Indigenous farmers in the Sikkim Himalaya have, through generations of innovation and experimentation, established a variety of land use systems to nurture a great diversity of both wild and domesticated plants and animals. Local agrobiodiversity features more than 126 landraces of cereals, including rice (77), maize (26), and millet (7); 18 cultivars of oilseeds; 34 cultivars of pulses/beans; 132 species of vegetables; 38 species of spices/condiments; 33 landraces of tubers/roots; and 64 species of fruit. Sikkim’s traditional system of cultivation also supports more than 200 species of wild edibles, 119 species of multipurpose agroforestry trees, 52 crops with high social and cultural value, and 69 species of plants sacred to indigenous communities. It also has a diversity of land uses, with 15 to 20 field types, and specific land use categories. Similarly, there is a high diversity of domestic animals, with about 21 different local and indigenous breeds. Homesteads on marginal farms make up 40–70% of Sikkim’s total landholdings and account for 50–80% of these households’ requirements. Homesteads are centres of agrobiodiversity and associated traditional ecological knowledge, are traditional sources of food and nutrition, and are important contributors to food and livelihood security among farming communities.
Agriculture in Sikkim contributes about 16% of the state’s GDP and supports more than 64% of the population, who sustain their livelihoods on the rapidly shrinking cultivable land available for farming
The study found that the prevalence of stunting, wasting, and underweight in children under five in some mountain areas such as Meghalaya in India, the western mountains and far-western hills of Nepal, Balochistan province in Pakistan, the eastern region of Afghanistan, and Chin state in Myanmar, is very high compared to the national average in the respective countries. Children and women are affected most. Poor nutrition leaves children underweight, weakened, and susceptible to infection, and ultimately stunted and deprived of cognitive and learning capacity. Any intervention should have a special focus on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, at the peak of their vulnerability. Women play a significant role in the nutritional outcome of their children and other household members and should be empowered to make favourable decisions that help improve the nutritional status of the family.
There are several causes of undernutrition and malnutrition in the HKH region and an integrated approach is needed to tackle the issues. Malnutrition is a multidimensional problem that demands a multisectoral approach, but nutrition interventions often work in isolation and fail to include the agricultural, social, cultural, economic, and public health dimensions. Policies should recognize that nutrition issues are cross-cutting; nutrition needs to be integrated into all development processes and targeted nutrition programmes should be combined with poverty alleviation programmes. The study proposes an integrated framework to improve nutrition in the HKH region effectively. The key elements are as follows; it is hoped that they will stimulate discussion on future action