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Partnership with terminator logic or strengthening of global network of civil society groups for an alternative world?

by Binayak Rajbhandari, Ph.D.

(Tuesday, July 27, 2004 -- CropChoice guest commentary) --


If we close our eyes and calmly review our achievements in regard to reducing hunger we will be "endowed" with disappointment-the magnitude and severity of hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity remain to be a major concern of human kind even today. We find that more than 800 million people are welcomed by empty dishes each morning. And each week more than 140,000 people die fighting diseases related to hunger and improper sanitation. Hundreds of lives have already been taken by cholera during this summer season in parts of Nepal alone; similar stories are there in other parts of South Asia and Africa. Who are these undernourished people fighting with hunger in this world? Where, why and in what conditions are these people struggling for their survival? What are the roles played by different food production systems and different development paradigms, and why are those people marginalised from having food? Why are not we making more progress towards reducing hunger and poverty? What constitutes the major threat to the developing countries' food security and to the sustainability of the common people's and ultra-poor's livelihoods? Should they dream about and struggle for an alternative world with social justice or continue their struggle only for their survival? What might be the apparent features of that pro-poor world? These are the issues every one who is in favour of social justice and human rights should think over today.

The undernourished people fighting against hunger are the people without protective shelter or houses. These are the people without any access to education and health care facilities. These are the people without any access to employment. These are the people who are denied access to natural productive resources or economic resources. These are the people who have been most exploited socially, culturally, economically and politically. In short, these are the people who have been deprived of their basic human rights. It is crystal clear to every one today who are these people of the South? The hungry and malnourished people are fighting for survival and not for any political or economic power. They are fighting with the situation they are put into by the discriminatory socio-economic norms, structures and the discriminatory political institutions and policies. The roots of armed conflict going on for the last nine years in Nepal are in these discriminatory norms, values and policies. In other words, the discriminatory socio-political structures and policies have compelled the marginalised people to fight for their survival. All the governments of the world and all the member states of the United Nations know about the worsening situations the hungry people have been facing. They have also expressed their written commitments in favor of these people but those commitments are never being translated even in the so-called "democratic" or "people's democratic" nations, and hunger has been killing women, children and adults in the South. Why? They die because they have been excluded from the social process, because to them the right to be human has been denied. To them it didnít and doesnít really matter what is the fad of the time in terms of causality framework in the academia or in the international community: protein deficiency, calorie deficiency, insufficient food production, inadequate access, lack of health and family care, poverty, etc. (Valente, 2000).

Natural resources management against hunger and poverty

Agriculture has been the major human intervention for natural resource management aimed at achieving food and livelihood security. The "Green Revolution" based on the intensive chemical farming system significantly increased food production in the world but the ultra-poor or the marginalised landless people could not enjoy the benefit. The environmental pollution, soil structure degradation, and depletion of the plant genetic resources (PGRs) caused by the intensive chemical farming system have posed new challenges and serious threat the sustainability of livelihood of the small farmers and farm laborers in the South. That system has increased the small farmers' dependence to exotic inputs and assistance making them more vulnerable to external economic shocks. Optional to that food production system, various other alternative systems of natural resources management and food production have been implemented in various parts of the world but their coverage and focus are relatively scanty. The landless, marginalised and ultra-poor groups are not reached by the initiative. Their poor access to production resources, information and technology have been making them marginalised and hungry.

A number of development approaches have been developed and implemented both in the past and present but the marginalised groups and ethnic minorities deprived of access to information, knowledge, technology, production resources and employment have remained hungry or malnourished. Over the last decade, new concepts of: sustainable development (SD); sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD), which is variously termed as: agroecology, bio-intensive farming, permaculture, organic farming, etc.; and gender & development, etc. have been forwarded and implemented in various parts of the globe. Main thrust of these innovations is to benefit the small farmers, women, ethnic minorities, and the ultra-poor simultaneously conserving soil, PGRs, biodiversity and protecting the environment and basic human rights of the people. WOREC, Nepal has achieved some success in empowering and mobilizing local CBOs, small farmers' groups and their resources to implement and evaluate bio-intensive farming system approach against hunger and poverty (Rajbhandari, 2001). Bio-intensive farming (BIF) system is not a new approach and has been practiced traditionally for a long period of time. It is based on the principle of agroecology. It is environmentally friendly, promotes use of organic manure, phyto-pesticides, scientific crop rotations, mixed- or inter-cropping, higher cropping intensity, conservation and utilisation of local PGRs/varieties with better performances, and soil conservation. At WOREC, we have molded the BIF system approach within the framework of SARD (Rajbhandari, 2000). In East Africa, a biological push-pull system approach of pest management has revealed outstanding performance. The push-pull system is an ideal option as it builds on existing resources, does not create dependency, is manageable by small farmers and does not pose a threat to the eco-systems. It is estimated that full adoption of the innovation by small farmers in East Africa will increase food production sufficiently to feed 6-8 million more people. However, this system is of little interest to profit-oriented private companies, as it does not require any external input. And it is this very fact that may be the biggest obstacle to its dissemination (Nielsen, 2001). For sustaining production of food crops, the fight against harmful organisms is essential, and it is therefore imperative to develop appropriate and environmentally friendly technologies accessible to small farmers. Such biological options that do not make use of Genetic Modification (GM) are being practiced in various parts of the South traditionally. These options are based on natural crop protection approaches that make use of the diversity found in nature itself. Some institutions are already investigating and promoting these non-chemical and non-GM options, providing excellent and competitive alternatives and advantages for pest management (Osorio, 2001, Rajbhandari, 2000). An inventory made in Peru indicated the existence of more than 300 plant species-both native and imported-that are useful for the management of populations of harmful insects (Osorio, 2001). Biological control represents a concrete alternative to the use of GM crops, because it saves and strengthens the ecological balance that existed before the use of agrochemicals. It is an alternative against the terminator logic or GM options of hegemonic corporate power. It diminishes the dependency of local farmers on external inputs and reduces their vulnerability to economic shocks that constitutes on of the determinants of sustainable livelihood and food security of local people in the south.

