The Alaknanda Basin (Uttarakhand Himalaya): A study on enhancing and diversifying livelihood options in an ecologically fragile mountain terrain (2009)

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Enhancing and diversifying livelihood options in the mountain regions need attention in the wake of framing an integral strategy for coping with physical hazards and food insecurity. It must also seek ways to improve livelihood  and generate economic growth through which increased security- physical, economic, and social- can be obtained. The populace of the mountain regions is fully depended on the mixed agriculture systems, which include farming of subsistence cereal crops and animal husbandry for their livelihood. Low production and productivity (per ha yield), home consumption of produced materials, and limited access to market characterizes the systems. The potentials to avail sustainability through enhancing and diversifying livelihood options, within the context of vulnerability and fragility of mountain terrain, has largely been untapped by mountain residents. Thus, the phenomenon of poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition is common. In addition, dependency on forest resource for firewood and fodder and population pressure on the mountain niche is high, which is leading for severe environmental degradation. Most of the mountain areas have not been able to adequate harness their unique resources to improve mountain livelihoods because of inadequate and unfavourable policies towards mountains. Harnessing mountain niches appropriately through better management of natural resources and application of technologies and new methods of production and exchange do generate employment and income opportunities in the mountains. However, the cultivation of off-season vegetables, fruits, medicinal plants, and appropriate use of non-timber based forest products and the other unique resources of the mountains demonstrate their high potential to provide viable bases for households to rise above poverty and subsistence. 
In mountain areas, livelihood  options are often linked to a range of economic activities, products, and productivity of cereal farming, the natural assets of mountains, as well as economic and human assets. Harnessing mountain resources for hydropower and tourism development and for the production of food and non-food products for urban centers and conserving resources to generate valuable environmental services, among others, can create new employment and income opportunities in these areas. Human resource development, on the other hand, is vital for all round development of the mountain regions. The hill farming system is complex and crop production, animal husbandry, and forestry are intricately linked. They simultaneously determine the living standards of the farm families, income, and employment levels, as well as affect their surrounding environment. Forestlands provide fuel wood, fodder, and timber. Croplands provide food, fodder, and crop residue. However, croplands also require manure, which is available from cow dung and litter from forestlands. Thus, livestock connect these land resources by converting fodder into drought power and dung nutrient, in addition to providing  food and income to households. 
Large parts of the basin are still isolated pockets and located in remote areas, which are insulated from market forces. Transport network and communication facilities have not reached many parts of the basin. Movement  of the people and farm products to urban centres is difficult. Tourism can play an important role in some the picturesque areas of the basin. Development of educational facilities is a major aspect, which will surely lead a way for overall development. Similarly, installation of micro-hydro power projects will provide power for ropeways, which are very useful to cope with transportation problems, particularly with road transportation. It is major assumption of this study that enhancing and diversifying livelihood options may increase the food security among the households.
Language: English
Imprint: Unpublished final report under the Scheme of General Fellowship, submitted to Indian Council of Social Science Research Aruna Asaf Ali Marg JNU Institutional Area, New Delhi, India 2009
Series: Report,