Role of Underutilized and Neglected Plant Species to Assure Food Security in Chepang Community
Sushma Paneru, Soni Ghimire, Suman Adhikari, Suryamani Dhungana, Santosh Bharati
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Underutilized and neglected plant species have high nutritional value, but those in higher demand have overshadowed them; their role in achieving food security is not adequately understood. Food security is a critical issue in the context of the Chepang community that possesses immense knowledge on underutilized and neglected plant species and has been exploiting these crops traditionally from the very beginning. The survey was conducted with the objective of studying and investigating the use of these plant species in that community and accessing the role of them in assuring their food security. Siddhi VDC in Chitwan district was purposively selected as the study site. A total of 32 households were randomly chosen for the household survey conducted using a semi-structured interview structure. Relevant information was also collected through key informants’ interview. It was found that the food was unavailable for 3.2 months. Out of the total population, 75% of people exploit underutilized and neglected plant species to cope with the problem of food scarcity when the stored food grains are depleted, and new harvests are not available. Among them, 25% entirely depends on underutilized and neglected plant species, whereas remaining cope with the situation either by buying the food supplies from the market or by exchanging following barter system. The data obtained show that 84.4% of people depend on the thicket as a significant source of underutilized and neglected plant species. These plant species can play a vital role to transcend the unsecured food world into a secure world. Thus, there is a need to exploit the potential of these plant species to complement the staple crops so that the food security of the Chepang community can be improved.