Development dilemma in Balochistan – a working alternative

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By Rahim Khetran

Decades-long underdevelopment and deprivation at the local level can only be resolved through an active participation of community which takes charge of its own development through its own institutions. According to the (2018) Socio-Economic Survey (SES) conducted by BRSP (Balochistan Rural Support Programme) under its five year European Union funded Balochistan Rural Development and Community Empowerment (BRACE) Programme, 90% of the respondents think that delivery of basic services such as education, health care, electricity, water supply and employment are the top five problematic areas, which need immediate attention.

The majority of respondent households i.e. 64% are chronically poor and they have limited access to basic facilities and services. The poor state of socioeconomic indicators in education, health, employment, water supply, electricity and infrastructure points to the need for better access to, and opportunities for, fulfilment of fundamental rights as well as livelihood options.

The biggest reason behind this abysmal condition of services delivery in the province is the fact that development has never been systematic and need-based but it has rather been a politically motivated, surface-level process, driven by the agenda of pacifying voters regardless of their actual problems and needs. It has distorted the systematic delivery of basic services, which  is based on need. In order to meet the needs of the community, it is essential that the citizens be engaged with the local authorities. A robust, proactive community taking the charge can not only create a bridge between the state and the citizens but can also drive development, creating a demand and convincing the government to respond to that demand by delivering improved public services that the community identifies and needs.

For active engagement with local authorities, rural households, particularly the poor ones, need to be mobilised and organised in to a network of their own institutions. These Community Institutions (CIs) provide a platform to people, men and women, to initiate local level community driven development (CDD) The feeling of deprivation amongst the community can be removed by enabling them through mobilisation, organisation, capacity building trainings, supporting their self-identified initiatives, providing seed capital for Community Investment Fund, improving physical infrastructure, provision of vocational and technical skills training, and fostering linkages between CIs and local authorities. This then transforms their despair and deprivation into hope.

The social mobilisation approach to CDD was first tried and tested on scale by the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) in northern Pakistan. After this approach’s success and replication in other parts of Pakistan through the Rural Support Programmes (RSPs), the approach was adopted, adapted and replicated by other neighbouring and regional countries like India, Nepal, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The same CDD approaches have been adopted in the nine districts of Balochistan under EU funded BRACE Programme. Under the BRACE Programme, rural households are mobilised and organised in to neighbourhood (mohalla) level Community Organisations with participation of 15-20 households. Then the COs are federated at the village level in to Village Organisations (VOs). Finally, the VOs are federated at the union council level in to Local Support Organisations (LSOs). This network of CIs is also referred to as the Social Pillar.

In order to identify local level development activities, planning is undertaken at three levels. At the household level, planning is done through the preparation of Micro Investment Plans (MIPs) wherein each household identifies the potential for income generating activity that can implement on its own to enhance and improve its livelihoods, the constraints that they face and the form of support needed to initiate the income generating activity. At the village level, VOs prepare the Village Development Plans (VDPs), wherein they identify their common needs, e.g. improved access to water, health, education, village infrastructure, etc. The VDPs are then brought together at the LSO level for compiling the Union Council Development Plan (UCDP). Representatives of local authorities also participate in the preparation of UCDP. This local level participatory development planning contributes to empower the members of CIs, and creates ownership since the people themselves have prepared MIPs, VDPs and UCDPs.

VDPs are systematically prepared by community members, who identify needs and potential activities that can contribute to the development of their communities and villages. Community also identify activities that they can undertake through their own self-help. Active participation by community members in the preparation of VDPs fosters a strong belief amongst members and erodes the feeling of helplessness, despondency. Gone are the days when it was said that only experts know what is best for rural communities, now communities know their own potential and their own needs. Through VDPs, they now articulate these. Communities mobilised under the BRACE Programme through VDPs now have a complete and detailed development agenda for their respective villages and localities.

The overall objective of the Programme is “to support the Government of Balochistan in reducing the negative impact of economic deprivation, poverty and social inequality, environmental degradation and climate change, and to turn this into opportunities to build and empower resilient communities participating actively in identifying and implementing socio-economic development activities on a sustainable basis in partnership with local authorities”. The BRACE Programme is now operational in nine districts of Balochistan, namely Washuk, Jhal Magsi, Kech, Khuzdar, Loralai, Duki, Pishin, Zob and Killah Abdullah. Under the Programme, 300,000 rural households are being mobilised and organised in to a network of CIs. Organised communities are in the process of preparing 3,103 VDPs at village level and 249 UCDPs at union council level. The organised communities and their own plans now provide an opportunity for authorities to engage with them for meeting their needs, especially for support to livelihoods and lives through improvements education, health, water, employment, infrastructure and so on. The growing network of CIs provide an opportunity for inclusive and sustainable community development in Balochistan and now all development stakeholders must take up this opportunity.

 

The writer is serving as Research Coordinator for European Union Funded Balochistan Rural Development and Community Empowerment (BRACE) Programme at RSPN. He is a former Hubert H. Humphrey fellow and currently waiting for the award of PhD degree in Anthropology from Quaid-i-Azam University. He can be reached at bakhs003@gmail.com