Farming Flexibility in Mustang, Nepal. Potentialities and constraints under conditions of climate change
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Climate change is projected to involve rising average temperatures and more rapid melting of ice and snow in the Himalaya. Increased seasonality in river discharge and substantial reductions in regional food production are probable consequences from these changes. The need is thus present to investigate the potentials for local agricultural production in the face of climate change. In the highly diverse Himalayan region, however, climate projections at the local scale are rather uncertain. Therefore, people’s ability to maintain local agricultural production will probably depend on how flexible the local farming systems are to adjust to unpredictable changes, particularly in temperature and water availability. The objective of this thesis is to study the flexibility of one such farming system which is located in Mustang, Nepal Himalaya. Defining flexibility as ‘uncommitted potentialities for change’, the thesis identifies opportunities for change in the farming system, as well as factors that constrain this flexibility. Further developing the concept of flexibility, it is suggested that flexibility may be analysed in terms of type, scope and temporal flexibility. Although there are several underexploited resources in the studied farming system, the present situation is not regarded as one of irrational and suboptimal exploitation of resources. Instead, unexploited resources imply opportunities for change, which provide the system with flexibility to rapidly adjust agricultural production to varying weather conditions. However, there are limits to flexibility. In an interlinked farming system, lack of one resource, such as water for irrigation, may constrain the general performance of the system. Still, as long as the seasonal availability of irrigation water is not drastically altered or reduced, the farming system is probably flexible enough to enable people to increase their reliance on local agricultural production also in the years to come.