Heidelberg University > South Asia Institute > Dept. of. Geography >

Food security in Ladakh:

subsistence-oriented resource utilisation and socioeconomic transformation

Project Team
Prof. Dr. Marcus Nüsser
Dipl. Geogr. Juliane Dame

Duration: 2008 - 2010 (I)
2010 - 2011 (II)
Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG)
Project number: NU102 / 7-1 and 7-2

Due to rapid changes of political and socio-economic structures as well as ecological conditions, rural food and livelihood security are facing new challenges. Besides shifting settings on the village level, regional, national, and international processes have an increasing impact on actions and strategies of local actors. High mountain regions, which are generally characterised by a peripheral location, limited resource potential, and political marginalisation, are especially exposed to these dynamics.

The region of Ladakh, Northern India, proves as a suitable case study to investigate the effects of such dynamic conditions on food security in high altitude areas. Separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Great Himalayan Range and edged by the Karakoram Range to the North, Ladakh is characterised by a rugged topography at an average altitude of over 3,000 m and the seasonal closure of road passes. Due to arid climatic conditions, human settlements and agricultural land-use are found in irrigated oases along the watercourses. Although subsistence-oriented production remains the economic mainstay, livelihood strategies have diversified in the light of growing geostrategic relevance and significant socio-economic changes. In recent years, non-agrarian income sources (e.g. in the tourism sector), trade of food and foodstuffs, as well as governmental and non-governmental programmes have gained importance.
The objective of the research project is the analysis of the effects of changing structural conditions on different components of the local food system, encompassing food availability, access to food and food utilisation. In this context, questions of adaptation, new potentials and dependencies are central. We follow a multi-methodological approach, applying qualitative and quantitative research methods. The empirical data are combined with GIS and remote sensing techniques for the analysis of spatial, temporal and functional interdependencies.

Characteristic settlement and field structures of rural Ladakh (J. Dame 2007).
Selected publications
  • DAME, J. (2012): Zwischen Subsistenz und Subventionen: Ernährungs- und Lebenssicherung in Ladakh. In: Geographische Rundschau 64 (4): 34-41.
  • NÜSSER, M., SCHMIDT, S. & DAME, J. (2012): Irrigation and Development in the Upper Indus Basin: Characteristics and Recent Changes of a Socio-Hydrological System in Central Ladakh, India. In: Mountain Research and Development 32 (1): 51-61.
  • DAME, J. & NÜSSER, M. (2011): Food security in high mountain regions: agricultural production and the impact of food subsidies in Ladakh, Northern India. In: Food Security 3 (2): 179-194.
  • DAME, J. (2010): Auf dem Dach der Welt. Landnutzung und Ernährungssicherung im Himalaya. In: Praxis Geographie Heft 10/2010: 12-17 & Transparency.
  • DAME, J. (2009): Barley and potato chips: New actors in the agricultural production of Ladakh. In: Ladakh Studies 24 (June 2009): 15-24.
  • DAME, J. & NÜSSER, M. (2008): Development Paths and Perspectives in Ladakh, India. In: Geographische Rundschau - International Edition 4 (4): 20-27 & supplement.