Dec. 11 is International Mountain Day
Mountains are much more than just a scenic backdrop for tourist snapshots.They are reservoirs of biodiversity and water, helping to sustain life in the valleys and plains below. And since the dawn of humankind, high peaks have drawn people as places of profound insight, spiritual awakening and inspiration.
Once a year, led by the UN, the world celebrates those gifts with International Mountain Day. This year’s theme is focused on mountain products, especially in developing countries, where the creation of sustainable mountain economies will contribute to a better future for what traditionally have been some of the poorest areas in the world.Globalization offers opportunities for mountain producers to market their high quality mountain products, such as coffee, cocoa, honey, herbs, spices and handicrafts at the national, regional and international levels. Mountain agriculture can’t compete with the prices and volumes of lowland production, it can concentrate on high value, high quality products to boost local economies.
International Mountain has been held annually since 2003 to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life, to highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development and to build alliances that will bring positive change to mountain peoples and environments around the world.
Tourism-related services such as skiing, climbing, cultural heritage or nature trails that allow visitors to discover unique biodiversity are also some of the offerings provided by mountains and mountain communities. If sustainably managed, tourism can provide an opportunity for development in mountain regions.
This year’s celebrations include a mountain poetry slam in Innsbruck, Austria scheduled for Dec. 19), a celebration of mountain products in Tucker, West Virginia, a discussion of life sustainability, goods and services in mountain regions hosted by Utah Valley University. Visit this website to see a full listing of events.
Some mountain facts from the uN:
- Covering around 22 percent of the earth’s land surface, mountains play a critical role in moving the world towards sustainable economic growth.
- Mountains not only provide sustenance and well-being to 915 million mountain people around the world, but indirectly benefit billions more living downstream.
- Mountains provide freshwater, energy and food – resources that will be increasingly scarce in coming decades.
- Mountain products and services have great potential to improve livelihoods and boost local economies.
- Worldwide demand is on the rise for quality, high-value foods and beverages produced in mountain areas, such as coffee, honey, herbs and spices, as well as handicrafts, cosmetics and medicines.
- To fully tap the potential of mountain products, small producers would benefit from targeted support in adequate value chains and marketing strategy, which would allow them to obtain fair compensation for their specific quality products as well as provide added value to the customers.
- Mountains provide 60-80 percent of the world’s freshwater – without which sustainable development that aims to eliminate poverty and hunger would not be possible.
- Fresh water from mountains is fundamental for achieving global food security, as it is used by farmers to irrigate crops in many lowland agricultural regions.
- Some of the world’s largest cities, including New York, Rio de Janeiro, Nairobi, Tokyo and Melbourne, are dependent on freshwater from mountains.
- Mountains have a key role to play in providing renewable energy, especially through hydropower, solar power, wind power and biogas.
- Hydropower currently provides around a fifth of all electricity worldwide, and some countries rely almost exclusively on mountains regions for hydropower generation.
- Mountains in regions with a dry or tropical climate hold particular potential for the generation of solar energy.
- Mountains contribute to food and nutrition security by providing land for crops, grazing for livestock, water courses for inland fisheries, and non-wood forest products such as berries, mushrooms and honey.
- Mountain farming has been a model for sustainable development for centuries and is inherently “green” thanks to its small-scall character and low-carbon footprint
- Of the 20 plant species that supply 80 percent of the world’s food, six originated and have been diversified in mountains: maize, potatoes, barley, sorghum, quinoa, tomatoes and apples.
- Mountain Farming is largely family farming as mountain areas, with their dispersed patches of usable land at different elevations and slope conditions, are more efficiently managed by small scale farming.
- Most of the production of mountain farming is for family consumption, playing a key role in ensuring household food security.
- The production and marketing of high value mountain products can boost local mountain economies.
- Mountain livelihoods tend to be highly diversified and this has proven to be a key to resilience. Some family members may work in agriculture (farming, forestry, aquaculture or animal husbandry), be employed on a regular or seasonal basis or even abroad.