Stopping Monsanto in Nepal: The People’s Victory
Around the 16th century, Europeans arrived on the subcontinent of India—a place predominantly inhabited by a culture that believes in the concept of ‘atithi deva bhava’ (guests are Gods). White men arrived in huge boats, claiming to bring more trade, and white women followed claiming to bring the message of their God. Little did our ancestors know that with the Europeans came armies of military—and missionaries with intents to rape our resources and our culture, to attack our people and our Gods.
In October 2011, USAID announced collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture and Monsanto on a pilot maize production in Nepal. This multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation was to arrive in Nepal with the intent to bring more nutritious food and increased yields to this “third world country.”
However, its arrival in Brazil, Haiti, Indonesia, and India had actually ushered in a substantial decrease in the quantity and quality of yields, as well as an increase in the need for chemical fertilizers. Furthermore, its introduction has also resulted in soil degradation, water pollution, and damage of traditional organic farms and mass suicides among farmers, as in the case of our neighboring state.
Giving in to Monsanto means giving up the control of the seed supply, and ultimately the agricultural industry. In simpler words, once subscribed to Monsanto, the farmers lose their freedom to use any alternative products and are forced to buy chemicals and seeds solely from this corporation. For an agro-based society like ours, where this industry provides employment for over 70% of the population and provides about one-third percentage of the national GDP, manipulation of this sector by a single, foreign company is tantamount to loss of our land and slavery of our people.
Following the announcement, an anti-Monsanto campaign surfaced on social-media sites and slowly gained momentum in the forms of local news coverage, radio interviews, discussions within and outside Nepal, online petitions, online awareness groups, and, on November 252011, a silent protest near the U.S. embassy.
In response to this grassroots movement against this proposed project, the United States ambassador to Nepal, Scott H. DeLisi, posted a note on a social-media website simply reiterating the benefits of hybrid maize and reminding the protestors of “the importance of being clear about the true issues” in discussion.
USAID on the other hand soon backtracked from its plans of partnership and left the decision solely on the government. Thanks to the online campaign against the project, the office of Prime Minister, the department of the Foreign Aid Coordinator for the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC), and the Agricultural Officer at USAID, Nepal were continuously receiving emails from the protestors and the allies against Monsanto.
After a series of arguments for and against Monsanto’s entrance in Nepal and in light of the of the consistent campaign against it, on April 6th, Hari Dahal, Joint Secretary and Spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC), announced on ‘BBC Sajha Sawal’ that Monsanto will not be allowed in Nepal, at least for now.
At least for now, our farms are free and our food healthier.
And as a daughter of a farmer, I want to thank you for it; for helping with the birth of the campaign, for expanding this movement, for signing the petitions, for reading the articles, for updating your Facebook statuses and tweeting about it, for standing against the police outside the U.S. embassy, for making posters, for emailing the concerned parties, for making this a success.
Thank you. And congratulations!
Accounts of history are not always accurate with the actual events of the past but there is always something to learn, even from the fabricated fables written by the “winners”.
Be careful. Be critical. And always, forever fight back.
Also published in LivingGreen Magazine. April 26th 2012
Photo by Kashish Das Shrestha.