Study reveals hunger in mountainous areas


At least one billion people, or 14 percent of the world’s population, live in mountain areas of the world and most of these peoples face the risk of food insecurity and malnutrition, says a new study presented at a side event during the 22nd Session of the FAO Committee on Forestry (COFO).

The event, Mapping Vulnerability in Mountains, was organized by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat to disclose the preliminary findings of a study that analyses the causes behind the vulnerability to food insecurity and malnutrition of mountain communities and the new set of indicators developed by FAO to assess them.

The study, carried out by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, the Geoinformatics team of the Centre for Development and Environment of the University of Bern and the FAO Statistics Division, comes ten years after the FAO paper “Toward a GIS-based analysis of mountain environment and populations”  which outlined the state of hunger of mountain peoples.

“After 10 years, a new study is strongly and widely demanded,” said Pietro Gennari Director of FAO’s Statistics Division.  “New data is needed in order to understand the current status of mountain populations and how the environmental, social and economic changes have affected the living conditions and vulnerability of mountain peoples over the past ten years.”

However, disaggregated data for mountainous areas is not always readily available. “To assess the vulnerability of people living in mountainous areas, we need global statistics on these specific groups,” said Nathalie Troubat, FAO food security and nutrition officer. “We need statistics over time, such as the exposure to food insecurity, the capacity of resilience, child stunting, malnutrition and micro nutrient deficiencies.”

While global data is lacking, there are however national findings based on household budget surveys that provide a snapshot of the food insecurity status in specific mountain areas.  Research in Ecuador for example showed that the dietary energy consumption decreases steadily with increases in altitude.

The new FAO study also revealed how, as the altitude increases to above 3500 metres, mountain population is halved by around 45 percent, as many migrate towards better livelihood conditions in the lowlands.

“This study can provide a baseline for policy makers, advocacy campaigns, media outreach and communication campaigns. It could also be used as an element in the monitoring framework of the Post-2015 mountain-related sustainable development targets,” said Christina Grieder, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to FAO.

“Understanding the unique conditions of mountainous areas is crucial to designing  effective national policies,” concluded Thomas Hofer, Coordinator of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, explaining that the study should be the first step in a larger effort to understand mountain vulnerability to hunger and spur targeted policy making. 


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