Three Questions to Michiel Verweij
Michiel Verweij is Team Leader of the RVWRMP since October 2018. He holds an MSc in soil- and water management and a MBA.
Q1. Tell us where you come from and what experiences you bring?
Since a few years, I live with my wife and two sons in a quiet neighborhood in The Hague. Our apartment is near to the dunes and the beach: a lovely place for a morning run. Before, that I lived with my family in Bolivia, Zimbabwe and Rwanda and I worked in a couple of other countries for shorter periods.
In each place, my work was in some way related to water. One time the focus was more on farmer irrigation and agricultural production while another assignment was more about water, sanitation and hygiene, water governance or catchment management. All these elements come back in this project. Politically, productively, socially and environmentally there are similarities between countries. Especially Bolivia and Nepal have things in common. Obviously there is the Andes and the Himalaya but also the decentralization process leading to a more important role of Municipalities in services delivery and local development. In the nineties of the last century I worked with one farmer cooperative calling itself a social enterprise. Here I see organizations with similar characteristics.
Q2. What are your first impressions of the Far-West and the RVWRMP Project?
I am very proud to be part of the RVWRMP Project and with such a large history and footprint in the development of the Far West and Karnali provinces. The working area and the integral set of project activities are impressive. I applaud the choice of the donors to support the people in these remote areas with livelihood development and a window of opportunity into more interesting lives. From what I’ve seen I can say that participation really means something in the RVWRMP: this project is owned by the people.
While driving the first time to Dadeldhura I was amazed by the steep forested mountain slopes. The cultural component with the numerous Hindu temples and Buddhist flags is very new to me. From my apartment in Amargadhi I look out over endless mountain ranges. A curious monkey surprised me one day when he tried to open my kitchen window. Eagles circle in front of my window high above the valley. The snowy Himalaya peaks at the horizon offer a stunning view. In Amargadhi and during field trips I sensed an optimistic attitude among the people.
Q3. What is on your agenda the coming time?
It is fascinating to work with such an important project and hundreds of dedicated professionals and staff spread out over the projects, the rural municipalities and our offices. The project has achieved a lot but there is still a huge need to improve the livelihoods of the people and to consolidate a kind of market-based rural services delivery as to increase the sustainability. Our experts capacitate and coach RMs and local organizations in their new capacities to deal with these challenges The Project also has still ongoing work with advancing gender equality and inclusion of disadvantaged groups and should continue efforts to get disabled people on-board as well.
First, I want to understand and learn from the strengths and good things in the project and make sure that these are preserved and continued. The project has many best practices to share. At this stage of the project documenting the experiences and describing these unique lessons will be valuable for the rest of the country. Knowledge development definitely will have my attention.
Secondly, the project is playing a pivotal role in transforming local governance in the decentralization context. Local organizations and the rural municipalities will have more responsibilities to provide services to the population. The project will continue to support this process by creating space for experimentation and learning. Again, I think that the RVWRMP experiences can inspire the rest of Nepal.
Third, I believe very much in the interdependency between society and the environment or in other words: the catchment as sustainer of development. Catchment planning and landscape restoration and protection is becoming more important when land and water use intensify and more so with changing climate patterns. It is important to observe that the hills and Himalaya produce not only livelihood for the people living here but also environmental services for the lowlands and India with value at global scale. I think that elaborating this dimension of the Project will add value.
Lastly I think RVWRMP’s work fits in the challenge to devise alternative development paths for an unsustainable consumption society. We need urgently development modalities that are in balance with the natural environment. The Sudurpaschim and Karnali provinces in Nepal with the RVWRMP team of national and international experts is ideal to advance capacity for localized solutions to that quest.