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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Volume (Issue) 3(2)
Page(s) 179 - 194
Title of proceedings FOOD SECURITY


The issues of food security and its specifics in high mountain regions are often neglected in national and international science and policy agendas. At the same time, local food systems have undergone significant transitions over the past two decades. Whereas subsistence agriculture still forms the economic mainstay in these regions, current dynamics are generally characterized by livelihood diversification with increased off-farm income opportunities and an expansion of external development interventions. A case study from Ladakh (Indian Himalayas) illustrates how changes of the political and socio-economic conditions have affected food security strategies of mountain households. In the cold, arid environment of Ladakh, where combined mountain agriculture is the dominant land use system, reduced importance of the subsistence base for staple foods is reflected in current consumption patterns. Seasonal shortfalls and low dietary diversity lead to micronutrient deficiencies, a phenomenon that has been described as "hidden hunger". This paper describes determinants of the transition of the current food system, based on land-use analyses and quantitative and qualitative social research at the household, regional and national level. It shows how monetary income and governmental as well as non-governmental development interventions shape food security in this peripheral region. Focusing on the particular example of staple food subsidies through the Indian Public Distribution System, the paper illustrates and discusses how this national-level measure addresses food security and shows the implications for household strategies. Against the background of our findings we argue that tailor-made regional policies and programmes are needed to face the specific challenges in high mountain regions.