Such success stories of alternative innovations in micro-levels are there but whether the people who are fighting against hunger being deprived of rights to nutrition, resources and employment are reached by these innovations should be a concern of both the governments and CSGs. Because eradication of poverty (and hunger) can be achieved if the poor become entrepreneurs and realize that they can emerge from poverty only by their own innovations. Poverty will only increase if people do not try to invent, innovate, find new alliances and forms of organization (Nzamujo, 1999). The governments and UN agencies need to focus on these issues comprehensively, timely and critically from the perspective of the marginalised and nature conservation. More support and budget allocations are imperative to extensively disseminate and implement these innovations.

Partnership with terminator logic or strengthening of global network of civil society groups for an alternative world?

It looks likely that we are not making more progress towards reducing hunger and poverty basically because the governments are not translating their commitments to address the root causes of hunger, poverty and subordination. In other words, the governments of the south are not planning for their people and nations independently. They are apparently facing some sort of strong economic and political pressures or imposed international regulations, which are not in the interest and favor of ultra-poor, women, small farmers, small/cottage industries and their laborers and owners. These include economic regulations, structural adjustment policies, trade regulations, open market economic policies, privatization of public service sectors, which are the features of "Anti-poor Globalization". The word Globalisation may look in itself ideal, as is the concept of "Pro-poor Communism". But the variations in the geo-ecological, geo-political, cultural, and religious diversities prevalent in countries of the world do not permit imposition of the same model and concept of Globalization. Furthermore, the concepts, logic and international regulations based on extreme or non-renewable exploitation of natural resources (cropland, PGRs, biodiversity, mines, etc) and genetic modifications of natural organisms to produce and commercialize artificial GM products, seed and organisms is against nature, common people and human civilization. This constitutes the major threat to the developing countries' food security and to the sustainability of the common people's and small farmers' livelihoods. Therefore there can be no partnership between the terminator logic that destroys nature's renewability and regeneration and the commitment to continuity of life and conservation of nature. There can be no partnership between a logic of death on which Monsanto bases its expanding empire; and the logic of life on which women farmers in the south base their partnership with the earth to provide food security to their families and communities (Shiva, 1999)

The history of the human civilization of the last five decades has shown that the present politico-economic structures and policies can not fulfill the need and protect the human rights of the marginalised people and ultra-poor who are struggling for their survival. They have to move forward to change such discriminatory laws, policies, regulations and orders. They should get united into their independent civil society groups (CSGs) and move for social justice. It is then the CSGs' responsibility to plan for the empowerment and mobilization of the starving and marginalised ultra-poor groups. It is the sole responsibility of CSGs including NGOs to move forward to form global network of civil society gropus (GNCSG) in order to address the issues of and protect the human rights of ultra-poor, marginalised and exploited groups of people.

Since the World Food Summit, civil society groups/organizations of all types (CSOs, NGOs, CBOs, POs, Farmers organizations, consumer organizations, and movements) have been demanding the creation of an International Forum where all stakeholders, directly and indirectly involved with Food and Nutrition Security issues, should participate and try to effectively confront existing conflicts, and point to possible policy alternatives. In the Global NGO Forum on Food Security, held in Rome in 1996, this "space for public discussion" received the name of New Roman Forum (NRF). It would bring together governments, academia, researchers, all branches of civil society, farmers, business representatives and all UN and Bretton Woods Organizations dealing with the issue (Valente, 2000).


  • Nielsen, F. (2001) The push-pull system: a viable alternative to Bt maize. LEISA-a magazine on low external inputs and sustainable agriculture, ILEIA, The Netherlands. vol. 17 No. 4
  • Nzamujo,F. (1999) A new approach to sustainable livelihoods: African youth and agriculture, In J. Development, SID, SAGE Publications, Rome, vol. 42, No. 2.
  • Osorio, L.G. (2001) Plants protecting other plants: an alternative to pest resistance GM crops, In LEISA-a magazine on low external inputs and sustainable agriculture, ILEIA, The Netherlands. vol. 17 No. 4
  • Rajbhandari, B. (2000). Integrated animation and bio-intensive farming system, Women's Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC), Kathmandu, Nepal.
  • Rajbhandari, B. (2001) Bio-intensive farming and community animation for food security and sustainable livelihoods, In J. development, SID, SAGE Publications, vol. 44 No. 4.
  • Shiva, B. (1999) Monocultures, monopolies, myths and the masculinization of agriculture, In J. Development, SID, SAGE Publications, Rome, vol. 42, No. 2.
  • Valente, F. L. S. (2000) Food Security and Nutrition and in policy discussions at the International Level, Paper presented in the "Expert meeting on the future of food security in Dutch government policy", The Hague, the Netherlands, 14 June 2000.

HICAST, P.O.Box 13233,
Kathmandu, Nepal