Saturday, December 8, 2012

Thirty Years of Self-Help Rural Development in Pakistan

 "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime".

Rural Support Network, now a large collection of local NGOs, was founded by Dr. Shoaib Sultan Khan of the Agha Khan Network in December 1982. Over the last 30 years, the RSP movement has spawned nearly 300,000 community self-help organizations touching the lives of 32 million rural Pakistanis across the length and breadth of the country.

While the stats about its reach are impressive, the emphasis on its self-help model is what makes it particularly effective. RSPNs differ fundamentally from the normal aid programs.

An American writer  Joshua Foust recently described RSP's modus operandi in The Atlantic magazine as follows: "They focus on the development of institutions first, and only after that institution is established do they worry about its output or performance. The NGO also heavily invests in the smallest scale of the community, from conceptualization to execution, hiring mostly locals to administer projects. Lastly, they have extraordinarily long project timelines -- sometimes as long as 15 years from start to finish..... RSPN's longer term focus lets it work on more difficult goals, such as creating institutional capacity that can exist without foreign input. It also means RSPN can build out micro-infrastructure projects like micro-hydro power plants that allow communities to finance their own development -- again, without foreign input."

Micro-infrastructure Projects:

 A number of community-based micro hydro projects are being executed with the help of the Agha Khan Foundation in Pakistan's Northern Areas and NWFP. Within this region, out of a total of 137 micro-hydro plants, the AKRSP has established 28 micro-hydros with an installed capacity of 619kW. Initially, in 1986, these plants started as research and demonstration units. These projects were extended to Village Organizations (VOs) and became participatory projects. A Village Organization (VO) is a body of villagers who have organized themselves around a common interest.

After formation, each village organization signs a partnership with AKRSP to abide by all terms and conditions necessary for the village development. The entire responsibility of implementation is passed on to the VOs. AKRSP provides the negotiated cost of the plants and technical input required during the construction period. All the VOs complete the civil work of the plants. They purchase and transport machinery from other parts of Pakistan. The VO members provide subsidized or free unskilled labour and locally produced building material.

Health Care Insurance:

 RSP has helped create a collaborative micro-healthcare insurance system. For very little money -- $3.50 a year in some cases -- poor people can get access to basic medical care (especially maternity care) and assistance if they face hospitalization.

More recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that Asher Hasan, a social entrepreneur, has set up Naya Jeevan—"new life" in Urdu—a nonprofit micro-insurance program for the urban poor.

Human Development Effort: 

Human Development Foundation, an organization funded mostly by overseas Pakistanis, has taken a page from RSP playbook to establish many self-help projects.

HDF has a community physical infrastructure development program which helps communities improve their environment, including link roads, water storage, hand pumps, tube wells, irrigation, sanitation and pest control projects. Such projects are executed with community's sweat equity (Development Organization) and managed by the community (Village Development Organization) upon completion. Over 600 such projects have already been completed, and hundreds are currently underway.

HDF also has an education program which has grown from a few non-formal schools with 20-30 children each, to multi-grade schools with over 100 children each. Many of these schools operate in remote areas, and curriculum is activity-based to retain children's interest and reduce drop-out rates.

HDF has a  microfinancing program as well. It has grown from offering small loans to individuals to joint ventures and community partnerships, and "one village, one product" programs. In addition to capital, these programs also offer skills training to start and run the businesses. These microloan programs are based on the Islamic principle of Murahaba.

Hope for the Future:

 Unfortunately, Pakistani state, run by politicians and their hand-picked civilian administrators, is weak, incompetent and ineffective. But ordinary Pakistanis are among the most philanthropic people in the world. Thirty years of community-based rural support and other similar programs are proof that many of them are giving to help their fellow citizens to get up on their own feet. More and more of them are choosing to light candles instead of cursing the darkness.  This should give us all hope for a brighter future for Pakistan.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Philanthropy in Pakistan

Pakistan-A Hard Country

World Giving Index Report 2011

How Can Overseas Pakistanis Help Flood Victims?

Light a Candle, Don't Curse Darkness

Pakistan Center for Philanthropy

An Overview of Indian Philanthropy

Aaker Patel on Philathropy

Orangi Pilot Project

Volunteerism in America

Dr. Akhtar Hamid Khan's Vision


Shaukat said...

