Pak German Integrated Rural Development Program (IRDP) was launched in 1984 with the objective to promote “the self help potential of the needier sections of the population,” “develop the infrastructure,” “improve health conditions” and “contribute towards a long term increase of incomes as well as the creation of new sources of income in the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors”1 in collaboration and cooperation of the local government.
The idea of improving the living standards of the people living in the poppy growing areas of Swabi District was conceived in Germany and the project initially started with no-self help of the community at all. The interesting point to note is that initiated with these objectives, the program has ended up establishing unique grassroots and meso-level participatory institutions through a process which mobilized locally co-ordinated collaborative action of Village Organizations (VOs) of rural (poor) populations and established collaborative linkages between these groups and other local and higher level institutions.
The initial focus was on community development infrastructure schemes through village committees but with the passage of time IRDP shifted its focus since it realized that the poor generally lack economic and physical capital, focusing on strengthening their social capital makes more sense as it is a prerequisite for achieving sustainable collective action and useful in acquiring all other forms of capital.
This new focus implied the strengthening local populations to better plan, manage and monitor their access to assets and building linkages. This participatory institutional development approach was demand driven since the rural people themselves realized that with appropriate organizational and technical assistance, they are the best source for information necessary to identify their problems and the solutions that will suit them and belong to them.
The new approach that was introduced in 1996 focused on participatory institutional development that strengthened localized social capital accumulation processes by mobilizing self-help capacities, progressive skills development, and local resource mobilization (savings, indigenous knowledge) in order to improve ultimately the group member’s human, natural, and economic resource base and their political power. An extraordinary result that we see on the ground is the formation of multi-level organizations that are filling the gap between the micro and macro level institutions. Filling up this gap is essential because local level self-help initiatives often require support from higher decision making levels, for which the establishment of a two-way system of communication connecting the bottom to top and the top to bottom is essential. No other community development program has focus on this aspect of institution building like IRDP.
The broad framework of GOP and BMZ plan to achieve the overall goals was initially geared to:
° Encouraging participation of all people, men and women in the development process and a more equitable sharing of benefits. Local institutions were to be entrusted with more
° Generating additional employment opportunities,
° Alleviating poverty through an integrated approach of income generation, well dispersed access to social and community services, HRD, extension of physical infrastructure, population welfare and special programs for targeted groups and areas.
° Conserving natural resources and ensuring protection of the environment, and
° Promoting good governance, ensuring greater self-reliance of the economy and ensuring macro-economic stability and discipline.
A careful analysis shows that the IRDP participatory institutional development approach was thus made of four interrelated corner stones:
1. Process: It was a development process whose moving forces were the growth of consciousness, group identity and solidarity via economic collaboration and mutual social and technical support of the VOs, WOs, Regional Development Organizations (RDOs), their Women Wings (WWs) and Regional Council for Development (RCD).
2. Empowerment: Empowerment came about as a result of the process of constructing group identity, improving economies-ofscale, strengthening collective bargaining power, acquiring new skills and upgrading the knowledge base progressively build economic and social power of the partner communities in the Mardan region.
3. Participation in decision-making: As a result of the IRDP approach, community development related decisions are collectively responsibilities are assigned on issues such as savings mobilization, group capital formation and utilisation, conservation practices, infrastructure development and asset creation.
4. Networking: This refers to the building-up of collaborative action among VO/WOs and their interaction with higher (vertical) institutional levels like RDOs, WWs and RCD and formally existing public institutions, government departments and other non-for=profit sector organizations.
This shows that the participatory institutional development model established by IRDP goes beyond beneficiary participation at grass root level as practiced in so many recent externally funded project approaches. It enters simultaneously at different institutional levels. This document explains how IRDP moved on from one phase to another; how did it strengthened the social capital of the poor through men and women
VO formation; how did it undertook community needs assessments; and how did it proceed to do horizontal and vertical strengthening of the organizations.
For successful rural development and poverty alleviation, partnerships and close interaction between Governments, Civil Society, the private sector and the poor themselves are needed. Research, planners, administrators and rural populations are called upon for joint efforts on both national and international arenas.
Starting from the grassroots, IRDP has demonstrated that very successfully. IRDP is also leaving behind a model that shows how rural development programs and efforts should complement the institutional bottom-up approach and be decentralized to the highest possible degree towards organized groups at local level.
They are demand driven and participatory to capture local needs, information and resources. They are flexible and organized as a learning process, ready to re-direct priorities if suggested by regular executed evaluation exercises. The recent devolution of power initiative from the government of Pakistan is an opportunity to achieve the maximum out of this model.
Now there is a need to fill the gap left by downscaled state services, infrastructural and direct financial assistance by promoting and building functional linkages with these supportive meso-level institutions. The institutions developed by IRDP are based on (and at the same time vehicle to further increase) collaboration between state and civil society to maximise complementarity between the initiatives of these two sets of institutions. It is the time for the government and other development partners to capitalise on the IRDP’s successful experiment in the field of integrated rural development.
The following figure shows how the interaction of the macro, meso and micro-level organizations has been made complete and effective through the development of meso-level institutions by IRDP. This model also helps the participating organizations to understand their respective role and responsibilities in ensuring sustainable development and good governance.
During the course, the program concept was changed several times. In phase II, for instance, components in support of women and natural resource management (NRM) were added. In 1992 a new approach was designed after intensive consultation with the community and staff members and from 1993 successfully implemented. It included an important component of creating and supporting village based men and women organizations along with including umbrella bodies and local service NGOs, respect for the socio-cultural values, norms and structures of the partner communities, introduction of group capital concept and strengthening the linkages of the VBOs to public service and funding agencies. The support provided by the program towards the planning and implementation of VBO development schemes and activities was seen as a means for local capacity building to initiate long-term development processes.