"Strengthening the food security phase classification approach in Nepal" - Final report, Dec 2008

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(SENAC project - Nepal component)

1 Food insecurity in Nepal

Nepal is a landlocked country of approximately 29 million people in South Asia, situated along the Himalayas between China and India. It has three distinct ecological regions: Mountains in the north, Hills in the middle and the Terai (lowland plains) in the south.

The Country is divided administratively into 5 development regions (Far Western, Mid Western, Western, Central and Eastern region) and 75 districts. Each district is divided into a number of VDCs (Village Development Committees) and Municipalities and each VDC is divided into 9 wards (there are 3913 VDCs and 58 Municipalities in Nepal).

Nepal is classified as a least developed, low-income country with a Gross Domestic Product of US $1,490 per capita (purchasing power parity) and ranks 138th out of 177 countries in the Human Development Index. Twenty-four percent of the population lives on less than US$1 per day and 31 percent live below the national poverty line. Indicators for income level, education attainment and access to social services are poorest among ethnically marginalized and socially excluded groups including Dalits and hill Janajatis.

Although Nepal has experienced improvements in some health indicators including infant, under-five and maternal mortality rates, its nutrition statistics are still some of the worst in the world. Forty-five percent of children below five years are underweight and one in every second child is stunted for their age. In the hill and mountain regions of Western Nepal, chronic malnutrition rates reach as high as 76 percent and prevalence of underweight is as high as 63 percent in some areas. Wasting occurs at an alarming level across the Terai, and the incidence in some parts is over 20 percent.

Harsh terrain, geographic isolation, limited economic opportunities and lack of access to basic services and markets make living in parts of rural Nepal extremely difficult. Agriculture production is generally poor in the hills and mountains of the Mid- and Far-West Regions due to a lack of sufficient arable land, limited area under irrigation, and availability of agriculture inputs. The direct and indirect effects of conflict as well as erratic weather patterns and recurring natural disasters (i.e. drought, flooding and landslides) have further exacerbated the precarious food security situation. The 2006 small area estimation of poverty, caloric intake and malnutrition in Nepal indicates that chronic food security plagues much of Mid- and Far-Western Nepal - the areas most heavily impacted by the conflict and with the worst development indicators.

Despite this background, food security has been specifically addressed in the Nepalese policy agenda only recently. The Three Year Interim Plan (2007-2010) dedicates for the first time a separate section on food security and identifies the development/implementation of a National Food Security Policy and Programme as one of the main priorities in the planned period. In previous Governments' development plans, including the long term Agriculture Perspective Plan (APP) and the National Agricultural Policy, food security was considered and addressed indirectly. Therefore until now very little has been done to arrange a functional institutional setup to ensure food security policy formulation and implementation. In fact, very recently the National Food Security Steering Committee was established under the National Planning Commission and Food Security Coordination Group inside the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC).

Monitoring of food security should inform government and other stakeholders of the progress towards achieving the intended food security objectives and enable both short-term emergency responses and long-term strategic planning. In Nepal it is currently predominantly done by the Government through periodic crops assessments performed by MoAC, which only partially address the various dimensions of food security.