Fighting rural poverty

By Manzoor Chandio

Jan 4, 2010

Sindh’s Union Council-Based Poverty Reduction Programme (UCBPRP) has now entered its second year. Initially, the project was started in the adjoining districts of Kashmore-Kandhkot and Shikarpur with a huge allocation of Rs3.368 billion.
Implemented through the Sindh Rural Support Organisation (SRSO), the programme is designed to uplift 40 per cent rural poor of the two districts living in abject poverty. They suffer from several major and minor tribal disputes because of lack of education, depletion of resources and feudal sway over the people.
What is interesting about the programme is that it is not being executed through bureaucracy. Even elected representatives, mostly feudal lords, have been kept away.
The Sindh government’s ‘Benazir Women Support Programme’ with an initial amount of Rs4 billion and the federal government’s ‘Benazir Income Support Programme’ with an allocation of Rs70 billion are being implemented through elected representatives. The federal programme is for poor families, Benazir Women Support Programme is for poor women, while the SRSO’s village programme is for uplifting communities.
All the money has been put at the disposal of the SRSO set up in 2003, and registered under Section 42 of the Companies Ordinance 1984. The UCBPRP was launched in February 2009 as a pilot project for the two districts. It will be extended to three other districts this year.
Eliminating rural poverty is a big challenge. It is now realised that problems being faced in cities have roots in underdeveloped rural hinterland.
According to Dr Sono Khangharani, CEO of the SRSO, the lives of people in rural areas could only be changed after improving resources around them i.e. crop production practices, use of organic manure, dairy and poultry farm management and treatment of various diseases among cattle.
Some 4,200 village organisations have been formed in 73 rural UCs to provide assistance to the total of 257,988 households. According to the programme, each eligible household receives a grant of up to Rs20,000 for purchasing income-generating assets such as goats, cows and buffaloes.
Under the community investment fund (CIF) women get a revolving fund of Rs25,000. The distinguishing aspect of the CIF is that the fund will be managed by the village women themselves. So far 13,385 women in the two districts have been given CIF loans. He said the SRSO had strived to help the voices of the poorest to be heard through interventions aimed at removing hurdles they face in their day-to-day lives; so that they may be able to help themselves.
Dr Sono believes that no country can progress without enhancing productivity of poor farmers in agriculture and livestock. The SRSO has succeeded where bureaucracy has not done well like reopening of closed schools, training lady birth attendants, income-generating grants, flexible community-based micro credit, vocational training and micro insurance and productivity enhancing.
The vocational training in embroidery, sewing cloths etc will definitely improve self or external employment of both men and women. There is need to reconsider traditional welfare policies i.e. providing subventions, putting money in the pockets of the poor, or providing them food. They should be made to earn for their living.
“We are making efforts to enable people to generate their own income. Improving services is part of that mission,” says Dr Ghulam Rasool Samejo of the programme. He hoped that the hundreds of boys being trained in the IT disciplines, as electricians and mechanics in Sukkur will alter the situation.
According to Dr Samejo some 4,795 boys and girls from poor families have been given scholarships for their training in 14 trades.
“No home, no medicines, people do not have even single piece of land. It’s necessary to make people stakeholders,” says Dr Sono.
Village committees have been formed and people without resources will join the process of policy development to improve their lives.
But Dr Sono claims that rural poor’s destiny is changing. We are in with a new approach of exploring innate ability in each individual to improve his quality of life.


Amir Gul Katohar said...

Dear Manzoor Salam,
nice piece about the project posted by you. Dr Sono is one visionary person of Sindh, his services in Thardeep and in SRSO are constructive and remarkable. howerver I concern with the results, may our friends can be able to bring change in lives of poor like Dr Younis did in Bangla Desh to stablish Grameen Bank.
Best wishes and regards

Anonymous said...

Manzoor You have nicely put the all things in article which we saw their a brilliant step.

Khadim Soomro