The Mountain Institute
Summary of 2002 activities. The Mountain Institute (www.mountain.org) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to conserve high priority mountain ecosystems, improve mountain livelihoods, and promote the well-being of mountain people through advocacy, education, and outreach. For 30 years TMI has served mountain people in the remotest regions in the world by helping to identify and respond to their conservation and development priorities. TMI has egional offices in the Andes (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia), the Appalachians (West Virginia, Virginia), and Himalaya (Nepal, China, India). Other programs include Research and Education, Sacred Mountains, Sustainable Living Systems, and the Mountain Forum (www.mtnfo- rum.org). The 400-acre Spruce Knob Mountain Center (SKMC) in West Virginia is used for mountain education courses, research, and conservation field demonstrations.
Major highlights of 2002 include the launching of a new program in Nepal and Peru entitled “Building Sustainable Mountain Livelihoods in Uncertain Times.” The five-year project is focused on community capacity building, conservation, ecotourism, and conflict management with an emphasis on measuring the actual impacts of the project through sound baseline data and participatory monitoring techniques. The “Qomolangma Conservation Project” in Tibet commenced activities within its five-year workplan in conservation management, livelihood development, and cultural restoration. Partnerships and projects with five national parks were established to increase U.S. public awareness for the spiritual and indigenous cultural value of mountain landscapes within the parks. New mountain studies curriculum, teacher training courses, field research expeditions, and photographic exhibits were developed. Keynote speeches were presented by TMI staff at numerous International Year of the Mountain conferences and workshops around the world. Network membership of the Mountain Forum reached 3,600 individuals, 310 organizations from 128 countries, 13,000 email subscribers, and nearly 200,000 distinct web users.
In 2002, mountain warfare, political insurgencies, poverty, and mining-related conflicts surfaced in greater force than ever before as the key constraints facing sustainable mountain livelihoods and conservation. In response, TMI incorporated conflict reduction and management components within all field programs; placed additional emphasis on the strengthening of local communities and NGOs as the primary designers and implementors of field programs; and increased its focus on improving livelihoods through ecotourism and non-timber forest product development and promotion. An added emphasis was placed on the strengthening of its monitoring and evaluation systems so that the actual linkages between “capacity building” (e.g., training in resource management) and conservation (e.g., improvements in alpine pasture lands five years later) could be better determined. There were discussions between TMI and the AAC regarding development of joint community-based livelihood, conservation, and restoration projects in areas utilized by AAC members.
Alton C. Byers, Ph.D.