What is AfroMont and where does its mandate come from?

Fika Patso cacthment Erwin Sieben

AfroMont is the African chapter of the international Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) which is based in Bern, Switzerland. Other MRI regional entities include MRI Latin America, MRI Europe, MRI Carpathians, and MRI South Eastern Europe. Check out the MRI website.

AfroMont supports collaborative research that will lead to a better understanding of global change in African mountains. To do this, it seeks to encourage and coordinate research and research networks in African mountains and find ways to connect researchers who specialise in mountain biodiversity, ecosystems and human livelihoods. A key focus area for AfroMont is the investigation of the way global change is impacting on mountain biodiversity, water and human livelihoods in high altitude, sensitive regions. It hopes that research will lead to solutions for unsustainable mountain use.

AfroMont and its research partners generate data of different types, including climate and ecosystem model outputs, species research, long term ecosystem monitoring, socio-economic survey results, interactive map-based applications, video testimonials, and tools for selecting adaptation and mitigation options. AfroMont would like to see this information published in accredited scientific journals, but also stored in a way that other researchers can access it for collaborative work. AfroMont would also like to see this information having an impact on decision making in African countries.

AfroMont's mandate
AfroMont gains its mandate through a chain of international processes that sought to highlight and address those issues linked to the rapid pace of globalization, urbanization and mass tourism which are threatening mountain communities and the ecosystem resources they depend on. Worldwide, mountain areas face increasing marginalization, economic decline and environmental degradation as the world rapidly urbanises.

Launched in 2012, AfroMont is part of a hierarchy of organisations concerned with ensuring that science-based information, formed through rigorous mountain science and research on global change in mountains, is available to add to the world's pool of knowledge on mountain systems, and that findings are available to development and policy practitioners. Carefully constructed research programmes and long term monitoring are needed to find solutions to Africa's problems in complex montane social-ecological systems. AfroMont offers the opportunity for scientific researchers and students to collaborate on research which contributes to more sustainable mountain development in African montane systems.

The United Nations and mountains
With the challenges facing mountains identified by the global community, the difficulty of carrying out mountain science research in recent times has meant that research must become more organised and collaborative at both the global and regional scale. In 1972, the process towards fostering collaborative mountain research was started with the launch of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme which provided a basis for more integrated mountain research. The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm, established the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation (UNHHSF) and also instigated a series of subsequent mountain conferences. At a conference in 1972 it was declared that mountain science research should be 'promoted, assisted and co-ordinated' and further stated that international co-operation 'is essential to effectively control, prevent, reduce and eliminate adverse environmental effects' in mountains (UN Conference Declaration, Principle 24, 1972). This said, collaborative mountain science research is now the favoured approach because of the technical complexity, often high financial costs and often long term nature of this research.

The International Year of the Mountains (2002)
The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the year 2002 as the International Year of Mountains. The resolution led to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) being invited to serve as the lead agency for the Year, in collaboration with governments, UNEP, UNDP, UNESCO and other relevant organizations of the United Nations system, as well as non-governmental organizations. The overarching aim was to increase international awareness of the global importance of mountain ecosystems. December 11 was declared the International Mountain Day. This observance, which is celebrated annually, aims to draw attention to the important roles that mountainous regions play in water and food supply.

The Global Mountain Partnership
At the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg in 2002, the Global Mountain Partnership was launched. The Mountain Partnership is a broad alliance of countries, inter-governmental organizations and major groups working towards improving the lives of mountain people and protecting mountain environments around the world. The Mountain Partnership brings together work on a wide range mountain-related issues including those with a thematic focus such as education, gender, policy and law, research, sustainable agriculture and rural development in mountains, sustainable livelihoods, watershed management, and those initiatives with regional focus in the Andes, Central Asia, East Africa, Europe, and Hindu Kush Himalaya. The Mountain Partnerships hosts global conferences with participants representing governments, intergovernmental organizations, major group organizations and academic institutions. Currently, 53 governments, 13 intergovernmental organizations and 162 Major Groups (e.g. civil society, NGOs and the private sector) are members. The Mountain Partnership is primarily a lobby organization dedicated to protecting mountain environments around the world.

The International Mountain Society
The goal of the International Mountain Society (IMS) is to advance knowledge and disseminate information about mountain research and mountain development throughout the world. The IMS aims to promote sustainable mountain development through improved communication among institutions and individuals, with a particular focus on mountain eco-regions in the developing world. In pursuing this purpose, it collaborates with like-minded institutions. The IMS produces a scientific journal, Mountain Research and Development (MRD). The IMS and MRD's donors cover the costs of operating the journal and its networking activities in excess of the portion paid by authors who publish articles in Mountain Research and Development. The IMS is an association legally registered in Bern, Switzerland, with institutional and individual membership. It is the copyright holder and publisher of Mountain Research and Development (MRD).

The following organisations are Institutional Members of the International Mountain Society (IMS) and also serve to guide the AfroMont initiative: 

  • SDC, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Bern, Switzerland
  • MRI, Mountain Research Initiative, Bern, Switzerland
  • CONDESAN, Consortium for the Sustainable Development of the Andean Ecoregion, Lima, Peru
  • CDE, Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Switzerland
  • ICIMOD, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Kathmandu, Nepal
  • FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy
  • UCA/MSRC, Mountain Societies Research Centre, University of Central Asia, Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic
  • ICAS, Inter-academic Commission for Alpine Studies, Bern, Switzerland
  • CMS, Centre for Mountain Studies, Perth College, University of the Highlands and Islands, Perth, Scotland
  • DIG, Department of Integrative Geography, Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Switzerland
  • IMHE, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu, China

Photo credit: Vincent Ralph Clark