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Supporting mountain communities against threat of climate change

11 December 2013

Ten years ago, the United Nations declared 11 December as International Mountain Day and this year highlights the role of mountains as key to a sustainable future.

It’s unlikely that many politicians or even environment ministers have the day marked on their calendar. However, it’s an important day to remember, as mountains are essential for life; they are a major source of the planet's biodiversity and its present and future depends on their preservation.

Mountains in Peru

A tenth of our population

One in 10 people on earth live in the mountains. The villages they inhabit are home to vital ecosystems. Yet, they are being threatened by climate change.

While these communities are often unfamiliar with the science behind climate change, they are very aware of changes to their environment and surrounding landscape - which are occurring much faster than ever before and impacting directly on their livelihoods.

Threatening weather patterns

70% of Andean tropical glaciers are found in Peru alone, but with temperatures rising, glaciers are melting even faster than in the Himalayas.

A great concern is that glacier retreat will lead to seasonal droughts and flooding. Changing rainfall patterns and increased temperatures affect crop choice and crop diseases will directly affect the most vulnerable, especially those living at high altitudes.

Guardians of the mountains

A group of Alpacas on a mountain in Peru We have been working with remote communities living in the Andes. One such community lives 5,000 metres above sea level in Phinaya in the region of Pitumarca.

At this altitude, families can’t even grow potatoes - the staple diet, so they are totally dependent on raising alpacas and selling the alpaca fibre.

Not only do these communities struggle due to the lack of water, they also have to fight unscrupulous fibre buyers who often exploit them and pay them little for the wool.

Though our partner ETC Andes and funding from the UK Government, we are helping alpaca farmers with training so they can improve the quality of their product, have better access to the market and sell the wool for a fairer price.

Hear from an alpaca farmer

Today, on International Mountain Day, we reflect on the fragility of these ecosystems and on the importance of working with communities that inhabit them.

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