Development in Rural Areas
Before the Karakorum Highway was built in the late 1970s, the areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral were isolated from the rest of Pakistan. Most people lived from subsistence agriculture. When AKDN first came to the area, it made community mobilization, experimentation and innovation hallmarks of the early programme. Later, when solutions were found for development challenges, these programmes scaled up with the help of national and international partners.
Often described as a process of “learning by doing”, the AKRSP approach of working in partnership with communities has made remarkable changes in the lives of the 1.3 million villagers who live in Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan region – among some of the highest mountain ranges of the world, including the Karakorum, Himalayas, Hindukush and Pamirs.
Most of these beneficiaries are widely dispersed across a region covering almost 90,000 square kilometres, an area larger than Ireland. Among many notable achievements have been a significant increase in incomes, the construction of hundreds of bridges, irrigation channels and other small infrastructure projects, the planting of over 30 million trees and reclamation of over 90,000 hectares of degraded land, the mobilization of over 4,500 community organizations and the creation of savings groups which manage over US$8 million.
Perhaps the most impressive achievement has been its pioneering community-based, participatory approach to development. For over 25 years, AKRSP has successfully demonstrated participatory approaches to planning and implementation of micro-level development in rural areas, including the mobilization of rural savings and provision of micro-credit; the application of cost-effective methods for building rural infrastructure; natural resource development; institution and capacity building; and successful partnership models for public-private sector initiatives.
The development model adopted by AKRSP has itself been widely replicated both within AKDN and outside it. A network of Rural Support Programmes now exists all over the country with the mandate to design and implement strategies for alleviation of rural poverty. In South Asia and other parts of the world programmes based on this model have been set up to promote grassroots development through involvement of local communities.
The overall goal of the organization is to improve the socio-economic conditions of the people of northern Pakistan by supporting:
AKRSP has received a number of awards, including the 2005 Global Development Awards for Most Innovative Development Project. The award, which was announced at the Seventh Annual Global Development Conference held in St. Petersburg, Russia on 20 January 2006, was given to the development projects that were judged to have the greatest potential for benefiting the poor in developing countries. For more information, please see the Global Development Network website.
It also received an Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy, or "Green Oscar", for its programme of mini-hydels, or micro-hydroelectric plants, in the Northern Areas and Chitral. The Ashden Award cited the AKRSP for the sustainable and eco-friendly solution: "Unlike dams, which invariably damage the local eco-system, the micro-hydel technology used by AKRSP involves simply digging a narrow channel to divert water along a hillside and into a pipe, creating enough pressure to turn a turbine and so produce 20 -100kw of power." The impact in areas off the electricity grid has been significant. Over 180 micro-hydel units supplying electricity to 50 percent of the population of Chitral have been built. The projects are implemented, maintained and managed by the communities themselves.
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