EU-funded BRACE programme fosters community institutions in rural areas

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By Rahim Khetran, Bilal Gichki & Samina Mengal,

KHUZDAR:     It was not long ago that Mah Bibi and her family were living hand to mouth. Mah Bibi lives in a mud (kacha) house along with her husband and three daughters in a village called Yar Muhammad in district Khuzdar, Balochistan. None of her family members have ever been to school. Without any formal education, skill and the resources, her family was trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty, and suffering from all the pain this brought to her family members.

Mah Bibi’s life began to change for better when she attended a community dialogue led by a Social Organiser from the European Union supported Balochistan Rural Development and Community Empowerment (BRACE) Programme in 2018. The Social Organiser had talked about the approach of the BRACE programme that is based on the belief that ‘every household has the potential to improve their own poverty status’. Mah Bibi was inspired by this and decided to become a member of the local Community Organisation (CO). Over the next weeks and months, Mah Bibi also became active in the local Village Organisation (VO) and the Local Support Organisation (LSO). A key pillar of the BRACE programme is to foster community institutions in line with one of the programme’s specific objectives:

‘To empower citizens and communities and provide them with means enabling them to implement community-driven socio-economic development interventions, and increased voice and capacity to influence public policy decision making through active engagement with local authorities for quality, inclusive, and equitable service delivery, and civic-oversight.’

The BRACE programme is designed to contribute to reduction in rural poverty and improvement in livelihoods by employing a holistic participatory approach. The programme is helping increase the assets and incomes of the rural poor by supporting the provision of Income Generating Grants (IGG) to the extremely poor (0-11 category on the poverty score card) and small amounts of capital from the Community Investment Fund (CIF) for the poor (0-23 category on the poverty score card). Income Generating Grant and Community Investment Fund are interventions provided for income generating activities that the households themselves identify in the Micro Investment Plan (MIP). Income Generating Grant and Community Investment Fund are used by households for micro businesses, purchase of livestock assets and agriculture inputs. Another important intervention of the Programme is to provide Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) to the members of poor households so that upon completion of training they are gainfully self-employed and are able to expand and increase their household’s income.

Mah Bibi prepared her household’s Micro Investment Plan along with her family members. Mah Bibi identified the rearing of goats as a potential income generating activity. Maha Bibi was familiar with goat rearing as many other households in the village had goats, and fodder was also available. However, her main constraint was that she does not have the capital to purchase the goats. Mah Bibi said that if she could access capital then she could increase her economic assets, increase income and could improve her household’s condition. Mah Bibi’s Micro Investment Plan was reviewed by the Local Support Organization and given that her family was in the poorest poverty score category Maha Bibi was given Income Generating Grant for goat rearing.

Mah Bibi received Income Generating Grant in kind in 2019 and received three female goats worth of Rs. 50,000. The happiness of the family doubled when the number of goats doubled after breeding in a couple of months. This not only multiplied their resources but have a huge impact on the nutritional status of the family as they now have milk in their daily meals and the family feel economically more stable and socially empowered with their own adequate resources.

Mah Bibi’s life began to change for the better because of her active involvement she is a member of the network of community institutions led by the active, dynamic and deep routed Local Support Organisation (LSO) Guwarkh, working in the Union Council Abey Noghey of district Khuzdar in Balochistan.

The Local Support Organisation was established in 2009 under the European Union supported Balochistan Community Development Programme (BCDP) and named Guwarkh (name of an indigenous wild flower) aiming to add beauty and fragrance to the lives of the people they are working with. Master Sana Ullah, Local Support Organisation President, has devoted his life for the wellbeing of the community members. He and his Local Support Organisation members have established strong ties with the district Government officials and local representatives and are working diligently for the development of their Union Council. The LSO members have taken over 65 self-initiatives for the development of their areas. These initiatives are in the fields of health, education, infrastructure, livelihoods, environment, women empowerment, employment and many others. It was because of the genuine leadership, pure volunteer and philanthropic work and better service delivery of the Local Support Organisation that it was awarded as the ‘Best Local Support Organisation in Balochistan’ in 2014 at the Annual Balochistan LSO Convention at Quetta. Local Support Organisation Guwarkh has distributed Income Generating Grant grants to 42 households in the Union Council under the BRACE Programme; identified 36 households for livestock rearing, bought three sewing kits and opened three small shops in the village.

It is the beauty of the three-tiered social mobilisation approach, that Once the poor communities are organised in to their own institutions, they become so empowered that they start helping the others around them. In this respect, Mah Bibi set another example of helping others. One day while she was milking the goats to feed her children, she thought of Bibi Amna; another poor lady in the village whom she had met couple of times during the Community Organisation meetings. Mah Bibi donated one of the goats to Bibi Amna so that she also can feed her children and have some resource of her own. Following this exemplary action of Mah Bibi, 14 other women in the village also donated one goat to the neighbouring poor families. This example of Mah Bibi clearly shows that goodness can be contagious.

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