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  • An irrigation channel, pipe siphon and land development project of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) in Narthang, Baltistan (Pakistan). Planting of poplar trees is the first stage of land development after irrigation channels have been built, transforming the desert landscape.
    AKDN / Robin Oldacre-Reed
Aga Khan Rural Development Programme
Multi-Input Area Development

For years, development institutions focused on narrowly defined goals – without much coordination with organisations outside their discipline. Many thought that rising incomes would lead to development. In AKDN’s experience, however, income disparity is only one aspect of poverty. Other forms can be just as damaging: a lack of access to quality education, the inability to mitigate the effects of disasters, or an absence of effective civil society organisations. As a result, despite gains in income, the overall quality of life remains largely unchanged.

On a visit in the mid-1980s to the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in Pakistan, His Highness the Aga Khan saw that there was a need to bring a variety of inputs and disciplines to bear in a given area. He saw the rural support programme expanding naturally into health and education, but he also saw a need for micro-insurance, environmental projects, seismic-resistant home construction, village planning and the restoration of cultural monuments.

The “multi-input” model that has emerged recognises that achieving long-term positive change is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon. For AKDN, successful development occurs when a continuum of development activities offers people in a given area not only a rise in incomes, but a broad, sustained improvement in the overall quality of life.

In Pakistan’s Northern Areas, for example, the activities of the Aga Khan Rural Development Programme (AKRSP) are coordinated with those of other AKDN agencies. While AKRSP built thousands of small infrastructure projects, installed hundreds of micro-hydroelectric plants, planted tens of millions of trees, reclaimed hundreds of hectares of degraded land and mobilised 4,000 community organisations, Aga Khan Health Services complemented these activities by setting up health services.

Aga Khan Education Services set up schools and literacy programmes.

Aga Khan University in Karachi provided education to many bright students who eventually returned to serve their communities as doctors, nurses and teachers.

Aga Khan Planning and Building Services created seismic-resistant designs for housing and community centres, set up water and sanitation projects and created over 70 low-cost housing improvements.

Focus Humanitarian Assistance, an AKDN affiliate, provided disaster response and mitigation training.

The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development set up three hotels in the region – economic engines that provide jobs, set service standards and stimulate economic activity through local sourcing.

The Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance administered thousands of new microfinance loans and pioneered micro-insurance for the poor.

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture restored dozens of historic houses, monuments, landmark buildings and public spaces.