Great work AKRSP but unfortunately it is mostly in the Northern region (as you say) being populated by Ismailis (Agha Khanis) a their own community development program. So too are the Israelis Developing their community between Gaza and the West Bank. Another Ethnic Cleansing in progress.

Sorry, but this is the truth. That is why all this praise from the International Media quoted by you..Including unspecified and unusual support by the Donor Agencies and the IFI's in the North

Riaz Haq said...

Shaukat: "Great work AKRSP but unfortunately it is mostly in the Northern region (as you say) being populated by Ismailis (Agha Khanis) a their own community development program."

AKRSP started in northern areas of Pakistan but it's now being emulated by multiple RSPs in most of the rest of the country.

Currently, the RSPs have a presence in 108 out of 131 districts (districts include those in the four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK) and 2 out of 13 Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Frontier Regions. The RSPs collectively work with a rural membership of community organizations of 4.8 million rural households.

I personally know people at HDF who are now working in Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan.

The model is even being emulated in parts of India.

You can

Hopewins said...

^^@Shaukat:"..Ismailis (Agha Khanis).."

^^RH: "..Ismailis (Agha Khanis).."


I was on my way back, just rounding a bend in the road, when I heard a clear voice, in English, shout “Hey, you!” I looked around, but the only person I could see, standing a bit further along the roadside, was a local Wakhi woman covered in a shapeless, deep blue shawl. SHE couldn’t be the one calling to me – in fluent English, no less. After a perplexed moment, I started to walk on.

“Hey, you!” It WAS the woman. She waved slightly, but was otherwise motionless. I had been told, and had read, that it was not a wise idea – quite dangerous, in fact – for a stranger to talk to a woman in this strongly tribal and deeply conservative country. Was this some kind of trap? I resumed walking.

“Hey! Are you scared of me?” Okay, that was it – I’m not running away from some local herder’s wife. Cautiously, I approached and said hello. I explained that I wasn’t afraid, exactly, but I didn’t realize it was okay to speak to the local women. “Oh, we’re not like that here,” she broke in a broad grin, “not like the people down south – they’re crazy.”

Needless to say, I was flabbergasted. It turns out that the mountain tribes this far north are Isma’ilis, a branch of Shi’ite Muslims – outsiders in an overwhelmingly Sunni country, which helps accounts for their unconventional openness towards other outsiders. Their hereditary leader is the Aga Khan, who happens to be one of the richest men in the world. That’s why the woman who hailed me – and many other residents in the valley, including nearly all of the children – speak such excellent English. The Aga Khan has poured millions into these incredibly remote areas, building some of the best-funded schools and medical clinics in the country.


Roland said...

the spelling is AGA Khan, not AGHA Khan.

Akber said...

All good work regardless of who is benificiary, provided not done at the cost of others as by Israelis in Palestine, should be appreciated. We at The Pakpur Foundation have completed and handed over a 106 house village, free of cost, to flood affectees near Muzaffargarh. We have a school, run by PEN, vocational training centre, dispensary, shops and economic unit to make the village management self supporting while providing jobs. It is not just a brick and mortar exercise. We have managed the village for over two years and now have a community of 700 persons with 100 percent children going to school, getting medical attention, learning vocation and developing into a self managed community. I have seen life of these people transformed from shelterless illeterates to responsible home owning citizens. Pakpur is now duplicating this exercise in Khairpur, Sind, with another 116 houses(half will go to local Hindus) village. Those interested can visit the web site.

Shaukat said...

I am aware of the Rural Support Programs having worked in close association wht the SINDH Rural Support Organization during the Flood Havoc of 2010.

I was talking about the AKRSP in the North and its insignificant involvement in other areas of Pakistan

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt on the history of RSPs from the Aga Khan Development Network website:

Before the Karakorum Highway was built in the late 1970s, the areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral were isolated from the rest of Pakistan. Most people lived from subsistence agriculture. When AKDN first came to the area, it made community mobilization, experimentation and innovation hallmarks of the early programme. Later, when solutions were found for development challenges, these programmes scaled up with the help of national and international partners.

Often described as a process of “learning by doing”, the AKRSP approach of working in partnership with communities has made remarkable changes in the lives of the 1.3 million villagers who live in Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan region – among some of the highest mountain ranges of the world, including the Karakorum, Himalayas, Hindukush and Pamirs.

