Message from ARCOS Executive Director
Dear valuable partners and friends,
It is a big honour for us to celebrate with you the magnificence of our well-being insurer- Mountains. Since 2003 inwards,11th December was designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the “International Mountain Day” to celebrate the importance of mountains to the existence and well-being of not only humans but to all sort of lives on the planet. Mountain ecosystems provide water, food and energy critical to the development; and our behaviour towards them would determine if we achieve sustainable development or not. Mountain dwellers have been living in harmony with the mountain ecosystems due to well-designed knowledge, culture and practices to cope with mountain topography and climate. Nowadays, as many global challenges arise including urbanization, population growth and the threatening climate change, new programmes and initiatives are being developed to meet these challenges. However, the mountain knowledge, values and culture seem to be left behind. Sustainable mountain development solutions should be those that recognize, integrate, strengthen and protect local and traditional knowledge and practices. The theme for International Mountain Day 2016 “Mountain Cultures: celebrating diversity and strengthening identity” emphasizes well the importance of mountain knowledge and traditions towards finding sustainable solutions in these food baskets and water towers not only for the uplands but also for the lowlands’ people.
Traditional cultures, values and beliefs play a big role in maintaining the harmony between communities and the nature. With pressing demand of socio-economic development, modernization and globalisation, they tend to be forgotten in planning and decision-making, while they should be the basics for framing the sustainable development agenda. The journey of finding sustainable environmental solutions will be effective if the communities living in direct contact with natural ecosystems are integrated as well as their traditional knowledge.
Mountains are strategic areas for the development of Africa and the world in general. As the mountain ecosystem services know no boundaries, ensuring sustainable provision of the latter will require a strong collaborating in Africa Sustainable Mountain Agenda. The African countries may join hands and promote the enabling conditions for funding and investments in SMD. We appreciate the progress so far in advancing SMD in Africa including the establishment of Africa Sustainable Mountain Development Fund launched during the Africa Regional Mountain Forum held in Arusha in 2014, the adoption of the deliberations from Africa regional Mountain Forum, and the collaboration among mountain stakeholders as well as the development of National SMD Strategy for some countries such as Uganda (launched at the World Mountain Forum 2016 in Mbale, Uganda) and Madagascar, to mention few. We encourage African countries to act effectively on the sustainable management of mountain ecosystems as the food baskets, water towers and energy suppliers of the whole content, and take leading role in the implementation of Mbale Call for Up-scaling Action (find more details in the pfd copy of the outcomes document here: English, French).
Since its creation, Mountains are part of ARCOS’ core programme and strategy, focusing not mainly in the Albertine Rift region, but also other African mountains. This has allowed us to interact and partner with different stakeholders, with diverse and rich mountain culture in Africa and globally. Together with mountain stakeholders in Africa and globally, we hope that this year IMD provides an opportunity to celebrate what has been achieved so far, but also to think wisely about innovative and sustainable responses built around solid foundation of mountain culture, diversity and identity.
Happy International Mountain Day
Dr Sam Kanyamibwa
The Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS Network)