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The Last Straw: Food Security in the Hindu Kush Himalayas and the Additional Burden of Climate Change

12 Aug 2014

Climate change and increasing global food prices have accentuated the question of whether there will be enough food in the future to feed a growing world population. The latest contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report identify food insecurity as one of the key risks of climate change, potentially affecting all aspects of food security. Climate-related disasters (e.g., floods, droughts and storms) are among the main drivers of food insecurity and markets have shown themselves to be very sensitive to recent extremes in climate.


Food insecurity is already a fact of life in the Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH), where the harsh climate, rough terrain, poor soils, and short growing seasons often lead to low agricultural productivity and food deficits. While most people have access to agricultural land, farming is carried out on comparatively small parcels of land ranging from 0.23–0.83 ha per household. As a so-called climate change hotspot, climate change and extreme weather events like floods and droughts are projected to impact food security in mountain regions like the HKH particularly hard. The effects of climate change are compounded here due to particular mountain characteristics: high levels of poverty and high proportions of undernourished people, high dependence on local agricultural productivity and depleted natural resources, vulnerable supply lines and complicated logistics to external markets, and poor infrastructure.

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