RAJENDRA ARYAL works for the Food and Agricultural Organisation as the Senior Regional Emergency Coordinator for Asia. He was born in Gyaneshwore, Kathmandu, in 1967. Aryal is one of the few Nepalese who has achieved a great deal at his age. He completed his School Leaving Certificate (SLC) Examination from Shanti Vidhya Griha. His high grades in academics earned him a merit scholarship for a Bachelor’s of Engineering degree in India. Aryal completed his Bachelor’s from the National Institute of Technology Trichy (NITT). Lack of job satisfaction took him to get a Post Graduate degree abroad. He went to Germany and Switzerland for a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering. But then he faced problems in reintegration. He joined GTZ and worked there for about two years. Then he joined UN in Nepal in 1999. Aryal believes that agriculture is the principle source of food, income and employment for a majority of the population, particularly the poorest, in Nepal. Growth in agricultural sector is important for improving food security and reducing poverty. Aryal spoke to SHRADHA GYAWALI on various issues. Excerpts:
How satisfied are you with your current occupation?
Well, I am very satisfied with my job. Once I joined the UN Systems I understood that we could contribute a lot to Nepal. After having worked in UNDP for nearly 3 years in Nepal I went to Afghanistan, just after the ‘War on Terror’. At that time even the Kabul airport wasn’t properly operational. After Afghanistan, I worked in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. In addition, I carried out different need assessment missions in China, Mongolia, DPR Korea, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Laos, and Cambodia and provided backstopping support to other countries like Vietnam, the Maldives, and India. However, I still understand that there is a lot that needs to be done in Nepal, which I am still trying to do.
How was the work in Central Asia for which you were very much applauded by the government there?
The two countries I have intensely worked with in Central Asia are Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia. I worked in Kyrgyzstan after the ethnic conflict in 2010. I did need assessment works there and developed a rehabilitation program. In 2010 Mongolia was affected by a snow disaster (called Dzud) and I carried out a rapid need assessment, made presentations to the International community, and developed a post-disaster rehabilitation program. My work therefore was acknowledged by the Government of Mongolia, and I was awarded with one of the most prestigious awards in the country. Awards and interviews on media were definitely not my priorities, but I do realize that recognition of one’s work in this manner certainly adds on to the motivation and encourages doing more.
How do you look at the food security situation in Nepal and what do you think the government and the private sector need to do?
It’s very grave. The government is putting a lot of efforts and is giving due importance to this sector, which is most appreciated. However, the need is much greater. The government cannot do everything and there is a large room for the private sector. I see that there are a lot of things that the government, private sector and we as individuals can do to improve the food security situation in the country.
How can you help Nepal with your experience especially in the policy formulation level in terms of information, communication, technology, Disaster Risk Reduction, Hydro Power Development, and Tourism Promotion? Is it the government policy that is lacking or is it the lack of vision of the private sector that is an impediment for development of these sectors?
I don’t claim to have expertise in everything but I can sure help Nepal in improving food security and agriculture related issues as well as Disaster Risk Reduction which I have already been doing. I don’t think there is a lack of policies as there are a lot of strategies and master plans. I don’t say that all these policies are perfect.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
Ten years from now I hope to be still working in Asia with strong linkages to Nepal. I am proud to be a Nepali and will remain a Nepali wherever I am and will continue to do good for Nepal and for the well being of the Nepali population.
Why do we need to give priority to the agriculture sector?
Nepal is an agriculture based economy with more than 70% of the population dependent on agriculture. With not enough investment in agriculture, the productivity is low. People in rural areas have lack of access to improved varieties of agricultural inputs, such as seed, fertilizer and tools, and technology. The state of agriculture infrastructure is very low and irrigation facilities are very poor. The situation is very complex, and is further pushing the country towards food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty. In order to have a food secure Nepal down the line we need to have concrete programs in agriculture, both short-term input supply and long-term development. Investment in agriculture would also help us get many people out of the vicious cycle of poverty.