Unanticipated Effects of one of the longest rural development program in Pakistan
What are the lessons learned from these effects?
While IRDP approach to community development has many advantages, it may also have certain limitations. While basing community co-operation on existing traditional organizational structures had the advantage of increased sustainability, existing structures could also be more likely to represent the traditionally influential population without sufficiently taking into account the views of the more disadvantaged groups, such as landless, poor, less influential families and women. Some critics may argue that IRDP over-emphasised the importance and appropriateness of working within the traditional system. From the IRDP’s experience, it can be concluded that undoubtedly, indigenous systems need to be understood and incorporated in a development process. However, the following major thoughts need to be considered.
The changing environment of all communities in Pakistan means that traditional systems may no longer be fully appropriate to cater for the needs of people. Hence, they need to adjust to an inevitable development process, which may also include the acceptance of previously nor pursued activities or systems. In the area of credit, for example, IRDP gave a very good alternative of VDF and profit and loss sharing system instead of getting involved in the micro-credit from the commercial banks. But the same approach might not help in finding suitable alternative when it comes to women in development. By not discussing the benefits of women participation in the development process, important options and opportunities to further improve the living conditions of women can be lost.
Positive unanticipated effects induced by the program include the level of interest and acceptance of the approach amongst neighbouring communities. Examples of this include social forestry projects and the private game parks. Other positive effects of the program include demonstrating that the costs of community based development schemes can be significantly reduced and that the quality of these projects is higher than through the contractor approach which is often used by the sectoral line departments in
An unanticipated negative effect was the spill-over effects which the project personnel internal differences between phases four and five caused A further unplanned negative effect resulted from the conservative approach taken by the program when dealing with the issues of socio-cultural change. Some critics are of the opinion that some ‘windows of opportunity” were not seized adequately.
Women’s development and the linkages to the formal and informal credit and loaning system suffered as a result of this.
Would IRDP benefits sustain after withdrawal of the external support?
Which benefits cannot sustain and why?
The prospects of maintaining, strengthening and extending the development networks – RDOs and RCD?
The word sustainability can be interpreted differently. IRDP interprets it as self-sustained development activities by the target groups through strong community based organizations. According
to IRDP, it is easy to achieve sustainability at the micro-level, i.e., village organizations are likely to be able to continue at least some of the activities initiated through this program. For example, scheme maintenance and natural resource management activities. Some of the VOs may also undertake new activities without any external support, e.g. some VOs took up NRM activities after having observed successful programs in neighbouring areas.
The situation with regard to WOs is, however, different. Undoubtedly, some of the women organization would continue to meet, exchange views and experience and operate their savings and credit activities. Nevertheless, as women groups still receive substantial guidance and direct financial and technical assistance, it is difficult to assess which activities and groups would be sustainable after withdrawal of the IRDP. It is also unlikely that women organizations would take up new activities without external support and input. Moreover, the integration of women development activities in RCD and RDOs has not yet been sufficiently strengthened to ensure their continuity in the long run.
Sustainability at the macro-level is not completely ensured due to weak linkages and the fact that the frame conditions within the public sector are not yet sufficiently conducive for supporting or replicating the IRDP approach. But keeping in view the government’s recent poverty alleviation measures and devolution of power plan, one can safely say that the picture is not that gloomy.
Critics were right in their argument that the government cannot alter changing, one can predict that IRDP initiatives will bear fruits provided the government succeed in its devolution of power to the grassroots level. Although the government cannot mobilise a greater number of villages in the similar fashion, but the with some inputs from the donors and networking amongst the community development programs the IRDP experience can be replicated in rest of the villages of Mardan and in other parts of the country. One of the reason for ineffective linkage among the organizations undertaking mobilization could be their way of defining mobilization, but a more pertinent reason is that in most cases the mobilization efforts are limited to the formation of grassroots organizations. There is no focus on institution building like IRDP, which is the best way of ensuring sustainability and replicability.
The political changes that are taking place in Pakistan over the last one year are an additional encouraging factor having appositive influence on achieving macro and micro level sustainability of the process initiated by IRDP. On the one hand, different government departments have to reorganise for working with the grassroots and on the other hand the decision making is going to be more decentralised and in cooperation with non-government organizations. Although it is difficult to assess how far RCD and RDOs can be acceptable partners for the government due to their professional capacity, but one thing is for sure and that is: these organization are getting mature with each passing day and each new activity, and are the only grassroots institutions available for regular partnership with government and non-government actors.
