International Mountain Day 2017 – ARCOS’ paves the road to Sustainable Mountain Development with its local, regional and international actions

The International Mountain Day was first declared by the United Nations on the 11th December in 2003. It was introduced to advocate for the preservation of vitally important functions of mountains such as, among others, water, food and climate regulation and highlight the development needs of mountains, forming strong partnerships and bringing change.

Since the beginning Mountains are at the core of the Albertine Rift Conservation Society’s (ARCOS Network) programmes as it  started contributing to mountain development already in 1999in the mountainous region of the Albertine Rift region. Since then many activities, concerning water, energy and food security, have been undertaken, but the most important milestone was reached last year, when the organization hold the World Mountain Forum in Mbale; organized together with Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda, and with financial and technical support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and other partners. Stakeholders from all over the world came to discuss on the future of mountain peoples and ecosystems and in the mainstreaming of sustainable mountain development in national, regional and global policy agenda. The forum resulted in a “Mbale Call for Upscaling Action: Don’t leave Mountains Behind”

This year the International Mountain Day is run under the topic “Mountains under pressure: climate, hunger, migration” exclaiming the urgency for a transformational shift, which is driven by the Sustainable Development Goals but shall not leave mountain communities behind.

Because, it is still fact that there are 33% of people living in mountain landscapes, who suffer from food insecurity and malnutrition, there is urgent need to find integrated and sustainable solutions to the latter. As the population in mountains around the globe reaches about 1 billion, this leaves a high number of vulnerable communities. And this continues to rise due to the high population growth in these areas. Of course, the difficult livelihood drives especially the young and dynamic people out of the remote areas to migrate to more promising destinations where the chance for a job and a better life are calling. Often women and children are staying behind and face challenges with land tenure rights, access to credits or lack of education. Migration is therefore a big challenge for sustainable mountain development. Another factor that influences the living conditions now and will without smart adaptation determine the conditions in the future is climate change. It is reported that hazards like landslides, melting of glaciers, avalanches and debris flows are increasing because of instable variations in rainfall. In the combination with temperature changes and changes in cloud cover the agriculture in the mountains is highly affected and recent trends in yield outcomes showcase the negative impacts of climate change.

As an impactful international environmental NGO with the motto “Collaborative Action for Nature and People,” ARCOS does not look on these issues hopelessly but strives to improve the security of food, water, energy and sustainable livelihoods. This is happening on different scales from local to international level 

At the local level, where “Actions are really needed” ARCOS Network has much impact with its flagship programme which is contributing to the sustainable development of mountain communities. Here ARCOS is working closely with cooperatives (Community groups) and villages in selected landscapes of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. Under its “Nature Based Community Enterprises Programme (NBCEs)” mountain folk is encouraged to unleash their potential and empowered to run environmental friendly and socio-economic sustainable businesses. This is reached through Sustainability Agreements, performance contracts, between the local government, ARCOS Network and the cooperative. Learn more about the programme and the Best Approach (B: Building leadership and sustainable institutions, E: Enhancing environmental resilience, S: Sustainable business solutions, T: Transforming and inspiring others) that ARCOS Network uses to deliver its community development activities through this link: http://arcosnetwork.org/uploads/2017/07/NBCES_2pgs_flyer_final.pdf .

On the regional and global level ARCOS Network strives frame strong partnerships, put together stakeholders to discuss and have common understanding on sustainable mountain development agenda and join hands for the mainstreaming of mountains in national and regional agenda. As results so far strong partnerships with African mountain countries have been secured especially in East Africa. Uganda and Madagascar were supported to develop National Sustainable Mountain Development Strategies. Furthermore, in recent years international partnerships have been formed, e.g. with the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), and the international event of the World Mountain Forum 2016 was hosted by ARCOS Network in collaboration with the Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in Mbale in October 2016. 

However, there are also key challenges to the successful implementation of mountain development agendas and sustainable natural resource governance in mountain landscapes. “The main challenges are related to the context we operate in Africa. As you know in most of the African countries the people are very poor, so it is very difficult to have the full participations of communities, who are struggling for the survival.”, Dr. Sam Kanyamibwa, explaining the challenges. A drawback exists in the marginalization of mountains. For the governments who prioritize development needs it is difficult to understand the role played and services provided by mountains however the long-term benefits they offer. And yet water provision and climate regulation, for example, are useful for different sectors of the economy and should be implemented in the national development agendas. “Even the water we have in the tap is coming from the mountains”, Dr. Sam Kanyamibwa. Also, the private sector shows the same distorted perception that mountains are “remote”. It is therefore a challenge to make these stakeholders invest in the development of these regions. “Unless the private sector has a very good corporate environmental and social responsibility and go beyond the area where they operate and consider the services coming from far [remote places], it will be very difficult to involve the them in the sustainable mountain development” adds Dr. Sam Kanyamibwa. Therefore, a close interaction and fruitful collaboration between government, private sector, NGOs and the communities is needed.

Today ARCOS Network is eagerly looking at Rome, Italy, where over 150 decision makers and stakeholders from mountainous countries, intergovernmental organizations and civil society are meeting for the 15th Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership. During this high-level conference, where concrete measures and policies to strengthen the resilience of mountain people and environments in the face of climate change will be elaborated, and ARCOS Network is represented by the Executive Director Dr. Sam Kanyamibwa. He will advocate for further transformational change in mountain landscapes on the African continent and speak up for the enhancement of livelihoods of thousands of vulnerable communities. ARCOS Network is committed to continue  its endeavor for a strong future for African Mountainous region via “Collaborative Action for Nature and People.” Are you in for collaboration?

Related links:

ARCOS Network: A Sustainable Mountain Development Hub for Africa