Food sovereignty in Nepal has far from reached an acceptable level. The livelihood of the peasants depends on the requirements of the landowners
08 / 2004
Balaram Banskota, the secretary of All Nepal Peasant’s Association (ANPA), is a patient and communicative person who explained how they focus their efforts on raising the awareness of Nepal’s peasants on food sovereignty. Tools are given to the 75 districts of the country to ease the contact between one million people.
The problem of hunger can not be solved through globalization or neo-liberalist mechanisms. There is a need, instead, for greater food distribution and production programs.
Speaking about the facts and figures, 76% of the total population work in agriculture but very few of them are the owners of the land. They can not complete the livelihood so they are fighting; demanding their land rights, land holding and finally food sovereignty. Their main struggle is to uphold Human rights standards. The other 24% are working in the service sectors as industrialists, migrant workers, etc.
The peasants are working under a contract with landowners, who have close ties with the government. We are speaking of a reactionary government; that does not care about its people. In Nepal, there is no child allowance, no unemployment benefit, no medical insurance or any other form of a welfare.
To reduce hunger, the ANPA is seeking subsidies for the farming sector. Nepal is among the world’s 10 poorest countries and surprisingly they do not receive any subsidies for agriculture.
Another point of their struggle, explains Balaram, is to pass on the knowledge about the World Trade Organization to allow ordinary people to take decisions and fight against this unjust system. In addition, they want to continue to manage the land using sustainable agricultural methods that do not use unnecessary chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Balaram also explains that Nepal is divided into three climate sectors, categorized by altitude. However, as this stand, their variety of rich flavorsome products has not been able to be sold because of the lack of transportation facilities and difficulties negotiating for access to India’s transportation system.
When I asked Balaram about the effectiveness of their measures in these adverse conditions, he answered me simply: “It will be effective day by day”. From my point of view, this is the most intelligent perspective but also the most difficult to implement. Today, Asian people in developing countries are managing a program so as to reduce hunger by 50% by 2015. Successful measures such as the People’s Caravan for Food Sovereignty, traveling through Asia, is a good tool to lead an action upon governments and make them aware of a real agrarian reform. The objective of the Caravan is to raise awareness amongst peasants about the worsening of their situation under the pretext of neo-liberal globalization. “WTO, out of agriculture”, has been chanted in Kathmandu.
Balaram told me that women in rural Nepal live a very hard condition. They have no property rights. They have no land rights. They have to work 18 hours a day: feeding the animals, feeding the family, working in the farm, cooking and cleaning. The children are also in a vulnerable situation and require special attention. Their hope to go to school is close to zero.
Moreover, today, in Nepal, a Maoist insurgency and the militarization of the government prevents ANPA from going into the villages. Meanwhile, the increasing migration from rural to urban areas and from urban centers to India or Europe complicate their task.
But Balaram Banskota remains optimistic. “The future of peasants of our country is bright”, he says. No result can be hoped in a short period of time. Farmers are becoming aware of their rights and they are organizing themselves day by day. Resources must be mobilized and redistributed equitably. They must go on uniting their efforts.
This interview has been realized by ALMEDIO Consulting with the support of the Charles-Léopold Mayer Fondation during the World Forum on Agrarian Reform (Valencia, Spain, 5-8 December 2004).
Pers. contact/Entretien avec : BANSKOTA, Balaram
Adresse-contact : Balaram Banskota
Secretary of All Nepal Peasants Association (ANPA)