Presented by Dr. Bhaskar Uphadyay, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
Abstract: The desire to find amicable relationships between food security, science, and the cultural values and beliefs is strong in many Nepali ethnic groups but sustaining these relationships has become very challenging and are at a turning point. The challenges for Nepali people are currently exasperated by last year’s earthquake in which many families experienced loss of life and property. The earthquake exposed not only the dependence of most Nepali communities on imported food; loss of agricultural land to real estate demands and family housing; foreign migration of young family members (mostly school drop outs) for better earning opportunities; loss of traditional seeds and sustainable semi-organic agricultural practices, and over usage of chemical fertilizers. The economic pressures of food security have disproportionately and overwhelmingly effected most ethnic minorities and indigenous groups in Nepal. Some indigenous communities such as the Tharus in the Southwest Nepal or the Gurungs and Magars in the hill regions are challenged by the tensions among continuing to preserve culturally important food and agricultural practices, the science behind food production and food security, and the pressures of uncertainty generated by the unpredictability of natural phenomenon such as the earthquake and the weather patterns. In this presentation I talk about how a Nepali ethnic group is experiencing and reconsidering their own understanding of food security and the cultural implications of food security choices. What is important for me as a science educator and a Nepali researcher focused on equity and social justice issues resides in the mediation between the science of food security and the cultural practices of the Tharus to build ways to preserve knowledge and skills to ensure food security in good times and also in bad times such as the earthquake.