International Mountain Day: Sustainable development of our mountain region
11 December 2019
Every year on December 11th, many countries commemorate International Mountain Day, a day established in 2003 by the United Nations General Assembly to recognize the importance of mountains and to promote sustainable development in mountain regions of the world.
Each year, a major theme is chosen as the focal point of International Mountain Day. This year the theme is: Mountain Matter for Youth. What could be more appropriate, in a year when young people around the world have risen to create new social movements to warn us all about the grave dangers posed by the climate emergency, and to advocate for finding solutions.
Keep in mind, rural youths who live in fragile mountain ecosystems are some of the most affected people. They deserve a hopeful future, and sustainable development and ecosystem conservation are key tools that can ensure the integrity of the mountain regions they live in. You can find out more a #MountainsMatter.
Importance oh the mountains
Mountains hold a deep importance in the human imagination. They are beautiful and imposing to look at, and they impart a sense of challenge and mystery. In the Andes Mountains, the ancient Inca and pre-Inca cultures considered the most prominent mountains to be great sacred entities, the Apus, protectors of the waters and the people.
Still today, the traditional Quechua people of the Andes look up at huge peaks such as Ausangate and Salcantay, and honor the Apus with prayers and coca leaves, asking them for safe journeys and good fortune.
Mountains cover 27% of the earth’s surface. Their existence provides very important functions for large ecosystems, and for the regions and populations that surround them. They provide essential habitat for a large range of plant and animal species. Six of the top 20 food crops originated in mountains regions. More than anything, high mountains and their ice and snow provide freshwater to half of the worlds’s population.
The andes mountain range
The Andes is the largest mountain range in the world’s tropics, and the second highest in the world, after the Himalayas. It’s also the longest mountain range, from northern Colombia to the southern tip of Chile and Argentina. Its highest peak is Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina (22,838 ft./ 6,961 m.a.s.l.).
Mountains in Peru are nearly as tall, including Huascarán (22,205 ft./ 6,768 m.a.s.l) in central Peru, and Cusco’s magnificent sacred Apu, Ausangate (20,945 ft./ 6,384 m.a.s.l.) in southern Peru. Peru has most of the glaciers found in the tropics, which hold massive reserves of water.
Protection of the ecosystem
But they are endangered and gradually disappearing. The conservation of Andean ecosystems depends on maintaining the integrity of Andean glaciers, rivers, streams, and lakes.
And the people of Andean towns and communities closely depend on the water resources that the mountains hold. In Andean ecosystems water is the gift of nature contained in the snow and ice from high mountains.
And as climate change occurs, it becomes more urgent to protect mountains and glaciers, and to support the traditional communities that have lived around them for thousands of years.
Ecotourism and the mountains
The economic stimulus of ecotourism is an important benefit that traditional Quechua communities in the Andes derive from their mountain areas. Trekking activities bring adventurous hikers from around the world to experience the magnificent beauty and tranquility of the Andes. These visits generate jobs and income that help local indigenous communities to thrive.
This is certainly true in Cusco’s Ausangate region, where for over 10 years Andean Lodges has led the ecotourism industry by offering state-of-the-art trekking programs that are operated by the local native people, which directly benefits local families. Local people are co-owners and active participants in every aspect of our operations.
All of us at Andean Lodges are proud to say that our work to promote sustainable development and ecosystem conservation in the Ausangate region, and in other areas of Cusco reflects the goal of International Mountain Day: to “highlight the importance of sustainable mountain development.”
You too can be part of this effort. Your visit to Ausangate will directly benefit the traditional people that will assist you and provide excellent services on your trek to Ausangate.
Also, you should know that you will fully compensate for your carbon footprint from flying to Cusco, through our close work with Regenera, a top pro-active project for Amazon forest conservation and reforestation- we’ll have more information about this program in an upcoming article.
Keep in mind, Andean Lodges’ mission is to promote environmental sustainability and local community development in the Andes, through practicing responsible ecotourism. We wouldn’t do it any other way.