Most of these beneficiaries are widely dispersed across a region covering almost 90,000 square kilometres, an area larger than Ireland. Among many notable achievements have been a significant increase in incomes, the construction of hundreds of bridges, irrigation channels and other small infrastructure projects, the planting of over 30 million trees and reclamation of over 90,000 hectares of degraded land, the mobilization of over 4,500 community organizations and the creation of savings groups which manage over US$8 million.

Perhaps the most impressive achievement has been its pioneering community-based, participatory approach to development. For over 25 years, AKRSP has successfully demonstrated participatory approaches to planning and implementation of micro-level development in rural areas, including the mobilization of rural savings and provision of micro-credit; the application of cost-effective methods for building rural infrastructure; natural resource development; institution and capacity building; and successful partnership models for public-private sector initiatives.

The development model adopted by AKRSP has itself been widely replicated both within AKDN and outside it. A network of Rural Support Programmes now exists all over the country with the mandate to design and implement strategies for alleviation of rural poverty. In South Asia and other parts of the world programmes based on this model have been set up to promote grassroots development.

Riaz Haq said...

Akber: "We at The Pakpur Foundation have completed and handed over a 106 house village, free of cost, to flood affectees near Muzaffargarh. We have a school, run by PEN, vocational training centre, dispensary, shops and economic unit to make the village management self supporting while providing jobs...."

What you and your organization are doing is a tremendous service to the most needy in Pakistan. I truly applaud you for it.

Have you looked into the Habitat for Humanity model for future housing projects? Here's a brief description:

Habitat is not a hand- out program. Each partner family invests at least 500 hours of their own labor, called "sweat equity", into building and or renovating their homes and the homes of others. Habitat relies heavily on volunteer labor to help build or renovate the homes, and has several key sponsorship partners who donate or discount a range of building materials. We also have a number of businesses that support their local community house builds.

You can

Hopewins said...

^^@Roland said... "the spelling is AGA Khan, not AGHA Khan"

The word is "aqa", meaning Lord, Master, Leader, Sir, Boss etcetera in Urdu.

The title "khan" comes from the mongol/mughal tradition.

So, for example, the name Karim Aqa Khan is composed of "Karim Aqa", meaning Lord Karim, which symbolizes spiritual authority, plus "Khan" meaning Chief, which symbolizes temporal authority.

And no, I am not Ismaili/Aqa Khani.

Hopewins said...

^^@Shaukat said...
Great work AKRSP but unfortunately it is mostly in the Northern region (as you say) being populated by Ismailis (Agha Khanis) a their own community development program. So too are the Israelis Developing their community between Gaza and the West Bank. Another Ethnic Cleansing in progress.

Sorry, but this is the truth. That is why all this praise from the International Media quoted by you..Including unspecified and unusual support by the Donor Agencies and the IFI's in the North

"Gaza and West Bank"
"Ethnic Cleansing"
"International Media"

I still have not understood why Pakistanis are so obsessed with the Israeli-Arab issues that they drag it into almost every conversation regardless of relevance.

Have you ever seen a Jaloos condemning India's occupation of Kashmir in ANY arab country? Have you seen a SINGLE Arab who is so obsessed with the Kashmir issue that he drags it into everything?
As far as I can see, all of them have excellent relations with India and India even has special "honorary member" status at the Arab League.

If the Arabs do not show any interest in supporting our causes, why are we always bending over backwards to champion their causes?

They show little interest in whether we are dead or alive and yet we are always singing & dancing to make them happy. Is this just because of an "inferiority-complex" that Pakistanis have towards the Arabs?

Can someone explain this?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Daily Times on USAID effort to enhance rural productivity in Pakistan:

US assists rural Pakistan increase productivity

Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Pakistan Strategy Support Programme (PSSP) launched a 2-day First Annual Conference entitled ‘Productivity, Growth and Poverty Reduction in Rural Pakistan’ on Thursday.

The aim of this conference is to review the first year’s results from PSSP activities. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) implements the PSSP. This is a four-year USAID funded, multi-dimensional, multi-partner initiative under the Pakistan Planning Commission’s framework for economic growth.

USAID is proud to support the Planning Commission’s efforts to achieve high standards of excellence in policy formulation and research through capacity building of researchers and analysts in Pakistan, said USAID Deputy Director Rodger Garner at the inaugural session of the conference. These efforts will contribute to a stronger, brighter future for all Pakistan, he added.

A National Advisory Committee chaired by Dr Nadeem ul Haque Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of Pakistan with members including Abdul Wajid Rana, Principal Officer and Secretary of Finance government of Pakistan supervises PSSP.

USAID assistance will enable Pakistan to modernise its policy formulation by improving research based policy analysis. This will create a more favourable enabling environment for investments and enterprise growth, Dr Nadeem ul Haque said.

USAID’s other economic growth activities include creating over 200,000 acres of irrigated land by the end of 2013, as well as increasing the incomes of 250,000 farmers and female agricultural workers by increasing their production and connecting them with markets throughout the country to improve sales and ultimately expand their businesses.\12\14\story_14-12-2012_pg5_14

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on Sarhad Rural Support Program:

Operating in this region since 1989, the Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) has quietly pioneered a model of development suggesting a viable pathway for transition to sustainable, post-carbon prosperity. The model is based fundamentally on participation of the marginalised rural poor at all levels — as planners, designers, implementers, and maintainers. Grassroots communities are empowered to self-mobilise into local community organisations which then become the vehicles of building ‘self-help capacity’, identifying the needs of households and procuring the training, skills and resources to undertake diverse development projects.

One of the SRSP’s flagship projects involves micro-infrastructure. So far, the impact has been astounding. Over 4,028 small-scale projects have been planned, delivered and maintained by communities themselves across the region, establishing micro-hydroelectric plants that allow communities to finance their own development — in turn generating new local jobs and service providers, clean water and sanitation schemes, farm-to-market roads, and new opportunities for small-scale agriculture.

Farming communities utilise water from the hydropower plants, diverting it to fields for kitchen gardening, multi-cropping and fish ponds. As the plants store rain and river water, they also provide effective disaster mitigation against monsoon rains and flooding. Through such projects, SRSP has enabled 308,540 men and women to, literally, transform their own lives.

In the Swat valley and Chitral district, for instance, SRSP has played a leading role in providing emergency humanitarian relief to local communities affected by floods in recent years. While this has involved providing tents, food packages and essential household non-food items, it has also involved longer-term recovery programmes to rehabilitate and strengthen local livelihoods.

SRSP staff began these programmes with extensive consultations with the local communities, many of whom had lived without electricity for nearly 60 years. Based on their vision and aspirations, households were organised into local community organisations, which determined the projects they needed and began implementing them. With SRSP bringing in some external funding from outside donor agencies, local communities provided the rest through a combination of in-kind contributions in terms of cash, labour and local materials.

Just this month, in the remote village of Mian Jair Wajoor Bandai in Swat, SRSP oversaw the completion of the village’s first 20 kilowatt micro hydro-electric power plant, producing electricity and 24 hour hot water for over 80 households. In September, a similar but larger project was inaugurated in the Kalash valley in Chitral, with a 200 kilowatt plant, meeting the energy needs of over 7,000 people across six villages.

One local Kalash resident from the village of Bumbarate, student Shah Nawaz, recounted the impact:

“At last we have come out of the darkness. For me, my joy knows no bounds as my friends from other areas would do their research on the internet and download study notes of an international standard, but here we could not. Now I’ll also be able to connect to the internet and will have an opportunity to do online research.”

Another resident and local elder, Abdul Aziz, explained that the government had neglected local facilities in the valley.

“We have spent our whole life in the darkness. We would face many problems when we traverse these hilly areas, and one can easily slip down. But now we will have so many benefits. Our children will study in the night and we will carry out domestic chores in lights.”
So successful is this model, it has been widely replicated in developing countries. .

Riaz Haq said...

Here's another microhydro success story in rural Pakistan:

BAHRAIN, Pakistan, March 14 (UPI Next) -- Installation of a micro-hydropower station on a stream in Serai has brought electricity to the people of the remote village in the highlands of the Upper Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan for the first time.

Residents of Serai, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province's Malakand Division, about 60 miles north of the Swat district capital of Mingora, say the introduction of electricity has provided them with benefits most people take for granted, such as allowing them to walk at night without fear of tumbling off steep paths to their death.

Similar power plants are in the works for the area, a move that could pave the way to solving Pakistan's increasing energy shortage.

Micro-hydropower stations require less water than do conventional hydropower stations, so a single family can install one producing 5 to 10 kilowatts for personal use.

The power station was built by the European Union and the Sarhad Rural Support Program, a development organization working in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

"A total of 240 micro-hydropower plants are to be installed with a production capacity of 21.7 megawatts in the parts of Malakand Division that have no access to electricity from the country's national grid," Zahid Khan, a Sarhad program project manager overseeing the installation of the plants, told UPI Next.

Most micro-hydropower plants in Pakistan can produce 5 to 100 kilowatts. The next size up, mini-hydropower plants, produce between 100 kilowatts and 1 megawatt. Small hydropower plants produce between 1 megawatt and 10 megawatts, while large plants can produce much more.

Energy experts in Malakand Division are urging government and non-government organizations to use micro-hydropower projects to tackle the country's increasing energy crisis.

Serai's 80-kilowatt power plant is among the first to be successfully installed, providing electricity to more than 700 households.

"It is something of a miracle. This is the first development project installed here. We are the most neglected and ignored people in Swat," Serai elder Abdul Qadoos told UPI Next.

"People say electricity is the source of every social development."

Another elder, Zareen Gujar, also praised the introduction of electricity.

"Our women, who used to perform household chores by torchlight, will now be able to work longer under brighter light from electric bulbs," he told UPI Next.

"Our women are now learning to use electric irons to iron our clothes too.

"We in Serai have never seen any development activity since this country came into being, as we had no roads, no middle school or high school, not even a dispensary. We have been living a life of deprivation."

Serai is in rough terrain and climbing up to houses can be difficult.

"At last, we are not blind during the darkest nights. Many of our people have died after falling at night," Gul Zada, a local community leader, told UPI Next.

"We have streetlights installed now to walk freely in at night."

Zada said no official or non-government organization had shown villagers the power potential from the water around the village.

The power plant was completed in nine months at a cost of $105,000, of which about $9,000 was raised locally....

Read more:

Riaz Haq said...

AEDB is actively working with Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP) to install 103 Mini/Micro hydro power plants at Chitral and other places in Gilgit Baltistan. UNDP-GEF have committed US$ 1.00 Million for Productive Use of Renewable Energy (PURE) for which AEDB is the Implementing Agency.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan to develop #CSR framework for public-private partnership for social sector investments and #HDI growth

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will help Pakistan develop best practices models to strengthen collaboration between the government, businesses and civil society organisations for the delivery of social services and poverty reduction.

The ADB assistance will lead to developing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) frameworks and partnership models for effective linkages between public, private and civil society sectors.

The models aims to ‘building capacity of key stakeholders to strengthen partnerships; and establishing philanthropy and civil society organisation (CSO) networks to facilitate sustainable governance structures to contribute to inclusive social sector development and poverty alleviation in Pakistan’.

The ADB technical assistance will also enhance the capacity for resource mobilisation and CSR contribution of private sector and SCOs in Pakistan, according to ADB.

“Pakistan has experienced periods of strong economic growth. However, the resilience of the economy has been tested by exogenous and endogenous shocks and periods of macroeconomic instability. Sustainable social development and poverty alleviation has lagged behind economic growth,” the bank noted.

Pakistan ranks 146th out of 186 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI). Its progress in HDI and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were below many peer countries.

Pakistan’s expenditure on social sector at 0.8 per cent on health and 1.8pc on education is very low by world standards. The result is a large social sector deficit which is a drag on sustainable, inclusive economic growth and poverty alleviation, and creates risks to social stability.

It is clear that the magnitude of the social sector service delivery is beyond the fiscal and institutional capacity of the government, thus other alternatives must be considered to help achieve sustainable development.

In other countries, efforts are being made to create productive and viable linkages with key stakeholders such as the private sector and the civil society to ensure attainment of development goals. This may be a viable option for Pakistan as well.

To mobilise additional CSR and corporate philanthropy and to enhance its effectiveness, it is essential to identify best CSR practices and models, CSO implementing partners, and to form strong and credible linkages between government, philanthropists and civil society.

In order to enhance CSR for inclusive growth in Pakistan, it is crucial to generate relevant knowledge, form synergies, and create an enabling environment where these three segments of society work in partnership.

The ingredients exist to strengthen business and CSO contributions to overall social development and sector service improvement. Pakistan is a giving society, as indicated in several studies.