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Thirty Thousand People in Nepal Raise Their Voices for Rice (26/3/2007)

Thirty Thousand People in Nepal Raise Their Voices for Rice!
By Sarojeni Rengam, PAN AP 
WORA News – 26 March 2007

The All Nepal Peasant's Association (ANPA) announced that to date 30,000 people have signed the WORA (Week of Rice action) statement, Save OUR RICE.

Balram Banskota of ANPA declared that out of the 30,000 signatures, 80 members of the Nepali Parliament including the Speaker of the house have signed on to the demands of WORA and the statement. He added, "This will send a strong statement to the Asian countries and particularly SAARC countries that we need to protect our rice culture and biodiversity from the onslaught of corporate control of rice production."

ANPA launched the WORA programme in Nepal at the inaugural event of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) People's Forum on 23 March and called on the 1000 delegates from different parts of the region to sign on to the WORA statement. Immediately after the announcement, the Chief Guest of the function, the Speaker of Parliament, signed the WORA statement.

Banskota stressed, "We, peasants are strongly asserting food sovereignty in Nepal. We do not want nor need genetically engineered (GE) rice and we do not want any technologies that deplete our rice diversity and culture". He spoke at the WORA seminar at the People's SAARC Forum to explain the 13 country campaign that is taking place throughout Asia to protect and celebrate rice diversity and culture.

Banskota stressed that rice is important for the culture of Nepal, and related how when a child is born the mother will celebrate her child's birth with the consumption of rice and when someone dies, rice is placed on the chest of the dead person and cremated.

At the culmination of the People's SAARC Forum three thousand people marched for justice, peace, and democracy on 25 th March 2007. At this rally, PAN AP Executive Director, Sarojeni V. Rengam, brought the strong message of WORA and called on the crowd to "Resist imperialist globalisation" that is driving peasants off their lands and reminded them of the struggles of rice peasants defending their land rights in Singur and Nandigram in West Bengal, India. She also called for South Asians to "Say no to GE rice" and "to assert our food sovereignty". She emphasised, "All SAARC countries and their governments must uphold the rights of food sovereignty and the right of peasants to land and productive resources".

The People's SAARC Forum was a gathering of South Asian people's movements, NGOs and civil society organisations raising their voices against the policies of the governments pursuing neoliberal policies. The forum took place from 23-25 March in Kathmandu, Nepal.

On the evening of 23 March, the participants were entertained by cultural dances and songs celebrating rice: the Chandinath dance, the harvest dance of the Rai, an indigenous community from the highlands of Eastern Nepal. Dynamic dancers also performed The Dhan dance related with the Newr community. During the Forum, the indigenous and local varieties of rice from across Nepal were displayed.

WORA 2007 will bring together farmers, rural communities, and other sectors of society to celebrate and protect rice culture. The main WORA events will take place in 13 countries across Asia from March 29 to April 4. From art competitions to seminars, food festivals to rallies, a myriad of activities will take place to showcase rice culture, farmers' wisdom and ecological agriculture, as well as the threats of landlessness and GE Rice. WORA will make a concerted stand against corporate control of rice and rice lands, unfair trade and laws, and genetically engineered (GE) Rice in Asia. Culminating in India and the Philippines, WORA will be an unprecedented mobilisation of Asians "Celebrating and Protecting Rice Culture"!

WORA is organised by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) and its partner organisations in thirteen countries in the region. Anyone interested in being a part of WORA 2007 can log on to the WORA page at www.panap.net.

For more on the 1-million Signature Campaign - "People’s Statement on Saving the Rice of Asia", see: http://www.panap.net/221.0.html

Contact at PAN AP: Ms Anne Haslam, PAN AP at wora2007@panap.net
PESTICIDE ACTION NETWORK ASIA AND THE PACIFIC (PAN AP),
P.O. Box 1170, 10850 Penang, Malaysia.
Tel: 604-6570271 or 604-6560381 Fax: 604-6583960
E-mail:
panap@panap.net
Home Page:
www.panap.net

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) is a global network working to eliminate the human and environmental harm caused by pesticides and to promote biodiversity based ecological agriculture. PAN Asia and the Pacific is committed to the empowerment of people especially women, agricultural workers, peasant and indigenous farmers. We are dedicated to protect the safety and health of people, and the environment from pesticide use and genetic engineering. We believe in a people-centered, pro-women development through food sovereignty, ecological agriculture and sustainable lifestyles.

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