Feeding the Mountains: Shifting Foodscapes in High Asia by Andrei Dörre

Date & Time

1. 7. 2020 10 AM


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High mountains represent fringe areas of the ecumene. Due to the often marginal productivity of locally available resources, high mountain populations commonly rely on external exchange relations to meet their basic needs. Reliable food provision in the high mountains is thus structurally based on two pillars – ‘local generation of foodstuffs’ and ‘food imports’ – and secured access to both. Against the background of the second Sustainable Development Goal of the United Nations and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations analysis that up to 39% of the people living in mountain areas of the Global South are vulnerable to food insecurity, this presentation employs a ‘foodscapes’ approach to shed light on food provision in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan during different historical time periods. Foodscapes are seen as socially, spatially, and environmentally situated and contextualized arrangements shaped by actors with uneven power. This means that societal transitions accompanied by shifting power relations can, thus, lead to changes in the foodscapes of a region. This also means that the still existing challenge of food insecurity in the high mountains, therefore, is not to be understood as a natural condition but as a product of the effects of social decision-making and societal processes in connection with the marginal productivity of the respective region in terms of local food production. Findings of empirical research conducted in Gorno-Badakhshan, as well as historical secondary data collected in archives in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Russia support this understanding. Results will be presented that suggest that the secure supply of food in the Pamirs is critically dependent upon conditions that both facilitate and promote local food production and the reliable import of foodstuffs, as well as guarantee general and just access to food.


Andrei Dörre studied geography, political science, ethnology, and area studies (Central Asia and the Caucasus) at the Humboldt-Universität Berlin. Currently, he is a senior lecturer at the Institute of Geographical Sciences of the Freie Universität Berlin. His research interest focuses on societal transitions, development and human–environment interactions in Central Asia. He has dealt with different aspects of change in post-Soviet transformation societies, including research on pastoral practices in Kyrgyzstan, resource management, irrigation agriculture, food security and development in the Pamirs of Tajikistan, as well as the interrelationship between international intervention, security promotion and development activities in Afghanistan.