By Neil Horning
On the way to Chorkate, Gorkha, about a 3 hour bus ride from the district headquarters, a conspicuous facility covered with red flags is noticeable by the roadside.
Nammuna Agricultural Center is run by the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) as an agricultural cooperative, intended to teach agricultural skills and collective farming to locals and serve as a model for similar facilities nation wide. Dr. Baburam Bhattarai’s childhood village overlooks the center.
The cooperative raises buffalo and pigs, farms fish and grows rice and vegetables. According to members, Sarmila Bagle and Hari Khanal, 20-30 Maoist cadres work in the center, with locals (paid 100-400 Rupees or about $1.50 to $6.00 a day) comprising an additional half of the workforce. Gender balance rests at 50%. Cooking is done on a rotational basis involving both men and women, and decisions are made through semi-regular meetings of the members.
Agricultural cooperatives are the first step in a Maoist development strategy known as collectivization, in where the manpower from individual plots is pooled to increase efficiency of production. In China, first land titles were distributed to peasants as part of a land reform process. Next, peasants with individual plots were encouraged to voluntarily join agricultural cooperatives which were later combined into massive communes. The initial stages of this plan met with measured success, while the later stages during the great leap forward have been blamed for massive famines and are the subject of much controversy.
Member, Sarmila Bagle, presented with an opportunity to add to the report. Neither Hari nor Sarmila were interested in giving their personal stories, but Sarmila was a student known to one of the local teachers. A rough translation of her writing:
– Our party is the one true communist party in Nepal
– We follow the people who have the ideas to develop Nepal
– We have plans to give food, clothing, shelter, health care, and employment to everyone.
– All the people are our followers, and we need to do everything for the people.
– By developing a small piece of land we want to develop the whole country.
Horning is an American with expertise in Nepali Maoists.