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 25 – 36 of 1084

Sustainable management protects people and their livelihoods in Tajikistan

01.12.2016 - 31.12.2019

Flash floods and mudslides are examples of hazards that threatens inhabitants of Muminabad district in Tajikistan. Switzerland is supporting a project to reduce the risk of natural disasters in four watersheds of the district. The project of Caritas Switzerland relies on a sustainable agriculture and livestock production with a strong involvement of local communities and authorities.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Tajikistan
Climate change and environment
Disaster risk reduction DRR
Environmental policy

01.12.2016 - 31.12.2019


CHF 2'034'543



Lebanon: education and care in a neighbourhood shared by Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians

Inside a classroom where a woman teacher is sitting in front of a group of children showing them a book.

01.08.2016 - 31.12.2019

The inhabitants of Hay el Gharbé in southern Beirut live in a very precarious situation. Since 2012, a number of Syrian refugees have joined their neighbourhood. The SDC supports the Lebanese NGO Tahaddi, which has made a real difference in people’s lives here – such as with its education centre, helping a large number of children to (re)discover schooling and escape their daily hardships. 

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Lebanon
Education
Health
Primary education
Primary health care
Medical services

01.08.2016 - 31.12.2019


CHF 774'000



Supporting livestock traceability in the South Caucasus

The image shows a close-up of a calf with an identification tag in its right ear.

15.06.2016 - 30.11.2020

Identifying where animals have come from and recording information about their health is essential in modern agriculture to prevent the spread of diseases and stop products from diseased animals reaching the market. A system to ensure traceability will help to improve the incomes of farmers in the South Caucasus by increasing both herd productivity and the producers’ access to markets.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
South Caucasus
Agriculture & food security
Agriculture value-chain development (til 2016)

15.06.2016 - 30.11.2020


CHF 5'935'000



Combating corruption in Kosovo

Four young developers sitting at a table discussing IT solutions designed to help the municipality create more transparency.

01.05.2016 - 30.04.2020

Corruption is rampant among Kosovo’s public institutions and undermines citizens’ trust in the system. The SDC is supporting a project designed to address this problem by promoting transparency in institutions and encouraging citizens to report abuses.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Kosovo
Governance
Anti-corruption organisations

01.05.2016 - 30.04.2020


CHF 2'855'500



Confronting and combating gender-based violence in Mongolia

Two female Mongolian social workers.

01.05.2016 - 30.04.2020

Gender-based violence has been on the rise in Mongolia since the turn of the millennium. Yet because of a serious lack of data, the extent of the phenomenon is difficult to assess and a culture of impunity continues to hold sway.  The SDC plans to conduct a national survey to address this problem.  At the same time, it intends to strengthen institutions, put in place appropriate services and raise public awareness.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Mongolia
Governance
Human rights
Legal and judicial development
Human rights (incl. Women's rights)

01.05.2016 - 30.04.2020


CHF 4'090'000



Prospects for young, unemployed adults in Bosnia and Herzegovina

01.04.2016 - 31.03.2020

The aim of the Youth Employment Project (YEP) is to help public employment bodies in Bosnia and Herzegovina to improve their offer and to introduce youth-friendly services, such as individual and group careers advice for unemployed young adults between 18 and 30 years. Together with local partners, YEP also promotes new job opportunities linked to social entrepreneurship models.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Employment & economic development
Vocational training
Employment creation
Business support & economic inclusion
Vocational training

01.04.2016 - 31.03.2020


CHF 4'800'000



Migration for social well-being and economic development in Sri Lanka

Family members excitedly examine their travel documents

01.03.2016 - 29.02.2020

Every year, large numbers of Sri Lankans leave their country to work abroad for a few years, usually in the Gulf States. They thereby further Sri Lanka's economic development but at the same time risk having their basic human rights, and their labour rights in particular, violated. That is why the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is working for the establishment of a framework that ensures decent working conditions for migrant workers in the region.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Sri Lanka
Migration
Labour migration
Migration generally (development aspects and partnerships)

01.03.2016 - 29.02.2020


CHF 6'850'000



Nepal: An array of measures to tackle gender-based violence

Group photo of the participants from above

01.02.2016 - 30.06.2020

Gender-based violence is a widespread problem in Nepal, and an obstacle to sustainable development. The SDC and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) launched a 3-year prevention and response project at the beginning of 2016. Women and girls are learning about their rights and being encouraged to report assaults. Men and boys are being encouraged to change their behaviour towards women. And duty bearers are learning to respond more rapidly and effectively. The project is already delivering first encouraging results.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Nepal
Gender
Human rights
Sexual & gender-based violence
Human rights (incl. Women's rights)

01.02.2016 - 30.06.2020


CHF 3'743'000



Vocational skills development in Tunisia – destination employment

In Tunisia, an SDC programme enables young job seekers to acquire the technical and social skills required in the workplace

01.01.2016 - 31.12.2020


An SDC programme boosts the employability of young Tunisians entering the job market. It provides them with training in vocational skills to equip them with the practical experience and know-how required in the workplace.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Tunisia
Vocational training
Employment & economic development
Vocational training
Employment creation

01.01.2016 - 31.12.2020


CHF 9'603'475



Reforming civil society organisations in Moldova

Women and men assembled in a room

01.12.2015 - 30.06.2021

The Engaging Citizens and Empowering Communities project aims to strengthen civil society organisations by enabling them to play a crucial role in promoting and safeguarding the rights and interests of vulnerable and marginalised people in Moldova.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Moldova
Governance
Human rights
Democratic participation and civil society
Human rights (incl. Women's rights)

01.12.2015 - 30.06.2021


CHF 3'150'000



Appui aux économies locales des collectivités de Youwarou et de Niafunké. Programme de Soutien aux Economies Locales du Delta intérieur du Niger

01.07.2015 - 31.03.2020

Dans les régions du delta intérieur du Niger, au centre et au Nord du Mali, les populations rurales sont confrontées à des crises structurelles multiformes dont l’insécurité alimentaire. La DDC appuie les autorités locales avec des projets économiques dans les filières agricoles porteuses pour assurer la sécurité alimentaire et réduire la pauvreté d’au moins 150'000 personnes. En plus, elle accompagne les municipalités de cette zone dans la maitrise d’ouvrage du développement territorial et la gestion pacifique des ressources naturelles.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Mali
Agriculture & food security
Governance
Climate change and environment
Agriculture value-chain development (til 2016)
Decentralisation
Environmental policy

01.07.2015 - 31.03.2020


CHF 9'445'000



Sustainable water and pasture management to alleviate the plight of Ethiopian pastoralists

A group of Ethiopian men and women beside a half dried-up pool of water, using picks and shovels to dig new basins.

01.06.2015 - 31.08.2020

Drought, fodder scarcity and conflicts over natural resources make life difficult for pastoralists in southern Ethiopia. The SDC has taken various measures to improve their food security and their resilience to crisis situations, ranging from the rehabilitation of pastureland and water points to the introduction of land use plans and the diversification of income sources for women.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Ethiopia
Agriculture & food security
Climate change and environment
Water
Agricultural development
Environmental policy
Disaster risk reduction DRR
Water resources conservation

01.06.2015 - 31.08.2020


CHF 6'753'920


Object 25 – 36 of 1084