Home to 1.2 billion people and occupying nearly a quarter of the earth’s surface, mountains and their surrounding ecosystems provide a bounty of life-sustaining resources. UNESCO aptly named mountains the “Water Towers of the World” due to their vast reserves of freshwater that supply a range of services such as drinking water and energy production to downstream communities.

Over half of humanity relies on these freshwater reserves drawn from mountain ecosystems. In addition, mountains are home to a wide range of flora and fauna, comprising nearly half of the world’s biodiversity. Mountains are the backbone to life on Earth, and their conservation is critical to our survival.

This report contributes to the wealth of information and conversations around mountains by highlighting CARE programs in Peru, Ecuador, Nepal and Tanzania that address the social and environmental threats to highland ecosystems, underscoring the disproportionate impacts of these threats on women and other marginalized groups, and drawing from their experiences to outline best practices for integrated, equitable, and community-centered approaches to mountain conservation.

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Caring for our mountains