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introducing the area

food security

 quotes about food security
 key testimonies featuring food security

The testimonies indicate that nowadays most people have enough to eat, but some narrators describe previous coping mechanisms for dealing with hunger and food shortages. For example: buttermilk would make a person feel full; turnip leaves were used as a vegetable; and the horns of livestock were ground and made into a soup. Several narrators mention the giving of offerings to the gods in times of such hardship. In the past, those certain craftspeople and those who worked as labourers for others were paid in food rather than cash. India 16 explains: "The poor worked in the fields of the landlord and in return they got their two square meals."

The panchayati bhandar (village store) was a formal system for dealing with potential food shortages. Each household contributed set amounts of grains, pulses and even salt at harvest time, and then were able to borrow from the store in times of short supply. India 3 describes the system in detail, and says: "The main objective behind the panchayati bhandar system was to have enough stored for emergencies and famine and increase the funds of the village." However, this narrator's account suggests famine was rare - "the bhandar met our needs adequately" - and it operated more as a savings bank than as emergency relief: it provided a safe system that helped people save grain. It seems the bhandar is no longer functioning.

It would seem some narrators do not produce enough grain to feed themselves for the whole year, and rely on cash income from working family members to deal with the shortfall. Elderly narrators whose families have migrated away find it hard to grow enough food: "We get only some of our requirements. We work very hard and we get just a little.What can we do?... We ask our sons for money. Then we buy our grain from the shops and eat." (India 4) And the account of one narrator (India 17) suggests continuing food shortages: "During my early childhood I looked after a large number of cattle. My parents being very poor, I could not get a square meal. It was difficult for them to arrange two meals a day. They did not have a sufficient source of income. When I grew up I was married into an uneducated family. Here also I saw only deprivation and poverty. So my life has been full of problems and tensions. I worked in the fields with small children and could hardly ever afford a full meal. This affected my health badly and my eyesight grew weak. I get aches and pains. I do not keep good health."

One point that many narrators make is that the supplies of certain wild foods - berries, vegetables, fruits, spices etc - has dramatically reduced with the loss of the forest, and it would seem that many people's diets are less varied than before.

quotes about food security

"If you drink lots of buttermilk your stomach gets full. So in the olden days this is how people used to eat. There were wild yams in the forest. People used to dig them up for food and they used to eat timla (figs)."
Sudesha, F/50s, activist/farmer, India 1

"Years ago when there was a famine the horns [of sheep, goats and other animals] came in very handy. They were ground and made into coarse powder, boiled, and the juice was drunk. We got food grains from the temples reserve store, but it was usually not enough. So during famines people depended on animal horns."
Bhagat, M/67, farmer, India 15

"Earlier people mainly ate boiled potato. Turnip leaves were dried to be used as a vegetable in winters. The poor used potato mixed with fafra leaves as food. People ate only potato from morning till night. The poor remained poor and the rich became richer."
Krishna, F/ 60+, farmer, India 16

"People had to give grain at the store and that was called nali patha (1 kg 2kg). They gave wheat, barley and mustard at the rabi (spring) crop and mandua (finger millet), rice, pulses, beans, salt and chilli were collected at the time of the kharif (autumn) crop. You could then borrow from the store as and when you needed anything and give it back at the time of the harvest. You had to return one and a half times of what you took. If somebody took a loan one or two months before the crop ripened it was known as panturu [and] had to be returned as one and a quarter times of the quantity borrowed. If somebody borrowed grain in the month when the crop was to ripen it was known as pauncha. In that you returned as much as you took."
Mahesha, M/67, shop keeper/farmer, India 3

key testimonies featuring food security

  No.   Name   Sex/Age   Occupation   Location  
Summary Transcript   15   Bhagat   male/67   farmer   Chansu village, Sangla, Baspa valley, Kinnaur  
Summary Transcript   16   Krishna   female/60+   farmer   Nigulsari village, Nichar, Sutlej valley, Kinnaur  
Summary Transcript   17   Ram   female/67   farmer   Krabha village, Nichar, Sutlej valley, Kinnaur  
Summary Transcript   3   Mahesha   male/67   shop keeper/ farmer   Khumera, Mandakini valley, Chamoli  
Summary Transcript   4   Bachani   Female/72   activist/farmer   Adwani village, Henval valley, Tehri Garhwal