[HimalAndes Focused Conversation] Alejandro Camino: Final Overview and the Way Forward

Vision of the HimalAndes Initiative in respect to the importance,relevance, and value of the exchange between both regions.*

                                               
Alejandro Camino D.C., HimalAndes Initiative

 

Overview

This is the third *HimalAndes Initiative* electronic exchange. in this e-discussion a comparative approach to water management in the Andes and the Himalayas in the context of climate change, has revealed once more the relevance of information sharing and the potential for exchanging experiences between the two largest mountain environments on the planet.

Beyond distinct features (the tropical central Andes vs. semitropical Himalaya, historical backgrounds and cultural, socio-economic and political differences), both share commonalities: an old tradition of rural peasant societies with an ancestral experience in implementing subsistence strategies to deal with mountain conditions.

The papers presented and comments received have dealt with a diversity of situations in water management under the stresses of climate change along with sociocultural and economic pressures and changes. The two initial presentations from CONDESAN based on the Andes of Ecuador and Peru, emphasized the importance of the social processes aimed at community-based coordination in conjunction with State programs and international cooperation in order to attain an integrated strategy for water management.

Comments expressed their interest in the ability to replicate these experiences and their concern for their sustainability.

Moving a step forward, Alton Byers and Jorge Recharte presented a highly relevant joint experience promoted by the Mountain Institute along with international cooperation. Here, participants from the Himalayan and Andean countries had the opportunity of sharing on site their experiences and accomplishments on innovative strategies for water management in highland regions in the context of hazards due to climate change. Both exemplified an effective exchange of information and the application of alternative options between the two mountain regions. Comments stressed the importance of sharing these practical experiences being conducted in Nepal and Peru.

Along that line, Paribesh Pradhan presented his own experience in both regions regarding his work on innovative technologies to assure water security in Nepali villages and other technological innovations. He then, as a result of questions from Guillermo Castro, pointed out from his recent experience in Peru the extent to which the Nepali case could be replicated in the Andes.

Kalyan Paul´s presentation emphasized the contradictory and vicious circle of poverty, where pressures from the outside world demanded from local mountain communities subsistence strategies which resulted in natural resource depletion and environmental deterioration, thus, increasing poverty and migration. A grassroots community-based process promoted by the Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation represented an alternative for the sustainability of mountain livelihoods. A. Camino contrasted the conditions of the development of this process with those predominant in the Andes, representing serious challenges coming from the external world that needed to be overcome to attain a successful experience such as this.

Ramiro Ortega from Peru made the case for the rich traditional Andean people´s knowledge on weather prediction, and its importance in developing alternative strategies for confronting climate change in the Andes. This issue caught the attention of Lungten Norbu from Bhutan, where this type of tradition also persists, and suggesting information exchanges on this practice from both sides of the world.

Finally, during our last week, a singular and important contribution was that of Dirk Hoffman on conservation of peat bogs (bofedales) in the context of climate change, for Bolivian highlanders making their living from the alpaca, an important wool producing Andean camelid.

The e-discussion then led to two presentations of hydropower development. Pema Wangdi and Lungten Norbu from Bhutan presented the Gross National Happiness Policy in Bhutan, as a guiding framework for the development of hydropower plants. This approach is consistent with the national policy for watershed cover conservation that has assured Bhutan´s successful preservation of its forests and water availability for farming. GNH policy also potentially serves as a great model for other development projects to balance economic and environmental requirements with the social needs of the people

Erg Rosenmann from Chile presented the Chilean water policy strategy, based on market economy principles, where land and water are commodities. This has led to situations where local users confront restrictions to assure access to water. Two cases were presented, highlighting how local smaller watershed inhabitants of Andean Chile have successfully dealt with the policy restrictions within the legal framework, despite limitations.

All of the above presentations were subject to comments and questions, which lead to exchanges between participants where in most cases follow on activity will be pursued. Overall, once again the high relevance of information sharing between the Himalayan and the Andean region has shown a fruitful outcome.

 

CONCLUSION

Since its inception the HimalAndes Initiative has been promoting information exchange and cooperation in different areas of relevance to our mountain environments and its inhabitants: farming, livestock breeding, tourism management, alternative energy, small family and community-based enterprises, etc. This has been our challenge, which we have confronted with commitment and a clear scope of work. As such, we look forward to enhancing further exchanges and cooperation.

Beyond the present relevant issue of the impact of climate change in the mountain environments we are considering moving forward in some areas where we perceive potential benefits for both regions. Among these, we look forward to policy approaches to enhance mountain livelihoods in a context of natural and cultural heritage preservation.

More immediate concerns are those related to energy generation alternatives, and therefore we are looking forward to replicating experiences such as those of small hydropower plants. There are interesting conceptual innovations, such as the path taken by Bhutan within the framework of Gross National Happiness, which can also be helpful in developing other forms of alternative energy generation such as wind, thermal, and biomass conversion.

Another concern is that of mountain livestock breeding, an area in which poverty is more predominant. We have seen a growing expertise on yak breeding in the highlands of Central Asia, as we witness a similar process in the Andes with the Andean camelids (llama and alpaca). We perceive that these mountains characteristic resources, also clearly impacted by climate change, are a matter of concern, and cooperation between our regions should be sought.

The Andean potato has also become an important crop in the Himalayas. Could the Andean farming experiences with this crop and its multiple traditional ways of utilization be of benefit to our fellow inhabitants of the Central Asian mountains?

Both regions have become tourist destinations, and a substantial component of these visitors direct themselves to rural areas. Much can be learned from each region on the best way to benefit from this economic opportunity without affecting our cultural identities, as well as our historical and natural heritage.

These are just a few of the areas for potential cooperation. As the world has become smaller, the enormous distances that kept us apart have shortened substantially. The time has come to enhance a mountain people’s brotherhood through which our connections with the contemporary world trends can be adapted to our benefit without compromising our ancestral values and our sacred habitats.

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