Resilience and Transformation in Mountain Communities and Ecosystems at WMF 2018

WMF 2018 0As part of the official programme of the World Mountain Forum, held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 23-26 October 2018, the thematic track ‘Resilience & Transformation in Mountain Communities and Ecosystems’ was jointly coordinated and moderated by the MRI, CONDESAN, and the Center for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern.

The track conducted three sessions, each opening with 2-3 ‘flash talks’ highlighting key issues and trends related to the theme, as well as case studies of project experiences and lessons learned followed. These flash talks were then followed by world café discussions,where participants explored specific questions and provided recommendations for advancing sustainable mountain development. Poster contributions on the topic were presented in separate poster sessions.

Current Trends and Dynamics
During the flash-talks given in the first session, led by Carolina Adler from the MRI, Shahnova Kurbanalieva (IFOAM-Organics International) discussed promising ways to improve long-term nutrition strategies through agriculture, including promoting home gardens, post-harvest handling and processing, promoting local food and healthy diets, and raising consumer awareness. Sebastian Kussmann (University of Wageningen) presented seed systems and plant genetic diversity in the mountain region of Gorno-Badakhshan in Tajikistan, and Muhammad Zafar Khan (Karakorum International University) described the history of conservation strategies in northern Pakistan.

WMF 2018 1In world café groups, participants were encouraged to discuss questions such as how can we explore and understand the resilience of social-ecological systems in the mountain context and under uncertain change; what are the most critical stressors that impact the capacity of mountain communities to cope with disturbances; and which are the key conditions and mechanisms that have led to successful coping strategies? The discussions concluded that progress has been made in acknowledging and understanding the complexity of social-ecological systems in mountains, however, interrelating diverse knowledge systems for enhancing resilience in mountain communities remains a challenge. However, the challenging conditions encountered in mountains can also foster an environment of innovation, where local diversity combined with new practices can enhance resilience and offer opportunities to explore sustainable transformations in mountains.

In flash-talks presented in the second session, led by Susanne Wymann von Dach, from CDE, Lira Sagynbekova (University of Central Asia) presented research on building resilience to climate change and socio-economic shocks in remote mountain areas of the Kyrgyz Republic, with Jeremias Gasper Mowo (World Agroforestry Centre, ICRAF) addressing information access for rural transformation based on the African Highlands Initiative in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Madagascar.

The follow up discussion addressed types of policy strategies and robust interventions which can effectively contribute to building the resilience of mountain socio-ecological systems in a way that enables transformation towards a more sustainable mountain future. Modern communication and increasing connectivity were identified as critical means, but it was concluded that in most regions these are in themselves not sufficient to overcome the ‘remoteness’ of mountain communities. It is important to innovate connectivity and decentralization in a context-adequate way that strengthens local ownership, fosters learning and risk-informed planning, and enables rapid response to shocks.

WMF 2018 2The flash talks presented in the third session, led by Maria Arguello from CONDESAN, started with Andrei Dörre (Free University of Berlin) who discussed shifting ‘foodscapes’ in the context of social transition and ecological change. Guillermo Ospina (Social Comparative Studies Group, Colombia) described the prohibition of agriculture and the ‘cultural extermination’ of agricultural communities in the Colombian high mountains. Finally, Felix Kwabena Donkor (University of South Africa) outlined activities to overcome obstacles in the effective co-management of common property resources between traditional and state institutions for more effective natural resource governance.

Discussions were initiated around questions of how mountain communities can be empowered to build supportive alliances, become active agents of change, and effectively participate in negotiating resilience-building solutions; what are the key attributes, structures, and services that networks and partnerships could provide to support cooperation within and between mountain regions, with the aim of promoting transformation towards a more sustainable future in mountains; and finally, how can alliances or partnerships address critical stressors that impact the capacity of mountain communities to cope with disturbances? The key message of the discussion was that partnerships and alliances do not yet adequately account for the diversity within and among members and stakeholders, compromising the empowering potential partnerships could have. Therefore, strengthening partnerships should entail institutionalization, inclusive and negotiated goal setting, as well as valuing the diverse interests and needs of its members. On the last day of the WMF, Maria Arguello from CONDESAN presented all these outcomes and discussion results in a summary presentation during the final synthesis plenary session.

We would like to thank all the speakers, poster contributors, and participants who took part in the discussions at these three sessions during the conference and acknowledge their enthusiasm for the topic and valuable input to the discussions.

WMF 2018 4
Participants of the Partnerships-session brainstorming on how mountain communities could be empowered to build supportive alliances and become active agents of change with MRI’s Executive Director Carolina Adler moderating.

The 4th World Mountain Forum, Mountains in a Changing World: Strengthening Partnerships and Pathways Towards a Thriving Mountain Future, was organised by the University of Central Asia, Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, and UNICEF in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan October 23-26 2018. WMF 2018 was positioned to provide a timely space for policy-makers, scientists, and practitioners to share experiences and best practices, and develop integrated solutions to existing challenges to sustainable development in mountain regions. Learn more about WMF on the conference homepage or from the Conference Summary Report.