Impact on Food Security
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Impact on Food Security book
In the Himalaya, the nature of the terrain imposes severe limitations on the scale of productive activities as well as on the effi ciency of infrastructural facilities. As a result, biomass based subsistence agriculture constitutes the main source of rural food supply and livelihood for more than 75 percent of the population even though the availability of arable land is severely limited and agricultural productivity is low in the region. Owing to constraints of subsistence economy a large proportion of the adult male population out-migrates the region in search of viable means of livelihood and employment. The remittances sent by the migrated population to their families staying back in the mountains constitute the principal source of cash income and food purchasing power of majority of the rural population in the Himalaya. The food security in the region therefore mainly depends on local agricultural productivity and community food purchasing power. Depletion of water resources, changing climatic conditions, recent economic recession and sharply fl uctuating food prices have not only decreased local food production, but also reduced community food-purchasing power rendering the entire region highly vulnerable to food insecurity. The increasing rainfall variability has shown its direct adverse impact on irrigation potential that has reduced considerably during the last two decades mainly owing to reduced groundwater recharge and depletion of springs and streams. The irrigation potential has been analyzed in terms of decline of area under irrigation owing to non-availability of adequate water in the irrigation system. The productivity of agriculture has declined by nearly 25 percent, and per capita food productivity has shown a continuously decreasing trend during the last 30 yr (Fig. 16.4). As a result, the different settlements in the catchment are facing a food defi cit between 22 and 88 percent with annual average food defi cit of 65 percent (Fig. 16.5). Further, the recent economic recession and resultant loss of employment opportunities caused loss of 30-35 percent of local purchasing power posing a serious threat to food security and health in the entire region. Marginal and small farmers, landless households which mainly include socially backward communities and families with marginal or very small income constitute the highly food insecure section of the rural community in the region. The communities most vulnerable to food insecurity in the region mainly include marginal and small farmers with land holding size less than 1 ha (45 percent), landless households mainly include socially backward communities (5 percent), households with marginal income from other sources (41 percent), households with no income from other sources (9 percent), and households with most of the cultivated land rainfed and with scarce family labor. The study revealed that most of the food insecure households in the region are not able manage enough food for
themselves, and in order to cope up with the situation they have to reduce the consumption of a variety of essential food commodities ranging from 30 to 45 percent in different villages (Table 16.3).