Ensuring Seed Security in Nepal
On 13 February 2014, SAWTEE organized a half day policy dialogueon "Ensuring Seed Security in Nepal". The programme was attended by more than 60 participants representing the government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private sector, farmers, organization, cooperative and the media.The main objective of the programme was to discuss issues related to seed security in Nepal, keeping in view the need to increase agriculture productivity, ensure food security and safeguard farmers rights.
Dr. Posh Raj Pandey, Executive Chairman, SAWTEE, stressed the importance of seed security, especially in a country like Nepal where more than 76 percent of the total households are involved in agriculture. He stated that while the roles of both public and private sectors are important in ensuring seed security, the government should play an effective and proactive role in facilitating and regulating seed trade. Mr.GaganThapa, Member of Constituent Assembly and Central Committee Member, Nepali Congress, stressed the need for Nepal to put in place mechanisms to ensure seed security through an informed debate and not get carried away by emotions. Mr. Keshav Prasad Badal, Member of Constituent Assembly and Politburo Member, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist and Leninist), talked about the importance of research and development going hand in hand to ensure seed security. Similarly, Mr.Peshal Khatiwada, Central Committee Member, Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), added that we should not only look at our weaknesses, but take collective steps to ensure an effective mechanism for seed security. There was almost unanimity among all the speakers regarding the issue of seed security and farmers rights as they stressed the need to keep farmers concerns at the centre while devising mechanisms to ensure seed security. Mr.Nav Raj Dahal, Programme Director, SAWTEE, welcomed the participants.
In the first technical session, Mr. Dilaram Bhandari, Chief Seed Development Officer, Seed Quality Control Centre, explained about the existing seed-related institutions and legal mechanisms in Nepal. He informed that the government policy related to different kinds of seed—conservation of local and traditional varieties, promotion of hybrid, regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and ban on terminator technologies—and the existence of law based on the policy are supportive of ensuring seed security in the country. Mr.Durga Prasad Adhikari, General Secretary, Seed Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal, shed light on the issue of seed import in border areas and the ineffectiveness of the Plant Quarantine division.Mr. Puspa Sharma, Research Director, SAWTEE, stated that although existing legal mechanisms related to seed are adequate,problem is in their implementation due to the lack of adequate and qualified human resource, infrastructure, etc. Therefore, at least until such time there is some conclusive evidence on the benefits and harms of GMOs and the country is fully prepared, import and use of GMOs should be banned. He also stressed on the need to enact a free-standing legislation on farmers rights. Speaking as the Chair of the session, Dr. Prabhakar Pathak, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Agricultural Development, Government of Nepal, stated that ensuring seed security is not just the responsibility of the government. Therefore, the role of every stakeholder—public sector, private sector, NGOs, cooperatives and community organizations—is important in this respect.
In the second technical session, Dr. Krishna Prasad Pant, Senior Agricultural and Environmental Economist discussed the roles of private and public sectors in ensuring seed security, and the issue of farmers’ rights. Dr. Pant identified that the role of the public sector is mostly towards regulating and monitoring the seed production and distribution system and the enforcement of laws and regulations whereas the private sector has a variety of roles including breeding, processing, and marketing. He also opined that enacting the draft Access and Benefit Sharing law is necessary to protect farmers’ rights. Moreover, he said that the country should not haste in enacting the draft Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Right Act.
Dr. DevendraGauchan, Chief, Socioeconomics and Agricultural Research Policy Division, Nepal Agricultural Research Council, identified both farmers and breeders as key actors and hence the need to develop a modality that ensures balance between the rights of both the groups.He emphasized that the public sector should be involved in breeding, private sector in marketing, and cooperatives in multiplying and producing seeds in a large scale. Mr. Rajendra Prasad Shrestha, Managing Director, GM Agro Services, provided a private sector perspective on the issue and highlighted that although the public sector has been traditionally involved in the seed system and plays a critical role, the involvement of the private sector is more recent, and its role has developed within the last ten years. Dr. Hari Krishna Upadhyay, Executive Chairman, Center for Environmental and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED), seed is a complex issue and we need an on-going dialogue to ensure an effective seed system in the country.