Food security in mountains

A current analysis of hunger in mountainous areas

·         Between 2012 and 2017, rural mountain peoples in developing countries became more vulnerable to food insecurity, continuing a trend started in 2000. In the five years from 2012 to 2017, the absolute number of vulnerable people increased globally by 40 million, representing an increment of 12.5 percent from 2012 to 2017. As of 2017, about 346 million rural mountain people living in developing countries were vulnerable to food insecurity.

In 2017, more than 90 percent of the world’s mountain dwellers lived in developing countries, including 648 million people living in rural areas where a vast majority lived below the poverty line and more than 1 in 2 faced the threat of food insecurity.

Mountain people's vulnerability to food insecurity in the developing world is compounded by the presence and occurrence of natural hazards and armed conflicts that disrupt livelihoods or put strain on the natural resources on which mountain people depend. 
These alarming statistics give voice to the plight of mountain peoples. They send a clear message to policy-makers about the importance of including mountains in their development agendas, which should focus on alleviating the harsh living conditions of mountain communities and reducing outmigration from mountain areas.


The FAO 2020 methodology: an update of the Mountain Vulnerability Model developed in 2015

The 2020 FAO publication Vulnerability of mountain peoples to food insecurity: updated data and analysis of drivers is an update of the 2015 Mountain Vulnerability Study and does not significantly alter its methodology, while it does use more recent datasets. The vulnerability to food insecurity model estimates the availability of calories in rural mountain regions, considering the production rate of agricultural areas as an average of the yields of six main mountain crops: beans, cassava, maize, potatoes, rice and wheat. It also includes information on food quality by estimating the availability of proteins from beef meat, cow milk, sheep meat, sheep milk, goat meat, goat milk, pig meat, chicken meat and eggs. People having access to less than 1 370 kcal and 14 g of animal protein per day are considered to be at risk of food insecurity, as those thresholds are taken as survival requirements in the event that other foods are not available.

Moreover, the model considers that, whenever the level of energy from crops or the amount of proteins from animal sources is at least twice the threshold values, the population is considered to not be at risk of being food insecure. It is very important to recognize that these values do not refer to nutrition requirements but are set to adjust the model and avoid overestimating the population at risk of food insecurity. This publication takes a step forward and also looks at potential stressors and their linkages with the number of people vulnerable to food insecurity.


A first step towards understanding the root causes of mountain people’s vulnerability to food insecurity

The 2020 study looks at five key drivers of vulnerability to food insecurity in mountain regions: natural hazards, conflicts, infrastructure and services, climatic variability, and land degradation. Approximately 516 million rural people were estimated to live in mountain areas affected by past natural hazards with medium to high exposure, and 275 million were estimated to be vulnerable to food insecurity. Also, an estimated 212 million rural people in mountains lived in areas identified as having medium and high intensity of conflicts between 2000 and 2018, including 128 million people vulnerable to food insecurity. Moreover, 85 million rural mountain people lived more than one hour’s travel distance from the closest market.

Climate extremes are threatening to erode and reverse the gains made in ending hunger and malnutrition, a negative effect particularly relevant for mountain communities that are already vulnerable to food insecurity.

Finally, land degradation is seriously impacting agriculture, endangering the sustainability of crop production and animal husbandry and water security, especially in areas where land degradation is rapidly progressing.

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