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Mountain Communities Workshop on Climate Change and Biocultural Heritage

Mountain communities will be the first affected by climate change, and experience the most severe changes as, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the magnitude of climate change impacts increases with altitude. They are also part of the solution: as the 5th IPCC report puts it, ‘Indigenous, local, and traditional knowledge systems and practices, including indigenous peoples’ holistic view of community and environment, are a major resource for adapting to climate change’.

The Mountain Community Initiative brought together representatives from 25 indigenous and traditional mountain communities from 10 countries – Bhutan, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Taiwan, Tajikistan and Thailand – to exchange knowledge and experience adapting to climate change. The seven-day workshop was held in two indigenous mountain communities in Bhutan, Jangbi in Trongsa District and Ura in Bumthang District. Farmers analysed the climatic changes, impacts and responses in their communities using a common matrix and gave quantitative measures where possible. Discussions were held in farmers’ fields, water sources, sacred sites and other important sites in each community, using a ‘walking workshop’ methodology. Food festivals and cultural exchanges were held in the evenings where seeds, traditional foods, dances and songs where shared by each community.

The workshop found that a number of climatic changes have already occurred in these mountain communities in the last 30 years, bringing many challenges for food production. It highlighted the critical importance of indigenous knowledge, crops and farming systems for coping with extreme events, adapting to a range of conditions and reducing risks. It also highlighted the mutual inter-dependence between traditional knowledge, languages, cultural values, crop diversity and mountain ecosystems.

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