Contents - Previous - Next
This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at http://unu.edu
8. Two approaches to the population pressure/land productivity decline problem in the Himalaya
Livestock and land degradation in the Kumaun Himalayan foothills
Population growth and land-use planning in Nepal
Discussion and conclusions
Two case studies are introduced in this chapter, in part to illustrate the problems of the increasing population pressure on limited land resources in predominantly subsistence societies and, in part, to emphasize the extreme range of proposed responses to that problem. The first case study deals with the Himalayan foothills of Uttar Pradesh, India, concentrating on the Kumaun Himalaya. It is based on a paper prepared by M. J. Jackson (1983, unpublished) and presented at a conference on environmental strategies for the Himalaya, held at Nainital in October 1983. It involves a farmer-based strategy incorporating a minimum of 'outside' technology transfer. Its essence is the creation of local political will and self-help. The second case study deals with Nepal. It is essentially a large-scale technological 'fix' based upon careful survey of land, water, and vegetation-cover resources and population growth trends. It is taken from a paper prepared by J. P. Hrabovszky and K. Miyan (1987) which, in turn, is the synthesis of three related studies undertaken for the National Planning Commission, HMG Nepal. These are: land-use plan; agricultural plan; and long-term food plan.
We do not wish to imply that either approach necessarily constitutes the correct or only answer to one of the more pressing problems facing the Himalayan region - often viewed by development agency experts as 'too many people,' or by the villagers as 'not enough food' (Thompson et al., 1986). The case of the Kumaun Himalaya provides a good illustration of the intricate inter-relationships between the three major sectors of a mixed subsistence hill farming economy, namely, the forests, cultivated land, and the livestock. It goes on to describe what happens when these interrelationships fall apart, and how they might be set right. It also emphasizes that, in order to achieve the proposed solution, a new institutional framework must be developed which would lead to a radical change in access to natural resources, including control of land. Whether the existing social and political structures can be adjusted to achieve this goal is a moot point. The case for intensified agriculture in Nepal involves massive inputs of technology - large-scale irrigation, increases in artificial fertilizer application, and increased use of high-yielding varieties (of food crops and livestock). Even if we adopt an optimistic attitude toward this proposed solution, as Hrabovszky and Miyan (1987) demonstrate, the attempt to achieve a balance between increasing food production and continued population growth will be a very hard struggle.
Contents - Previous - Next