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Dr Sunoor Verma: Nepal can learn from Rwanda’s experience in agricultural development

Dr Sunoor Verma: Nepal can learn from Rwanda’s experience in agricultural development

Dr Sunoor Verma is a Global Development Strategist and Leadership Communication Expert. In this interview to News Agency Nepal taken after Dr Verma’s participation in the Kigali Global Dialogue, he explores developmental experiences of Rwanda and their applicability to countries such as Nepal. Excerpts:

You were recently invited to speak at the Kigali Global Dialogue. Please explain your personal experience and impressions of participating in this unique event in Rwanda.

The Kigali Global Dialogue is a truly unique platform for debate that is convened by two highly credible organizations, the Observer Research Foundation, India and the Rwanda Governance Board, and it brings together a diverse range of voices from developing countries. This dialogue is known for ensuring a significant presence of women speakers, which is not always the case at international events.

Another thing that makes the Kigali Global Dialogue special is that it’s held in Rwanda, one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. It’s an inspiring place to be, giving us a glimpse of what’s possible for developing countries.

The topics discussed at the Kigali Global Dialogue are also very bold. They don’t shy away from complex issues; participants can express their views without worrying about pleasing donors or funding sources. This makes for a candid exchange of ideas essential for developing countries.

The Kigali Global Dialogue is an invaluable platform for developing countries to come together, discuss critical issues, and learn from each other’s experiences. I'm grateful for the opportunity to participate in this year’s event, and I look forward to returning.

Can you share some insights that you gained from your participation in the dialogue?

One of the most significant insights I gained from the dialogue was the continued relevance of dialogue between developing countries. Too often, the conversation about development is dominated by developed countries, who may not always understand the unique challenges and opportunities facing developing countries. 

The Kigali Global Dialogue was a refreshing change of pace, as it was a platform for developing countries to come together and share their experiences. This was incredibly valuable; we could learn from each other and build relationships. Another insight I gained was the importance of regional alliances and issue-based alliances. In today’s world, it is no longer enough to simply focus on national development. We need to work with our neighbors and countries facing similar challenges. This is the only way to achieve sustainable development. 

The Kigali Global Dialogue was a wake-up call for many. It is a sobering reminder that developing countries have the power to shape their destiny. We must continue coming together, sharing our experiences, and building alliances. Together, we can create a better future for all as long as there are credible hosts, such as the Observer Research Foundation and the Rwanda Governance Board, whose intentions are trusted.

What do you believe are the key factors that enabled Rwanda’s transition and how can other countries with a similar situation, similar socio-economic problems can learn from Rwanda’s experience?

Rwanda’s transition from a country torn by violence and ethnicity to embracing unity is remarkable. It is a story of how a country can overcome a complicated past and build a brighter future. Many factors have contributed to Rwanda's success, but the most important ones are leadership, Reconciliation and gender equality.

Leadership is essential for any country that wants to achieve its goals. President Paul Kagame has understood the importance of Reconciliation in Rwanda and has taken steps to promote it. He has also committed to gender equality, and women now play a leading role in all aspects of Rwandan society.

Reconciliation is another essential ingredient for peace and unity. Rwanda has taken several steps to promote Reconciliation, including creating a system of local courts and local bodies to help people reconcile with each other. The country has also integrated the issue of Reconciliation into its school curriculums.

Gender equality is also essential for peace and unity. When women are empowered, they are more likely to be involved in decision-making and promote peace. Rwanda has made significant progress in gender equality; women now comprise more than half of the parliament.

Reconciliation is a difficult process, but it is critical in countries that have suffered genocide or other mass tragedies. It is the only way to fully move past the past and create a better future for everyone. Reconciliation does not imply ignoring the past. It is about remembering the past in order to create a better future. It is about acknowledging the grief and suffering inflicted and working together to find a way forward. It is a matter of forgiveness, not forgetting. It is about justice, but not about vengeance. It is a process of healing, not forgetting.

