By Muhammad Amin Baloch
The concept of rural development is conceived as a holistic approach for the improvement of the socio-economic conditions of the rural communities. All efforts must be directed for the uplifting of the social and economic status of the rural masses.
As agriculture is the major source of rural people income, therefore this should be focused on priority basis to enhance production and productivity and then to launch the process of rural diversification. While planning for rural development the processes of rural human resource development and infrastructure always get top position.
In short the overall rural development implies to reduce unemployment, poverty and inequality with the participation of the people. Pakistan is predominantly an agricultural country with agriculture the main production sector in the rural areas. More than 67% of the country population live in the villages thus making agriculture the largest employer in the country, accounting for 54 % of the total country`s labour force and supporting, directly or indirectly.
There is no denying the fact that agriculture is playing a main role in the economic growth, resource management, poverty reduction and over all development. Rural development is not an end in itself but a means to an end and can provide a basis for sustained and equitable growth of all sectors of the economy.
The concept of rural development was not alien to Pakistan at the time of independence. The British government used the “Dehat Sudhar and Panchayat“ as tools to monitor the village communities and made no serious efforts to make them institutionalized.
After independence different programmes were framed to bring about sustained rural development including Village agriculture and Industrial Development of 1953 (village-Aid), Basic Democracies of 1969, Integrated Rural Development Programme along with Peoples Works Programme of 1970,s etc. Some main causes of failures of these programmes were lack of village community’s participation/ involvement at the grass root levels and white collars hindrances.
No sustainable development will be ensured in the rural community without gaining their inputs and involvement in such activities. The concept of rural development has become a global phenomenon and numerous NGOs have mushroomed with the slogan of reducing poverty in rural communities of the world and Pakistan is not exempted. Chitral is a remote &backward district located in the North West of KPK. Agriculture is the main source of economy for the people and majority of population in Chitral live below poverty line because of lack of government interventions and access to basic requirement of daily life.
The concept of rural development has gained strength in Chitral Since 1980`s.Diffrent NGOs are working to alleviate poverty in Chitral and Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) in lead. The main challenge for these NGOs at the initial stage was community mobilization and sensitization about their role and responsibilities in the successful implementation of projects. As it is a fact that no other NGO has played such an important role in the rural development of Chitral when compared to AKRSP. As AKRSP is the main role player in the rural development of Chitral,therefore it is necessary to critically shed light on AKRSP interventions in Chitral.
AKRSP was soon accepted in the Mastuj and Lotkoh valleys in the early eighties. AKRSP introduced in Chitral an innovative concept of establishing Community Organizations like Village Organization (VO) and Women Organization (WO) etc.The major objectives behind the establishment of these organizations were community mobilization, awareness raising, participatory development and ownership by the communities. These ideas gave birth to social activists who were the torch bearers in the successful implementation of AKRSP objectives.
These so called activists latter became a huge obstacle in promoting and strengthening of democratic values amongst the communities. Latter on many more NGOs took part in the race including the Inter-cooperation (IC), a Swiss Funded organization, WASEP, CHESVI, Muslim Aid, CIADP, Awaz and more importantly SRSP (Sarhad Rural Support Programme) of KPK etc. The donors` approach in the development was a holistic one as to empower the community to take the lead role in the development matters and educating the people about the democratization.i.e.transparency, accountability and rule of law. These local and regional NGOs are getting billions of development funds from the government and international donor agencies with the purpose of serving the poor masses.
None can deny the fact that AKRSP has solved the basic needs of the people of Chitral (especially in upper areas) in terms of establishing micro hydal power stations, constructing road, bridge and channels etc. With these interventions people have gained access to basic needs of life to great extent. But the impacts of these interventions seem gloomy when conceived in the long term (sustainability). The above-mentioned social activists have completely hijacked the Community Based Organizations and clusters. They are reluctant to transfer the leadership to the new generation.
Majority of the Community Organizations are dysfunctional with the qabza groups in power and are turned into project oriented.The ideal concepts of transparency and accountability have become only show piece. As a result majority of community is disillusioned with the COs and one can, t find the spirit and zeal of 1980s and early 1990s of the community. To improve the economic conditions of the local community AKRSP had also initiated micro finance credit. But that credit was never returned by the strong social activists and a precedent of default culture was promoted.
It is amazing that why AKRSP has not taken strong action against the defaulters so far? Is a hundred million questions. Four years back AKRSP had asked the LSO (GADO) to recover the loans from Garam Chashma jurisdiction and till 2014 no progress had been in that direction, because of lack of interest. Until and unless the noble concepts of democratic values are not implemented with whole spirit, any intervention will be a useless one. It is also a criterion by the donors to promote the concepts of democratic values without any compromise.
AKRSP has provided capacity building training in multi-faceted sectors to the communities .However, unfortunately, no consolidated policy is in place on “Do No Harm`an essential prerequisite for development works. Conflict Sensitivity development can be seen as a capacity of an organization to understand the conflict (context) in which it operates, to recognize the interaction between its operations and that context, minimize its negative impacts and maximize its positive impacts. According to my knowledge IC has a comprehensive policy on CSPM (Conflict Sensitivity Management Programme).
The presence of such policy helps conflict resolution mechanisms both within the organization and the COs.That is why due to the lack of such mechanism conflicts are common in organization supported and facilitated by AKRSP. AKRSP should strengthen its LSO Support Unit as currently it is not performing well as expected. If AKRSP really wants sustainable and holistic development approaches in Chitral, it must make hectic efforts to address the above-mentioned vacuum on priority basis. Otherwise communities will not be empowered to take the lead in the development activities.