Rural transition from communities to entrepreneurs

A few decades back, with the aspiration to change the living standards of the rural poor, particularly women and the marginalized, the community development sector seemed exceptionally kind. Very soon, international donor(s) emerged with a variety of pledges and commitments towards bringing tangible changes to the rural communities of developing countries, such as Pakistan. People heard, for the first time, fascinating slogans and illustrious terms related with the development spectrum and widely used by development practitioners and organizations. In Pakistan, NGOs surfaced like mushrooms and many people who did not have any true affection towards the peoples’ need dragged themselves towards the NGO sector, and very soon, this sector became lucrative and attractive for fortune seekers. Basically, the pledges and commitments made by large donor(s) were supposed to be pro-poor and inclusive. The downtrodden people, who had very limited access to the services provided by government, found the non-government sector friendly and most of their problems and issues seemed to be resolved through and by the latter. We could, in fact, see and acknowledge the work done and services delivered by non-government sector. Seeing some tremendous achievements, the international donor(s) extended and expanded their funding. NGOs were provided with resources, modern techniques and technologies, talented human resources with competitive salaries, fringe benefits and lucrative status, above all huge financial resources. A social organizer of an NGO could approve funds for millions of rupees and could do such services which were beyond the capacities of elected public representatives and appointed public servants. All these things attracted more and more people towards the NGO sector and people used to register NGOs and seek support from national and international donor(s). Community Participation; inclusion of the left-behind, poor and marginalized people and groups of communities were and are still important and vital ingredients of any rural sustainable initiative. Well-accepted, these practices have brought changes in communities and empowered them. But unfortunately now, the situation has changed….. totally changed. Like other walks of life, this sector has also become corrupt. Community organizations have been overcome by enterprises but the latter use the name of “communities” to attract donors. Now, in most cases, there are no communities but there are entrepreneurs and the money aimed to change the living standards of rural poor goes into the pockets of these few entrepreneurs. Surprisingly, the donor agencies, once stressing “community participation” and blaming the government sector for failing to include communities in planning, executing, monitoring and above all maintenance due to “tender” contractor cultures, have now adopted the same way. Instead of working with communities and their representative organizations, the donor agencies are engaging “individual entrepreneurs” who have registered their NGOs under fake representations. The low levels of checks and balance from the donor’s side and favoritism further pave the way to promote “individuals” against “communities” in most cases. This has brought the whole sector into confusion and most of the people, once discouraged by the developmental approach of government line departments, now dislike the NGO sector. Significant range of communities believe that the donors have their “own” agendas and to fulfill concealed objectives some funding agencies always support fake NGOs which are easily controlled and shaped. It is strange that an NGO owner becomes millionaire in very short period of time whereas the target communities, for whom the huge amount comes, still deprived of basic amenities. It is like “operation was successful but the patient died.” In the given circumstances it becomes the responsibility of donor organizations either small or large one, to revisit their strategy and adopt pro-poor steps by encouraging communities and discourage the fortune seekers. This is the way deserving communities would get benefit and the investment made by donor(s) would be sustainable making the achievement towards MDSs. Otherwise the results with increase number of millionaires in a society but the poor communities would always remain in their circle. Equally it needs deliberation from government side as most of the fund comes because our government is signatory of various international pacts and agreements which qualify us to have such funding from donors. Hence the government should not close eyes and must inquire how a person gets millionaire in shortest period of time whereas the communities still deficient in amenities. kamalK. A. Jamil is a media and development professional based in Chitral, northern Pakistan).]]>

2 Replies to “Rural transition from communities to entrepreneurs”

  1. Mr. Jamil you have tried to highlight the real situation but I think it is due the donors’ interest (which you also mentioned) that these type of people attain special favor. This could be overcome by two ways: 1. to make the communities more strong and vocal and 2. the government must take positive steps.

  2. Congratulations to Jamil for investigating and bringing such facts in view. I 100% agree with him. In fact, anyone can go to those so-called organisations and will surely find same situation as described by Jamil. Well done. Your message will be more effective if you can send a copy of it to the donor agencies.
    Keep posted
    Dr. Khalil

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