Swiss geologist-turned-development guru first came to Nepal in 1950, traveled 14,000 km criss-crossing the country on foot over 12 years, produced books and charted out Nepal’s development pathways. Just about everything he said we should do, we didn’t. Everything he said we shouldn’t do, we did.
Among the books Hagen wrote, the multiple editions of Nepal, are still a classic – both as a geography text book and a sustainable development blueprint for the country. Ten years before he died in 2003, Hagen had started working on another book, Decentralization and Development, to record the lessons learnt from his long acquaintance with Nepal’s march to modernity and to compare it with Switzerland.
After his death, Hagen’s daughter Karin and other friends put the book together, compiling half-finished chapters. Harka Gurung gave it a final edit and wrote a preface before he himself was killed in the tragic helicopter crash in Ghunsa in 2006. Because it has gone through multiple hands, the book is understandably disjointed. It reminds one of Hagen’s own stream of consciousness, conversations towards the end of his life, as he tried to leave behind as much wisdom as possible.
Writing in his journal while walking across Nepal in 1959
Hagen came to Nepal 62 years ago because it was felt landlocked and mountainous Nepal had a lot in common with Switzerland, and could be made in its image. Since then, Nepal’s leaders, kings, kangresis and krantikaris have all aspired to “turn Nepal into Switzerland”. Hagen’s book is not about how to mould Nepal into a Switzerland, but to learn lessons from Nepal’s own mal-development and look at how democracy and federalism have delivered decentralised development in Switzerland.
FOR MORE Toni Hagen – Nepal Times