SMD in the Asia-Pacific

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

FROM talk, Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region are gearing up to walk the sustainable mountain development (SMD).

Just before I left Nepal for home, I met with Dr. David James Molden, the director general of ICIMOD, also who represents South Asia, and Elbegzaya “Zaya” Batjargal, the regional program officer of Mountain Partnership (MP) Secretariat-Decentralized Hub for Central Asia University of Central Asia. We agreed that the three of us would constitute ourselves as the MP Asia-Pacific core group.

For me, that historic meeting represents a follow-through of the gathering on Sustainable Mountain Development in the Southeast Asian Region two years ago.

I wrote that unlike the Hindu Kush Himalayas Region where development has internalized the Chapter 13 concept of managing fragile mountain ecosystems, the mountain agenda has generally yet to take hold in Southeast Asia in its entirety among government, civil society, academia, and business circles.

But that didn’t prevent various actors and stakeholders for achieving best practices and lessons learned that Chapter 13 has proposed. I campaigned for its promotion and adoption in the Southeast Asian context.
SEA Mountains present unique ecosystems not found in alpine environments.

Our mountains often host rainforest watersheds, often divided into pine, dipterocarp, mossy, molave (or karst) mountain forests, and host a huge concentration of biodiversity far richer than can be found in temperate alpine mountains. Many serve as global heritage sites because of the abundance of endemic species found only in Southeast Asia.

With David and Zaya, we brainstormed how MP members from Northeast, Central, South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands can get connected under the sustainable mountain development platform.

David talked of pinpointing regional (if not) centers of excellence where Mountain Partnership members in the region can visit for study tours.

Included in our discussions are themes on the mountain organic foods from the Kyrgyz Republic, and in Nepal the promotion of Apis cerrana beekeeping as sustainable livelihoods.

To which I proposed the harvesting protocols of wild honey from Apis dorsata that help mountain communities in Southeast (and South) with their livelihoods and conserve the mountain tropical rainforests; marketing and value chains of mountain-based NTFP (non-timber forest product) to urban-based high end green markets as a form of highland-lowland integration, and a form of government, private, and CSO (civil society organization) multi-stakeholder cooperation. Then there should be showcases of inclusive economic growth of mountain communities within the context of climate change adaptation.

In an email to other Mountain Partnership colleagues in Southeast Asia, I noted the migration of educated youth to the lowland cities, there to develop new life skills appropriate to the urban jungle. But in the process, the mountain communities are slowly eroding indigenous knowledge systems.

But in Baguio, we see a reverse migration where lowlanders converge to the mountain city to live and work there. We also see the blend of modern and traditional indigenous knowledge, not to mention the fact that local government political leaders generally come from the Cordillera indigenous communities.

Here in Bacolod, I mentioned that stakeholders are branching out to sustainable mountain tourism, a theme that was tackled during the 2011 e-conference on SMD. An inclusive part of that tourism is organic agritourism and the promotion of non-timber forest products. Let’s see how Negros and the Asia-Pacific can walk the talk toward sustainable development of its mountains.


Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on December 18, 2013.


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