Despite progress, 800 million people still live in extreme poverty. This is often the case in remote places. In response to this, the Aga Khan Foundation pioneered village organisations in the 1980s. It was a contrarian idea when it started, but it sought the expertise of the villagers themselves, rather than functionaries in western countries. The logic was that the villagers understood their contexts better than any visitor. Communities identified their priorities using democratic forms of governance, including appointing women to key posts. They then mobilised to overcome the obstacles to their development. They built schools and clinics, dug canals to improve water resources and installed better sanitation facilities, established savings groups, provided electricity for the village and raised crop yields. They also identified the poorest among them, who might need some extra assistance.
Village organisations have become a safety net based on community values and participation. People are driving their own development, leading to self-reliance and improving their overall quality of life.
The Foundation is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.