD, en collaboration avec les Ministères de la santé et des Affaires locales. 


Strengthening Livelihoods and Social Inclusion in Georgia's Forest Sector Reform

01.07.2020 - 30.06.2025

As part of a comprehensive forest sector reform, the proposed project contribution aims at diversifying livelihood opportunities of target forest dependent communities and at strengthening the local capacities in forest management in a sustainable manner. This is particularly relevant since up to 90% of Georgia’s rural households rely on forests for energy and other purposes, leading to progressive forest degradation. The COVID-19 crisis further aggravates economic hardship of the most vulnerable groups among them.


Programme de renforcement de la résilience des ménages pastoraux et agropastoraux face aux crises climatiques et à l'insécurité (RESILIA) Phase 1

01.06.2020 - 31.12.2024

la DDC contribue au renforcement de la résilience de plus de 700’000 personnes dont les déplacées internes, affectées par la crise sécuritaire et les changements climatiques au Burkina Faso. Se basant sur la riche expérience de la Suisse dans l’élevage pastoral au Sahel, le programme va soutenir les pasteurs et agropasteurs pour que leur pratique d’élevage et moyens de subsistance s’adaptent aux défis climatiques et améliorent leurs conditions de vie tout en favorisant la paix au Burkina Faso.


CROPS4HD - Consumption of Resilient Or-phan Crops & Products for Healthier Diets

01.06.2020 - 30.06.2025

The agroecological production and sale of neglected and underutilized species offers nutritional and health benefits for consumers, market opportunities for farmers and contribute to the sustainable use of biodiversity and climate change adaptation. In Chad, Niger, Tanzania and India and globally, SDC supports SWISSAID and its partners in establishing agroecological food and seed systems. FiBL, the leading Swiss Research Institute of Organic Agriculture supports this endeavour with scientific evidence.


Contribution to the VII Regional Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas and the Caribbean

01.02.2020 - 31.03.2022

Financially support the Regional Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Jamaica 2020 (RPDRR 20) co-convened by CDEMA and UNDRR with a non-earmarked contribution to the overall costs and thereby assist implementation of the Sendai Framework in the Americas. Accompany this contribution by providing assistance in the preparations relying on the experience from previous platforms and the GPDRR 19 and support the participation of key stakeholders in the Americas that exhibit their activities in collaboration with SDC.


Mercy Corps - Building Resilience in Conflict-Affected Communities (BRAC)

01.02.2020 - 31.01.2022

South Kordofan is one of the areas in Sudan were the armed conflict is temporarily halted, but not yet solved, and many communities are still suffering from its consequences. These communities are hosting significant numbers of IDPs and refugees from war torn South Sudan, who share the very limited available resources. The project aims at increasing the resilience of female and male members of vulnerable households to economic, social and climate related shocks through improved access to gender responsive basic services and increased agricultural production.


Solar Irrigation for Agriculture Resilience (SoLAR)

01.01.2020 - 31.07.2027

To adapt to climate change farmers rely increasingly on irrigation, ultimately depleting groundwater resources and raising energy demand. The project aims to address these challenges by promoting solar irrigation, water efficient agriculture and groundwater governance. The project will harness Swiss expertise on hydrogeology and technical innovations to contribute to climate resilient agriculture and facilitate knowledge sharing in South Asia and at the global level.


Support of the UN Con-vention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

01.01.2020 - 31.12.2022

1.5 billion people in more than 100 countries are affected by desertification and 42% of the world’s poor live in these areas. 12 million hectares of land are lost by desertification every year. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) links sustainable land management to social and economic development to achieve its goal of combating desertification/land degradation and mitigating the effects of drought. 


Chinese Zero Emission Buildings with Swiss Know-How (ZEB China)

01.01.2020 - 28.02.2025

By upgrading building emission standards, supporting demonstration buildings and enhancing capacities of professionals with Switzerland’s leading know-how on sustainable construction, the project will support low-carbon development of China’s building sector, which is the biggest in the world. It will also benefit the public health by improving the thermal comfort of buildings and reducing air pollution resulting from heating and cooling. 


Strengthening State Strategies for Climate Actions (3SCA)

01.01.2020 - 31.12.2023

Responding to the Government of India’s request for Swiss expertise in disaster risk reduction and water resource management in mountain ecosystems, the project will support the Himalayan States of Uttarakhand and Sikkim to improve resilience against climate change in these sectors. Through relevant Government institutions, the project will build capacities for replication of project inter-ventions in the 12 Himalayan States, support policy uptake and share results regionally and globally. 


Promoting efficient, affordable and clean cooling for everyone (PEACCE)

15.12.2019 - 31.12.2023

 

This project addresses increasing heatwaves by providing people of developing and emerging countries with access to efficient, affordable and clean cooling. The project will address both climate change mitigation and adaptation while improving the health, nutrition and productivity of people living in hot climates. This will be achieved by supporting select countries to set ambitious commitments on cooling in their climate policies. Swiss experience on climate-friendly cooling will be shared. 


African Risk Capacity (ARC)

10.12.2019 - 31.12.2022

The African Risk Capacity is a disaster risk management pool and early response mechanism established by the African Union member states against natural disasters like drought, flood, and tropical cyclones, and the outbreak of highly contagious diseases. Its drought insurance and the new insurance products for flood and tropical cyclones enhance the safety nets of smallholder households and thus contributes to food security in Africa.

Object 13 – 24 of 106