Rwanda has focused a lot on agricultural development to progress since the genocide. Nepal is also an agro-based country, so what methods used by the people of Rwanda can be applicable for Nepal to develop agriculturally?

Rwanda is a remarkable example of a country that has transformed itself from a low-income, post-conflict country to a high-performing economy in just two decades. One of the key drivers of this transformation has been Rwanda's focus on agricultural development.

Rwanda has invested heavily in agriculture, both in terms of infrastructure and technology. The country has built a network of irrigation canals and dams and introduced new technologies such as drip irrigation and solar-powered pumps. This has helped to increase agricultural productivity and reduce vulnerability to drought. Rwanda has also invested in agricultural research and development. The country has established several agricultural research centers and partnered with international organizations such as the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) to develop new varieties of crops resistant to pests and diseases.

In addition to infrastructure and technology, Rwanda has also focused on good governance and gender equity in agriculture. The government has put in place many policies to promote women’s participation in agriculture and has also made efforts to reduce corruption in the agricultural sector.

As a result of these investments, Rwanda has achieved significant progress in agricultural development. The country's agricultural output has doubled in the past two decades, and poverty has been reduced by half.

Nepal can learn a great deal from Rwanda's experience in agricultural development. Nepal is also agro-based, facing many of the same challenges as Rwanda. However, Nepal has the potential to achieve similar results if it invests in infrastructure, technology, good governance, and gender equity in agriculture. I am confident that Nepal can follow in Rwanda's footsteps and transform into a high-performing economy. It is only a matter of commitment and determination.

What aspects of Rwanda’s governance leadership and policies can benefit countries like Nepal facing similar political changes?

I have been impressed by Rwanda's progress in recent years, and I believe that the country has much to offer other developing countries facing similar political changes.

One of the most striking things about Rwanda is its political vision. The government has a clear and long-term plan for the country and has been able to implement this plan effectively. This is in contrast to many other developing countries, which often have frequent changes of government and lack a clear vision for the future.

Another critical aspect of Rwanda’s governance is its political stewardship. The government has channeled international support and technical assistance in a way that has benefited the country as a whole. This contrasts with many other developing countries, where international aid is often fragmented and does not reach the people who need it most.

Finally, Rwanda has made significant progress in gender equality. This contrasts with many other developing countries, where women, including Nepal, are still underrepresented in decision-making roles.

I believe these three aspects of Rwanda’s governance can benefit other developing countries facing similar political changes. If these countries can create a clear vision for the future, channel international support effectively, and promote gender equality, they can achieve significant progress in their development.

I am particularly passionate about the issue of gender equality. I believe that when women are empowered, they can make a real difference in the development of their countries. Rwanda is an excellent example of a country that has benefited from gender equality. I hope other developing countries will follow Rwanda’s example and allow women to lead their societies.

As you said before, Rwanda has garnered a lot of tourist attention. What can Neal learn from Rwanda for tourism development?

Nepal is a beautiful country with a lot to offer tourists, but it has not been as successful as Rwanda in attracting tourists. If we analyze how Rwanda has achieved this feat of attracting high-value, high, spending tourists, we will find that the answers lie in good governance, branding, and infrastructure. Rwanda has a reputation for being a well-governed country with low levels of corruption. This is important for tourism, as tourists want to feel safe and secure when they travel. Lesson number one- Corruption deters high-spending tourists from visiting a country. 

Likewise, Rwanda has done an outstanding job branding itself as a tourist destination. The country is known for its gorillas, beautiful scenery, and friendly people. Rwanda has invested heavily in infrastructure, such as roads, airports, and hotels. This makes it easy for tourists to get around the country and enjoy their visit. 

In addition to these three areas, Nepal can also improve its tourism sector by addressing  gender equality, focusing on tourism education and promoting sustainable tourism. I believe that Nepal has the potential to become a significant tourist destination. However, it needs to address its challenges to realize its full potential.