ICIMOD at the Mountain Futures Conference – Nurturing seeds for Change in the Anthropocene

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Delegates at the Mountain Futures Conference
Photo: Kunming Institute of Botany (KIB)

An ICIMOD delegation participated in the Mountain Futures Conference: Nurturing Seeds for Change in the Anthropocene, held in Kunming, China from 1–4 March 2016. The conference, co-organised by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), explored visions of positive mountain futures, and ways to turn them into reality. Conference participants ranged from researchers, experts, development practitioners and local people from across the globe. 

The conference began by underscoring the construct that anthropocentric activities are now a dominant force of change on earth, and people affected adversely by the Anthropocene, are ones who are least able to manage it.

Reasons for optimism were outlined in Ed Grumbine’s keynote address. He reminded participants that the Anthropocene is a seeding ground for new ideas and practices, and as human impacts grow, so does human responsibility. He further added that with better institutions and strategic communications, humans, as a species, can learn from our mistakes and make the right choices. 

Dr Sharma sharing information on HIMAP
Photo: Nakul Chettri/ICIMOD

Correspondingly, Dr Eklabya Sharma, Director Programme operations at ICIMOD, encouraged participants in his opening remarks, to share their experiences and come up with a common vision that would rectify the historical marginalisation of mountains and mountain communities.

Over the four day conference, the ICIMOD delegation hosted two sessions, and contributed as panelists, and rapporteurs to a number of other sessions.  

A session on the first day, co-organised jointly with the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI), on 'Assessment of Sustainable Mountain Development' focused on existing and proposed assessments of the status and trends in sustainable mountain development on a variety of scales in mountain regions around the world. Dr Sharma presented on experiences from the Hindu Kush Himalayan Monitoring and Assessment Programme (HIMAP). During the session, discourse dwelt primarily on how assessment efforts can achieve salience, credibility and legitimacy. 

Nand Kishor Agrawal shares experiences from the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP )
Photo: Nakul Chettri/ICIMOD

A second session on the fourth day, entitled 'Science, Policy and Practice of Climate Change Adaptation in the Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH) - HICAP experiences', was organised by the three HICAP (Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme) promoters – Centre for International Climate and Environment Research Oslo (CICERO)GRID-Arendal and ICIMOD. 

This session shared experiences from HICAP, stemming from its comprehensive scientific research on climate change and its impacts on ecosystems, food security and people’s vulnerabilities in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region. Panelists at the session, also shared of community adaptation measures that combine local and traditional knowledge, and sound scientific evidence. The session grew into a lively discussion on how effective and efficient adaptation strategies can be reflected in policy priorities.

In another interesting session, Robert Zomer with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), presented an exciting new project, an 'Atlas for Mountain Futures', inviting participants to contribute their ideas and data to a book that can provide both hard data and inspiring stories illuminating themes of a sustainable mountain future. Several organisations including the FAO, the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) at the University of Bern, UNEP and ICIMOD proved willing to collaborate on the project.

Inaugural session of the Mountain Futures Conference
Photo: Nakul Chettri/ICIMOD

The final day’s discussions also gave high priority to considering how best to continue the work begun over the conference days. To this end, the conference saw the launch of the Mountain Futures Initiative, which will institute a multi-stakeholder platform for the pursuit of mountain research and the development of sustainable mechanisms for the identification and development of seeds of best practice.