Colonizing Crop Sovereignty through Neoliberal Prescriptions: A Study on the Maize Cultivation in Dinajpur, Bangladesh.
Around nine million people die every year from starvation and hunger-related diseases that are higher than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis altogether (The World Counts, 2023). In 2019, 20.5% of the population of Bangladesh lived under the national poverty line (Asian Development Bank, 2023). Moreover, World Bank portrays another bleak picture stating that 12.9 % people of Bangladesh succumb to extreme poverty. (World Bank, 2022). Most of the people in Bangladesh are directly or indirectly dependent on agricultural cultivation. Ecofeminist researchers claimed that in order to repay the debt of the developing nations' they were forced to include an export-oriented cash crop production strategy in their debt repayment plans (also known as "structural adjustment") by replacing indigenous staple food crops cultivation for sustenance (Gaard 2015). Neoliberal economy-laden, multinational agri-tech companies introduce high-yield seeds that consume costly chemical fertilizer and biodegrading pesticides, and intensive import-oriented technologies as well as destroy the ecosystem. There are thousands of people who cannot eat a three-time meal, but the production of maize for cattle feed, which is not suitable for human consumption, is increasing day by day, and this is threatening food security and adversely affecting the climate and environment. Using critical development and eco-feminist theoretical lenses, this study explores the challenges and vulnerabilities farmers face by cultivating maize instead of food crops. We adopted a qualitative methodology for conducting the research study, and 19 respondents were selected purposively by using snowball sampling. Data were collected using in-depth interviews in the form of "Testimonio" (Nolin & Russell, 2022) and were analyzed thematically. The study findings reveal that increased income from maize can temporarily enhance people’s purchasing power, but it affects overall food security. Farmers cultivate maize, but they are unable to eat it. Because they do not cultivate food crops instead of cash crops, farmers dive into insecurity in the name of neoliberal food security. Producing maize crops with an eye toward market demand could potentially improve the economic position of rural households. However, this trend will not be sustainable because it will jeopardize staple food production. This study highlights the need for the government and other development partners to develop effective policies and programs to address and rethink the strategy of development through cash crops like maize and the recent cultivation pattern. They should recommend policies adhering to indigenous agricultural practices, and those policies should not degrade our environment, food security, or food sovereignty.