Socially Engaged Ethnic Buddhist Youth Network (SEEBYN)

Socially Engaged Ethnic Buddhist Youth Network (SEEBYN) December 13, 2018

SEEBYN was officially formed in 2016, bringing together young people from different states and regions who had completed the social awakening process known as the Buddhist Youth Meeting for Spiritual Development and Buddhist Youth Leadership Training and who were concerned about issues of the environment, peace, and youth.

SEEBYN’s core values include carrying out social well-being and humanitarian activities in accordance with Buddha’s preaching: following such principles as mutual understanding; mutual respect; empathy; self-harmony; loyalty; acceptance and valuing diversity; and constructive thinking.

The Network — which is an informal network of young Buddhists from different walks of life – urban, rural, students, social activists, farmers, and social enterprise owners — actively raised funds and provided humanitarian support when the floods of 2016 affected several states and regions destroying people’s livelihoods and homes. It was SEEBYN’s first experience of providing a collective social response to the disaster caused by climate change, which is affecting the country more each year. Their commitment to achieving peace through achieving environmental justice grew stronger after these earliest efforts, with SEEBYN’s young leaders sustaining their movement momentum by collaborating together to organise forums, exposure trips, humanitarian support and peace campaigns without external donor funding.

They believe that seed sovereignty is the key to achieving environmental justice, which also includes climate justice. Farmers in Myanmar are increasingly using chemical fertilizers and pesticides to increase yield, and they have also started to use GMO seed imported mostly from China to resist environmental stress such as floods and drought and to produce designed crops. Instead of working with ecological processes and taking the wellbeing and health of the entire agro-ecosystem into account, SEEBYN has seen that Myanmar’s agriculture is becoming reduced to an external input system reliant on chemicals. And instead of small farms producing diverse crops, large monoculture farms produce a limited selection of cash crops such as corns, bananas and sugarcane.

Member of SEEBYN at Seed Forum. KMF/Ogga

In order to counter this trend, SEEBYN decided to hold a seed festival in Thayar Chaung village, Pyin Khayaing Island in Ngaputaw township, Ayeyarwaddy region. The event was held from 1-3 April and was attended by 43 young farmers from the region and 188 SEEBYN network members. Resource persons from Metta Development Foundation provided information on topics including the pros and cons of genetically modified seeds; systematic oppression of farmers; key analysis on the Seed Law and its implications; and conservation of local seeds. Forum participants then separated into different groups to discuss topics such as the challenge of producing certified seeds, the importance of local seeds and their conservation, local seed markets and the Seed Law.

They began to understand that local seeds became extinct and replaced by GMO seeds. In particular, they were able to take away real life examples from other states and regions; for example, on how local farm owners became landless laborers after agreeing to CP corn contract farming in Northern Shan as a result of debt and land degradation.

As a result of the workshop, concrete plans were made for environmentally concerned young farmers and SEEBYN to become involved in advocating for Seed Law reform. Participants also agreed on the need to establish seed research study centers across the country.