A young girl is pumping water as another is filling pots while other children are waiting for their turn at the hand pump installed in the centre of village Wala Akram Jan Bakhta, north of Zhob city. The children gather here to fetch water, happy that they do not have to go to far flung areas to get water for drinking and other household purposes as they were compelled to do, two years ago.
Busy collecting water, they often missed school, and just a few would be able to go. Water in the nearby pond which animals also frequented was brackish and contaminated. In the rainy season they had to use muddy and unprotected water and hence water-borne diseases were rampant. Presently, the situation has changed and water-shortage doesn’t exist so the children can happily go to school as they no longer have to fetch water and the incidence of water-borne diseases is much reduced.
Two years ago the villagers formed a local committee that soon turned into a local organisation. Haji Meewa Khan, 63 and a resident of 60-household village, told us that the community and the village organisation have decided to solve the problems faced by villagers.
They got in touch with the “Balochistan Rural Support Programme (BRSP), which with financial support of European Commission under the EC-WatSan Project, erected three hand pumps at different places in the village in 2013,” Khan said. “We have a hand pump next to our house and we get clean water so our children are healthier than before,” he added.
Similarly, the village in the mountainous area known as Killi Naway Oba on Zhob-Waziristan highway, 10km away from Jan Bakhta village consists of 70 houses. Here, people are dependent on livestock and agriculture but famine has badly affected livestock and agriculture in recent years which has increased poverty and multiplied the difficulties of people in an area deprived of basic facilities.
With just a little help, village communities tackle better ways to manage their basic amenities issues
The school that consists of two rooms has no drinking water or washroom facilities, neither electricity and reading or writing material. They walk a kilometre away from school to relieve themselves.
“Last year, funded by the European Union (EU), the village organisation built a toilet on the school premises. The facility created a sense of hygiene among the children; saved more than a 100 students from various diseases and also succeeded in attracting more kids to join school,” said Imran, a student.
As water shortage was the biggest problem in the village, last year, in partnership with the BRSP and funded by the EU, a water supply scheme was installed in the village.
“Not only a major issue was solved, it also created a trend of solving issues through partnership,” added Imran.
Abdul Latif, school teacher by profession and a community member in Naway Oba said that a lot of stress was laid on social mobilisation to clear misconceptions about non-governmental organisations in an area with strong tribal ties. The community has been mobilised and provided information about decision-making and resource utilisation. A change in the mindset is visible and people aspire to work with cooperation and coordination.
“Development in rural areas is impossible until the community partners the development process,” Latif said. These communities have now learnt how to access services and manage their issues. “Now they are able to solve their problems with limited resources”, he added.
Latif further said that the schemes are accomplished on a need basis and recommended by the community which also has a 20 per cent share in development projects. This way of organising and enabling backward communities is effective yet transparent. The community identifies the project which is then given an easy and simple start, supervised by the village organisation so that the project is standardised and accomplished on time.
The pace of development in Balochistan is slow in comparison to other provinces. Balochistan has a small population but the area is very vast; on the other hand it has the highest poverty and illiteracy rate.
Nadir Gul Barech, general manager BRSP said that the organisation has been working in rural areas of Zhob district for the last eight years. “We have so far completed health, education, drinking water, irrigation and sanitation projects. Our aim is to support the government in reducing the negative impact of economic deprivation, poverty and social inequality and to create opportunities to build and empower resilient communities to participate actively in development activities, thereby improving the socio-economic conditions.”
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine November 22nd, 2015