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Sustainable agriculture and rural development in mountain areas

The observations at the origin of the project

logo_sardmThe creation of the SARD-M project started on the evidence that mountain populations are often indigenous people, strongly affected by poverty and hunger. 270 million people out of 720 million living in the mountains are victims of food insecurity and  135 million chronically suffer from hunger.

Besides, mountains are fundamental for human life: they provide fresh water to 50% of the world’s population, are the main reservoir of the planet’s genetic diversity, and a precious source of basic products. The fragile mountains ecosystems which deliver these goods and services are threatened by either over exploitation or abandonment due to globalisation, demographic trends or climate change.


Encouraging sustainable agriculture in mountain areas is a precondition to protect the mountain environment, favour rural economy, the revenues of mountain people and therefore to ensure the provision of services to the planet at large.

The project

SARD-M is a multi-actors project which aims at supporting the means of living of rural population in mountain regions by facilitating the realisation, revision and implementation of integrated policies and of institutional processes which support the SARD in mountain regions at global, regional and national level. The project benefits from the advice of the Adelboden group and of a multi-stakeholders tribune for discussion of policies and instruments, for exchange of experience and for preparation of initiatives contributing to the sustainable development of mountain regions.

The project builds on regional focal points on each one of the continents. Euromontana is the focal point for Europe.

SARD-M Activities

The project has been organised in two phases which have covered several types of activities.

Evaluation of policies, institutions and processes – 2005-2007


During the first 3 years, project partners have carried out evaluations in order to cast light on the strengths and weaknesses of different policies related to sustainable agriculture and rural development in mountain areas. Following these evaluations, recommandations and proposals have been formulated for follow-up activities that were likely to help improving the situation in the countries where the analyses had been conducted. These evaluations have been carried out respecting an overall framework facilitating then the emergence of common questions and reflections.

Evaluations have been conducted, using an approach based on 4 principles:

  • Definition of sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD): agriculture and rural development are sustainable when they are ecologically rational, economically viable, socially fair and culturally appropriate. SARD addresses not only agriculture but also natural resources, environment, health as well as the social, institutional and economic sectors.
  • Policies, institutions and processes: the evaluation of policies through SARD focuses in particular on the analysis of processes and institutions associated to the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies.
  • Mountain specificities: mountains have specificities, which constitute potentials for productions and activities which benefit from a comparative advantage. The evaluation analyses how these potential diversities can be exploited to promote sustainable development.
  • Participation and qualitative approach: analyses have a qualitative character and use a participative approach at every stage of the process. Multi-stakeholders workshops have been organised at decentralised and/or national levels and, on the basis of country evaluations, regional workshops have been organised.


These evaluations have also examined relevant economic, social, environmental and institutional policies related to the entry point and to other related questions, to lead to a multisectoral vision. These analyses have been conducted in the following countries:

  • Asia: Bhutan, China (Sichuan), India (Sikkim), Nepal
  • Latin America: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica, Nicaragua
  • Europe and Mediterranean countries: Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Albania, Bulgarie, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Lebanon, Morocco.

Evaluate positive and negative externalilties of mountain areas – 2007-2010

The second type of activity has consisted in analysing the positive and negative externalities of mountains, building on a comparative review of existing methods and tools on the following questions: water, tourism, biodiversity, agricultural heritage, local knowldege, demographic trends, diversity of livinig conditions, social and environmental services.

Euromontana activities

morai_peru_arEuromontana has been particularly involved on these activities, organising, in synergy with its long term work on positive externalities, activities of research, analysis and communication on positive externalities related to European mountains. Two reference reports have been written, each comprising a theoretical background analysis together with case studies:

A seminar has been organised on the 18th and 19th of May 2009 in Vienna to discuss the results of the report of the 15th of April 2009, entitled “How to better remunerate rural populations for the positive externalities the provide: lessons from different case studies throughout Europe and relevance for mountains of South-Eastern Europe and Carpathians”.

Strengthening local institutions by providing pedagogical materials

The third activity of the project consisted in strengthening local institutions, be elaborating learning tools and training sessions, in collaboration with NGOs, producers associations, cooperatives. The project has also elaborated a database of organisations, programmes and projects which work, at all levels, on agriculture and rural development in mountain areas.

Conclusions of the project and perspectives

The project has been temporarily stopped at the end of its second phase on the 28th of February 2010. The steering committee has decided to reconfigure the project to take into account the growing importance of questions related to climate change and food security. The Adelboden Group continues to advise the FAO on what shape could take a new project or a new step of SARD-M which still remains, to this day, to define.

A stakeholder workshop has been organised in Rome on 27th and 28th of September 2010 (See article in the Euromontana Newsletter from October 2010).


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Mountain #youth, pitch your project!

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‼ Deadline to apply 31 Oct

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