Ecology, Equality, Economy: Rethinking the Highlands

The highlands represent a crucial nexus between urban and rural space and are without a doubt some of the most complex and fragile areas on our planet.

The penultimate forum of Terra Madre was dedicated to the highlands, where we’ve been exploring the world from the perspective of ecosystems, shedding light on the most pressing issues affecting each one.

Depopulation and Hydrological Instability

For decades now, across the world, most of the highlands are living through a progressive depopulation. Combined with hydrological instability, the climate crisis, and the decline of biodiversity, the trend doesn’t show any sign of slowing down.

Lindsey Hook, Outreach Expert at the FAO, and Maurizio De Matteis, a journalist interested in issues relating to mountainous areas, coordinated an international discussion which, from Morocco to the Philippines, from Austria to Peru, highlighted common problems across the highlands as well as projects that are giving hope back to the people that live there.

Highland Agriculture

“The Himalayas”, says Anita Paul, co-founder of the Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation “represent around 60% of the total area of our country, yet host just 4% of the population. At the same time, it contains 70% of our biodiversity. What happens here has an impact on the lives of 300 million people. Up until 1980 there was subsistence level agriculture here. Then the climate crisis turned the lives of the local population upside down, and they’ve begun to migrate systematically. Mountain agriculture has been abandoned, and now women and children have trouble satisfying their daily needs for water and energy. For this reason we need to train the youth and allow farmer women greater market access, in order to guarantee them a decent income.”

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