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Flexibility of scope, type and temporality in Mustang, Nepal. Opportunities for adaptation in a farming system facing climatic and market uncertainty

Nina Bergan Holmelin, Tor Halfdan Aase

Climate change is projected to increase the seasonality in river flows in the great river systems of Himalaya and impose challenges to regional food production. Since climate change increases the uncertainty in local weather patterns, people’s ability to maintain local agricultural production will probably depend on how flexible the local farming systems are to adjust to unpredictable changes. The objective of this paper is to investigate the flexibility of one such farming system which is located in Mustang, Nepal, Himalaya. Defining flexibility as “uncommitted potentialities for change” following Gregory Bateson, the paper identifies opportunities for change in the farming system, as well as factors that constrain flexibility. Further developing the concept of flexibility, it is suggested that flexibility may be analyzed in terms of scope, type and temporal flexibility. Although there are several underexploited resources in the studied farming system, the present situation is not regarded as one of irrational and suboptimal exploitation of resources. Instead, unexploited resources imply opportunities for change, which provide the system with flexibility to rapidly adjust agricultural production to varying and uncertain conditions of production.

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