Between China and Nepal: Trans-Himalayan Trade and the Second Life of Development in Upper Humla

Martin Saxer, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
World Food Programme rice flown into Simikot in autumn 2012.
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Upper Humla, an area in northwestern Nepal bordering the Tibet Autonomous Region, has lost much of its prosperity over the past five decades. The region’s recent history has been shaped by modernization efforts and development initiatives on both sides. However, the author argues that, contrary to the common conception that Communist reform in Tibet dismantled the traditional economic foundation of trade-based Himalayan livelihoods, different forces were at work in the case of upper Humla. Three benevolent development initiatives in public health, wildlife conservation, and community forestry triggered the decline. The “second lives” of successful development, rather than the side effects of modernist planning, are responsible for upper Humla’s current predicament.

Keywords: Nepal, Himalaya, trade, Humla, development, wildlife, conservation, tigers, community forestry, salt, iodine deficiency, goiter, public health, modernity, sustainability

Click here to view a short video clip of a group of salt traders from Syaandaa, Humla.