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Mountain voices

Interview at Shimshal - Siobhan Warrington | Panos London

Interview at Shimshal - Siobhan Warrington | Panos London

Working with a variety of highland communities for several years, we explored the accelerating impact of development on the environment, culture and history of these regions.

“Does the government want development of people in the highlands? Or development of people outside, based on what they can get out of the highlands?” – Himalayan farmer

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Around the world, mountain systems are increasingly under stress from – among other factors – deforestation, development schemes (especially dams and mining projects), tourism and migration. Many of these strains on the social and physical environment are driven by the needs of urban, lowland populations and industry.

Meeting national development needs without further marginalising highland communities is a major challenge. As the custodians of diverse – sometimes unique – environments, mountain societies have the right to articulate for themselves what their priorities are, to have access to information about planned developments, and so to be able to take their own decisions about how to cope with increasing change and outside influence.

Further erosion of mountain people’s ability to care for those assets will be the world’s loss, not just theirs.

Over the past 10 years Panos has worked with community-based environmental, cultural and development organisations to gather and communicate the voices of men and women who live in mountain regions around the world. The project has involved local people as both interviewers and narrators.

More than 300 testimonies have been gathered in:

Although each country collection can only give a snapshot of a community, the range of individual voices paints a vivid picture of highland societies, their changing physical and social environments, and their concerns for the future.

An online archive – available at www.mountainvoices.org – presents both summaries and full transcripts of these testimonies, and offers a rich resource that complements and illustrates other forms of research into sustainable mountain development.

Our local partners are also working at local and regional levels on a variety of activities based around the testimonies, including exhibitions, local language booklets, radio programmes and roundtable meetings.

Mountain voices testimonies

Poland: Sudety mountains

These interviews show how the complex political history of Europe’s last 80 years has had a profound impact on a relatively remote highland area. Our partner Zdanie, a local NGO with a strong grassroots base, coordinated an all-female team of interviewers who collected over 40 testimonies in the Sudety mountains, southwest Poland. Currently the only…

Peru: Cerro de Pasco

The Andes mountains stretch 7,250 kms along the western margin of South America. In the area around Cerro de Pasco, people’s herding lifestyle has undergone great change, principally as a result of mining. Our partner Cooperacción works with communities in the Andes affected by the mining industry. Testimonies were collected during 1995 in the Cerro…

Pakistan: Karakoram

The Karakoram mountain range contains the greatest concentration of high peaks in the world. The testimonies are from Shimshal, a community whose territory makes up a significant part of the Karakoram. Testimonies were gathered in Shimshal, which until 2002 was a village two days’ walk from the nearest road in Northern Pakistan. Our partner the…

Nepal: Himalaya

The kingdom of Nepal lies along the southern Himalaya with China to the north and India to the south. This relatively small country has a remarkably varied terrain and climate. Our partner ActionAid Nepal coordinated testimony collection during 1995 and 1996, mainly in the western part of Sindhulpalchok, a district north of Kathmandu characterised by…

China: Hebei and Yunnan

China probably contains more mountain and highland territory than any other country in the world. This site featured interviews from two contrasting mountainous areas. We worked with several partners in China: the Women’s Studies Centre (WSC) in northeast China collected testimonies from Han women; Oxfam Hong Kong (OHK) and the Yunnan Minority Gender and Development…

Testimonies

Poland: Sudety mountains

Peru: Cerro de Pasco

Pakistan: Karakoram

Nepal: Himalaya

China: Hebei and Yunnan