Addressing long-term challenges to food security and rural livelihoods in South Asia

Notwithstanding its impressive economic growth, food insecurity in South Asia continues to be a stark reality for a large number of households. Despite several successful policy interventions by Governments, the number of malnourished children and adults remain alarmingly high in the region – higher than those in Sub-Saharan Africa. Agriculture continues to be a very important livelihood option for a vast majority of rural population, even though the sector's contribution to the economy is shrinking. Against the backdrop of increasing divide between farm and non-farm income levels, this paper examines the potential long-term challenges that further aggravate the food insecurity in the region. Discussing the threats posed by changing demographic structure and urbanization, changing climate, increasing land and water scarcities for food production and food price volatility, the paper suggests several interventions could improve the food security situation in future. Among other things, the paper suggests strong emphasis on rice research; support for smallholder farmers for addressing risk and uncertainty and information deficit; improving agricultural and rural investment; land reforms; and women empowerment.