Simply stated, peculiarity of the approach, which brought grassroots institutions to this stage is its flexibility, which brought the building of village based organizations into line with the specific socialcultural and economic situation of every community. Village or khel. This approach led to an institutional structure which can rightly be described as sustainable. Nearly all the organizations at the grassroots level are linked to the umbrella organizations who have the capacity to continue their own development process. These aspects have created a basis for possible future development cooperation with other organizations and government departments.
The program has been able to demonstrate very effectively that development schemes can be planned and implemented with the village organizations at a far lower cost and to a far higher quality than has been demonstrated through state run schemes. The communities are able to maintain the schemes, which they have developed jointly with the program. Revenues generated from the schemes are ploughed back into the village development fund from which new small schemes can be financed. In addition, the community members are able to organise themselves easily, they have developed savings and loan schemes and have established village development funds. Individual savings and loaning approaches have helped the community to ask capital for further investment. Even though these saving schemes are still relatively small, they play an important function in maintaining the group cohesion and a common “we” thinking amongst the community members. All of these successes, which have been achieved at the micro-level, can be replicated at the micro-level and are in themselves sustainable.
When viewed from a macro-perspective, sustainability and replicability of the program seems less likely due to some frame conditions. Very few of these reasons can be attributed to the program. Most are the frame conditions in which the program was embedded. With regard to sustainability, the lesson that can be drawn for replicability and sustainability of such programs would be more easy if:
a) the agreements signed for integrating government service providers — the government line departments — into the process are materialised;
b) there is more dependability between the partners with regard to resource allocation and disbursements;
c) the search for other potential partners commence in time;
d) the idea of developing umbrella organizations is part and parcel of the program since inception and their development activities begin in time;
e) the communication channels with the government are effectively utilised for recommending the required changes required for improving the cooperation between grassroots institutions and service providers in time.
It can also be concluded that on the government side no effective institutional arrangement exist to extend the process in Mardan Division or outside it unless changes are made in the way in which the government undertakes development in NWFP and elsewhere in Pakistan. The forthcoming changes are a welcome news, because a functioning local government with adequate funds to allocate at the local level and a reduction of the dependency of securing fund from sectoral line departments are just some of the key elements which were needed to be change. For ensuring sufficient momentum to embrace the approach at regional level (NWFP), greater mobilization of the communities would be needed.
Sustainability of RDOs and RCD:
RDOs and RCD can play a vital role in replicating the process in neighbouring districts through the spill over effect. For this purpose, RCD and RDO would have to gradually assist neighbouring communities to get mobilized and organise themselves. This approach, once again, is dependent on the government and donors assistance to these meso level organizations for undertaking these activities. If support is provided by the government, it would have to play a marginal role in this convincing process.
Over the last couple of phases, IRDP continued to gradually increased its support in strengthening of RDOs. The linkage of VOs and WOs to RDOs has been important to allow a gradual reduction of technical and financial project support to VOs and WOs. The institutional structures of RDOs as well as their membership base vary. This is an indication that tailor made support is required for strengthening these organizations. Furthermore, not all RDOs are likely to quickly grow and develop into professional institutions with a larger membership base, which is requirement of many donor organizations.
RDO, undoubtedly, are the most suitable meso-level institutions that can guide and support VOs and WOs one the one hand and establish linkages with the macro-level for effective policy changes and good governance on the other.
The concept of supporting a three-tier system is in line with many development programs world-wide, but was not specifically tried in Pakistan before IRDP. However, as most RDOs were established quite recently, between 1993-97, they cannot be expected to have frown into well functioning development institutions. Further guidance and more direct training and institutional development activities are still needed to make them sustainable and suitable for replication.
RCD was established in 1996 with the objectives to coordinate planning and development efforts on regional level and strengthen RDOs institutional base through capacity building and funds acquisition for development schemes. However, the approach adopted by IRDP of supporting these institutions was very cautious and nondirective one. This approach was based on the belief that external change agents need to provide careful assistance rather than imposing external ideas. Whereas IRDP was supposed to express its development interests clearly, in particular those which were not automatically considered and women’s meaningful involvement in the development process.