There is a lack of cohesive knowledge about the socioeconomic status of the 210 million people residing in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region, and this, together with the generally limited understanding of the specific causes of mountain poverty can lead to inappropriate and/or inadequate (maladapted) reduction strategies. Furthermore, increasing socioeconomic inequalities can foster unsustainable upstream-downstream linkages and structural conflict that that could destabilise the greater Himalayan region.
Mountain inhabitants in the greater Himalayan region, often indigenous people, continue to remain at the periphery of socioeconomic and geopolitical opportunities. It is believed that even if the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015 is largely achieved at the national level in these countries, poverty will still remain prevalent in the remote and unfavourable environments of the mountainous areas as a result of the combination of spatial disadvantages, remoteness, and weak agricultural and natural resource endowments.
Mountain poverty is multifaceted and intensified through such factors as uneven distribution and quality of land, poor access to education and health facilities, low level of infrastructure development, and lack of employment. The generally poor access in mountain areas, the complexity and fragility of mountain conditions, and the marginalisation of mountain communities from the mainstream, coupled with climate stresses and proneness to natural disasters, contribute to the high levels of income and food poverty. As a result, mountain people are increasingly exposed to growing physical, social, and economic risks and vulnerabilities.
In order to fully understand poverty from a mountain perspective, ICIMOD is analysing national representative livelihood data to delineate a system to explore and understand mountain poverty as a basis for improving understanding of the triggers of poverty in mountain areas compared to the rest of a country. The analytical framework helps to explain mountain poverty through the interrelations of infrastructural (access to facilities and accessibility) and individual (socioeconomic) characteristics. The framework has been tested using national representative data for Nepal and is expected to evolve further once additional countries have been added for comparative analysis. Pilot studies for Bhutan, India, and Nepal seek to understand mountain poverty by integrating additional indicators such as inaccessibility and marginality into the poverty analysis. The overall aim of this analysis is to recognise, understand, and substantiate the specificity of mountain poverty through the following: