Community mobilisation paying off in Chitral

Published June 7, 2015
A meeting of village organisation underway in Chitral’s Karimabad valley. — Dawn
A meeting of village organisation underway in Chitral’s Karimabad valley. — Dawn

The flash flood of 2012 had washed away the water supply scheme and 1.5 kilometres link road of the remote Kiyar village of Karimabad valley, but the services were restored the very next week by the local community itself and they did not waste a moment to wait for the government departments.

The community had a pretty sum of money in savings and it just passed a resolution authorising the office-bearers to withdraw the required amount from the bank account of the organisation to restore the facilities. The government released special funds for restoration of the flood-affected infrastructures two years later in 2014.

This was the dividend of the phenomenon of social organisations which took roots in Chitral in 1980s when Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) made debut in the district and worked on the basis of community mobilisation.

The people were brought round to the fact that no external agency can rid them of their problems if they remained inert making themselves dependent on the government. In early 2000s, Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) joined AKRSP to promote the local organisations which worked on the pattern of community participation which involved the community to carry out the development work in the village for which a village organisation was a prerequisite.

Women organisations were also formed where the development activity belonged exclusively to the womenfolk and it worked as catalyst to emancipate women politically and economically, making them awakened and their presence felt in the social fabric.

The key instruments of social mobilisation were; organisation, skill and capital formation (Tanzeem, Hunar and Bachaat), which became a household motto, in the 1980s and 1990s.

In fact, the values of self-reliance, self-belief and self-autonomy helped in creating hope, trust and confidence contributing to doubling the per capita income at household levels and reducing extreme poverty, the incidence of which was reported over 80 per cent in the programme area, when AKRSP started.

The rural poor are now able to generate surplus food, skilled labour and income, which the households invest in educating their children, getting access to basic health care and nutrition and improving their housing and living conditions. All this was supplemented through a programme model based on integrated concepts and investments in micro infrastructure, natural resource management, micro-credit and savings, enterprise promotion and women development.

The turning point came in the realm of social organisations in 2005 when local support organisations (LSOs) were established at each union council level. The chairman of Chitral Community Development Network, the umbrella organisation of the 21 LSOs, Mohammad Wazir Khan said that LSOs were organisations of the people, for the people and by the people. He said that these organisations were the federations of the village and women organisations and other civil society organisations existing in a hamlet or union council.

“LSOs are formal organisations, registered under Companies’ Ordinance of 1984 with the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP). These organisations have a strong governance system consisting of board of directors appointed by the general body members who are responsible to execute the objectives of these organisations. Besides the BoD, a small professional team of management also exists, which carries out the implementation in smooth manner under the supervision of its governing body,” he said.

Mr Khan said that LSOs were formal and professional organisations, rooted in broad-based village and women’s organisations, which could also be described as people’s organisations. “The LSO approach has also been taken up by other rural support progrmmes in Pakistan, and their number has grown to over 500 nationally, he said, adding that the credit went to the village organisation model in Chitral, which was being imitated in other provinces.

The institutional sustainability of the LSOs is linked with the increased ownership and participation of youth in these community institutions; mobilisation of local human, physical and financial resources, and developing and retaining committed activists and young professionals to lead these institutions with professionalism, financial prudence; and providing demand-led services to primary target groups, and finally, continuing education support programme to guide, train and act as ‘knowledge catalyst’.

Former chairman of Ayun and Kalash Valleys Development Programme (AVDP) Muhkamudin said that the village organisations had put the primitive people of Kalash on the path of progress and development. He termed social organisations as the artery of the rural life which helped them to manage the locally available resources prudently to derive maximum benefits from them. He said that Kalash people were organised now and in a position to fight poverty while the infrastructure of road, street pavement and drinking water supply had also been improved on self-help basis.

Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2015

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