Rs.5 billion Balochistan Rural Development and Community Empowerment Program benefitted 1.9 million people
By Mian Aamir
Slouching against a neatly painted wall in a carpeted room, Mohammad Younas narrated his struggle to become an entrepreneur from a mere jobless person like many others in this remote village of Balochistan’s Pishin district.
His story is one of good things happening in otherwise violence and poverty-stricken mineral-rich province.
Younas, in his late 20s, is one of the thousands of beneficiaries of a flagship poverty alleviation project by Balochistan Rural Support Program (BRSP), targeting 10 districts across the province.
Launched in 2017, the Rs.5 billion Balochistan Rural Development and Community Empowerment Program (BRACE), concluded in June 2023, benefitting – directly and indirectly – 1.9 million population in Zhob, Loralai, Duki, Pishin, Killa Abdullah, Chaman, Washuk, Khuzdar, Jhal Magsi and Kech/Turbat over the past six years.
A muddling two-hour journey, mainly on a battered stony road ended at Malakan village encircled by straggling apple and grapes orchards.
Inside a large compound located at the end of a dust-bowed street, a group of children were playing on a tuft of neatly-trimmed grass. Whereas, members of the local village committee were engaged in a weekly meeting, enjoying qehwa.
“Until two years ago, I was a mere jobless person but now I own a shop, and make a good living,” Younas, who received a Rs.50000 grant under BRSP’s Income Generating Grant (IGG) program in 2021.
He began with a small makeshift system using a few tables in an outer room of his house, and gradually upgraded that into a proper shop to sell all kinds of essential stuff.
The IGG has created opportunities in 17 trades, particularly in the livestock sector, the key source of village economy.
Younas says he monthly earns between Rs.20000 and Rs.25000 per month.
The amount for a resident of Karachi, Lahore or even Quetta may sound small, but for a dweller of this far-flung and impoverished village, it is indeed an achievement.
Sajida Tareen had another success story to share. Of course with a female member of our group because of the local culture.
Hailing from adjoining Tora Shah Village and married at the age of 18, Sajida faced the daunting challenge of making ends meet while her husband struggled to provide on meager daily wages. However, even in the face of adversity, she, a mother of eight children, clung to hope, believing in the promise of a better tomorrow.
In 2020, with a grant amounting to Rs.48000, Sajida started a small grocery business in her house, laying the foundation for her enterprise.
Within three years, she expanded her business, now valued at nearly Rs.140000, earning a monthly income ranging from Rs.10000 to Rs.12000.
– Targeted intervention
According to Tahir Rasheed, the head of BRSP, the BRACE project is one of the “targeted interventions” launched by his organization with the help of the European Union to assist the Balochistan government to reduce the grinding impacts of poverty across the province.
This initiative has been designed to establish conducive policy environment for, and set requisite preconditions for sector-wide approach towards community-led development. It aims to provide a platform to the provincial government and its development partners for evolving a consensual contextualize and harmonized approach to community-led development and local governance.
The six-year program of is expected to benefit 1.9 million citizens (300,000 households) in 249 Union Councils of 10 target districts.
Aside from income generating grant and vocational training programs, BRACE also includes a Community Investment Fund (CIF) that amounts to Rs.2 million solely handled by the local community. Under this revolving fund, the concerned village organization or local support organization provide soft loans to the villagers to buy live stock or start small businesses to make a living.
Abdul Hayee, a beneficiary of this program, had bought two goats in 2019, and gradually not only managed to buy a cow but also set up a milk-selling point at his home.
Another components of BRACE include, Community Physical Infrastructure (CPI) -under which pavement of streets, water supply and agriculture related assistance is provided-, Community Mobilization, and Adult Literacy and Numeracy Skills, which is solely for women.
Under the community mobilization program, Rasheed said, the BRSP has established an inclusive, and representative system of community mobilization through formation of 29,248 community institutions, including community organizations, village organizations, village and local support organizations to engage with local communities, and authorities.
The organization has rehabilitated, expanded and maintained 204 climate-resilient community physical infrastructure schemes mainly drinking water supply schemes, which are prioritized and managed by community institutions themselves.
To enhance the mobility of 4,943 persons with disabilities, BRACE enabled them to play a more active and productive role in society through provision of 5,697 assistive devices were distributed.
The recipients of its technical education and vocational training component have showed promising results, with over 70% employed or self-employed, earning between Rs.6000 and Rs.15000 monthly.
The BRSP’s poverty graduation survey indicated a 20% average income rise, transitioning 48% of poor households to a higher poverty band within the community investment fund component. In the IGG segment, 30% of poor households progressed out of poverty, achieving higher scores and a 17% income growth.