Established in 1962, African-Asian Rural Development Organization (AARDO) has completed more than five decades. How do you look at the journey of this apex inter-governmental organization?
AARDO is, in fact, one of the earliest examples of South-South cooperation and Afro-Asian solidarity in the field of agriculture and rural development. During the last five decades, AARDO has definitely grown and transformed itself by fulfilling the expectations of its member countries mainly through human resource development programmes, development of pilot projects and dissemination of information and networking. Though, focus of rural development issues kept shifting from time to time as per changing priority of the member countries, AARDO always fine tuned its policies and programmes and effectively delivered its services to the member countries.
AARDO’s goal is “Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development of Member Countries to improve the quality of life of their rural people.” How far you have achieved this goal?
As AARDO focuses on capacity building and pilot projects, it has contributed in improving rural livelihood in two ways. One, AARDO has strengthened delivery capacity of concerned authorities and other stake-holders through training of those personnel involved in it. Secondly, AARDO has financed more than 60 pilot development projects in 21 of its member countries in collaboration with their governments in the areas of micro-entrepreneurship and rural infrastructure development.
How AARDO is addressing the challenges and problems in rural marketing and what are your suggestions for solving these?
To improve rural marketing, AARDO has been focussing on strengthening the small and medium farmers through improved rural infrastructure like roads, transportation, telecommunication and power for easy and fast delivery of farm products to urban market. Besides, improving quality of farm products through standardization and their branding are other areas of rural marketing where AARDO has developed its stakes. To do so in the member countries, AARDO has financed a number of development projects on rural roads, school, health centres and solar energy for remote and inaccessible areas. It has facilitated training on themes like Total Quality Management and ISO in an attempt to standardise the farm products.
What is the agenda for agriculture and rural development for AARDO for 2030?
In fact, the document on “AARDO Declaration on Rural Development” that was adopted during the Golden Jubilee Celebration of AARDO on 6 March 2012 categorically draws the road map for AARDO with regard to eradication of poverty and food and nutritional insecurity; women empowerment, education and health; collaboration in research and extension; better use of appropriate technologies and data generation and management, etc. It is a vision document and guideline for future activities. Besides, AARDO derives vision from its Constitution that stresses on improving quality of life of rural people.
What is the impact of AARDO’s programmes in the rural areas of its member countries?
First of all, AARDO has strengthened the capacity of those involved in implementing rural development programmes through training on various subjects like poverty alleviation, women empowerment, promotion of on-farm and off-farm SMEs, water management, livestock development, micro-credit, etc. Secondly, the historic Golden Jubilee celebration in New Delhi afforded an opportunity to the member countries to highlight the benefits they had derived from AARDO activities. Thirdly, a large number of success stories from member countries have been disseminated by AARDO for others to emulate them.
Yet another interesting point is that some of the participants who underwent training under the auspices of AARDO, later on assumed key positions in policy making in their respective countries.
Afro-Asian countries are endowed with natural resources. How far AARDO has succeeded in helping member countries to improve quality of life of their rural population by utilizing these resources?
True, Afro-Asian countries are rich in natural resources like land, water, forestry and fisheries. AARDO has been focussing its activities to train and empower rural masses to tap available resources in a sustainable manner for improving their livelihood. In this regard, AARDO has been sensitizing its stake-holders on key resource ownership issues like land reform, legislation on land titles for rural women and water rights for women as end users.
Being a host to AARDO, what is the contribution of India?
As you know, India is one of the founder members of AARDO. In fact, AARDO was conceptualised in India when the first Afro-Asian Conference on Rural Reconstruction took place in New Delhi in 1961. The esteemed Government of India has extended diplomatic immunities and other privileges to AARDO Secretariat. India has been a President of AARDO a number of times and currently it is the Vice-President (Asia). In 2012, India provided whole-hearted support during the historic Golden Jubilee celebration of AARDO in New Delhi. In technical work programme of AARDO, India every year offers 70 training fellowships under its ITEC (Indian Technical Economic Cooperation) programme.
How is your own personal experience of working here in India?
The representatives of Government of India and others with whom I have been interacting from time to time are very cooperative and supportive. Even before joining AARDO I have been visiting India on regular basis in connection with AARDO activities. I may share with you that I had done my Bachelors degree in engineering from India way back in late-1970s.