THE BANYAN TREE: VOLUME II : BRINGING CHANGE - APPROPRIATE NUTRITION : ITS ROLE IN HEALTH
( By Editor : Carol Huss )

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1-Appendix 1 : Opportunities for Action

Opportunities for Action



  1. A major aim of the Consultation was to focus on concrete actions that can improve food security for the most vulnerable groups. While it was recognised that there are no universally valid prescriptions, given the enormous diversity of local conditions, a number of the most promising opportunities for action were identified.
  2. These are summarised below with reference to four of the most widely found vulnerable groups; forest dwellers and shifting cultivators, small farmers, landless families, and pastoralists and herders. In each case, it was stressed that the opportunities that exist are highly site-specific and must thus be considered in the context of local circumstances.

Forest Dwellers and Shifting Cultivators



  1. For forest dwellers and shifting cultivators, food security is adversely affected by their lack of secure land tenure and the increasing pressures on forest resources an forest land. They often have limited access to foods other than what they produce. Frequently, they lack food storage facilities and have few opportunities for disposl of their surplus produce. At the policy level their voice is often unheard because of their lack of political organisation, and being outside the mainstream they fail to receive most of the services provided by governments.
  2. Opportunities for constructive action that hat were identified by the Consultation include :

    • Securing their land tenure and legitimising their rights to use their habitat, so as to encourage sustainable management.
    • Promoting agroforestry for improved land husbandry in shifting cultivation areas.
    • Diversifying their sources of food and income, for example through apiculture and mushroom cultivation.
    • In mangrove areas, where local people are facing a variety of external threats to their livelihood and ecosystem, integrated programmes should be undertaken to reconcile more effectively the conflicting needs of fishery, agriculture and forestry development.
    • Introducing wildlife farming and capitive breeding of animals/insects(such as agouti, capybara, guinea pig, antelopes, and wild pigs) to augment food supplies.
    • Unsuccessful efforts have been made in the past to eliminate the gtrowing of socially undsirable crops (such as opium) by forest dwellers. The practice survives because of its profitability. What is needed is an intensification of efforts to identify and encourage viable crop replacement programmes.
    • The capacity of forest dwellers to use and benefit from forest resources should be strengthened by undertaking a whole range of activities onthe socio-economic front, such as providing infrastructures, schools, health services and population planning.
    • Strategies to reach out, involve and benefit forest dwellers should be specially designed, well thought out, and implemented with a degree of sensitivity tuned not only to meeting their needs but also to respecting their unique cultural features.

  3. The category of small farmers covers a wide and heterogeneous group. To help narrow down the approaches that may be relvant to their needs they canbe divided into those for whom land, labour, and enviornmental constraints are the main limiting factors.

    1. Land a limiting factor
      This is the situation that exists in many densely populated countries in Asia. Specific suggestions are :

      • Improving the productivity of farms through water and soil conservation measures.
      • Introducing trees which provide fodder and green manure, so as to improve soil fertility and reduce dependence on chemical fertilisers.
      • Introducing trees into production systems to help distribute production more evenly throughout the year .
      • Increasing the employment potential through forest-based samll-scale enterprises, particularly during the dry season.

    2. Labour a limiting factor
      Introducing tree crops into farming systems can help in some situations in evening out of the demand for labour over the year. When farm sizes drop below a certain level, however, family needs can no long be met from subsistence production. The commonresponse is for some members of the household, usually the men, to migrate to other areas in search of paid employment. The result can be that the women left to manage the farm suffer from labour shortages, especially during peak periods in the agricultural calendar.
      In such circumstances, a shift to a greater reliance on tree crops can be an effective and rational response. Most tree crops require less labour input than food crops, and under favourable market conditions they can provide a useful source of income. Extension assistance in the form of subsidised seedlings, technical advice, and marketing assitance can play a helpful role in supporting this shift in land use.
    3. Environmental considerations a limiting factor.
      This is particularly important for small farmers in arid and semi-arid regions. To improve their food security a vaiety of new farming systems and copping techniques incorporating trees and shrubs need to be developed. The focus should be on :

      • Establsihment of shelterbelts to reduce the damage caused by wind.
      • Adoption of appropriate tree and crop combination, especially those which are able to withstand severe adverse environmental conditions,suchas water stress and high salinity.
      • Using trees to stabilise dunes and reduce the risk of desertification.

Landless Families

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  1. This group is characterised by their lack of land, other than samll homestead areas with limited food production potential. For many landless families, the collection, processing and sale of products from the forest provide a vital source of ood and income. Access to forest resources is therefore an important concern.
  2. To serve the needs of landless groups more effectively, public forests need to be managed in a more integrated manner, giving greater priority to forest foods and other products that are important local people. Legislation and management practices often need to be amended, and distribution mechanisms adjusted to give these groups secure and clearly defined access to forest resources.
  3. The most appropriate management approaches will depend on local circumstances. In many cases, more effective management can be achieved through greater involvement of the users themselves. Possible options include the formation of coperatives, as well as various other forms of user and producer association, to which the control of resources ca, to varying degrees, be handed over.
  4. It was stressed , however, that if such arrangements are to prove workable in the long-run, they need to be based on a firm foundation of common interest amongst the user groups. They also depend on having clearly defined and properly enforceable management rules.
  5. Because of their importance to landless groups, every effort should be made to maintain and preserve common property resources. Governments need to be alerted, for example, to the adverse effects of privatisation of these resources, and to poosible negative impact on local people of taking common land into public ownership. When changes in the use of common land is being considered, care is needed to ensure that this does not adversely affect landless people, since even community tree plantations can have a negative effect on resource availability, if the poor are excluded from areas on which they previously relied for collections of fuelwood, fodder and other products.
  6. Forest-based small-scale enterprises should also be given priority and support. These can provide an important source of employment and income tolandless families, provided the necessary inputs are available and market conditions are favourable.
  7. Finally, in countries where there are suitable forest lands that can be converted to agricultural use without adverse environmental effects, scope may exist for reducing landlessness by transferring forest land to landless families. A variety of alternatives also exist for permitting temporary or limited use of forest land by the landless -- for example, taungya systems and fforest villages. allprogrammes of this type, however, must ensure that participants have sufficient resources and support to develop sustainable uses of the land allocated to them.

Pastoralists and Herders



  1. Pastoralists and herders suffer from food security problems for a number of related reasons :

    • Theydepend on a fragile environment which produces only small amounts of biomass per unit area and is often susceptible to drought.
    • They have lost land through encroachment which by cultivators, exclusion by government, and other factors. This has reduced the flexibility and mobility necessar for sustainable pastoralist production systems.
    • Their lack of political influence has allowed inappropriate policies to be put in place.
    • Mistaken beliefs about pastoralist cultures, production systems, and the nature of their environments have led to unexpected and sometimes undesired results when boreholes and other intended improvements have been introduced.
    • Low prices from emergency sales of livestock reducepastoralistsí ability to buy food at crucial periods.
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