IFAD Financed “Northern Areas Development Project (NADP 1998-2009) was 1st of its kind in the district of Diamer, Gilgit Baltistan region which introduced participatory development approach to the target community. Though the approach was unwelcomed intensely, mainly to the women inclusiveness, but the persistent efforts through dialogue with the communities, clergy, political leadership and the local authorities helped gaining the ground gradually. NADP, at completion, was considered one of the success projects of IFAD in Pakistan which claimed a significant accomplishment of its objectives with tangible outcomes.
On the conclusion of NADP, the PMU was converted into a local NGO - Diamer Poverty Alleviation Programme (DPAP), mainly to fill the vacuum between the community institutions including women groups and the service providing agencies, both in the public and private sectors. DPAP aimed to help improve the livelihoods and quality of life of the poorer segment of population in Diamer district, by creating human, physical, social and financial capital.
Taking off from the assets built by NADP, the DPAP has continued to carry out development activities on participatory approach. Targeting of the beneficiaries, particularly for the post floods emergency and relief and rehabilitation activities has been effective, which was a continuation of the approach of the previous project. All this helped DPAP in identifying and working with the real target groups.
Continuing on the NADP’s participatory approach, DPAP has been gathering the communities at a valley level platform (Gayal in Darel valley) through establishing of cluster institutions which comprise of a diversified composition like religious leaders, tribal elders, youth, educated and employed persons. This institution was given the mandate of resolving the socio-cultural and religious issues which may hamper the smooth process of development.Establishment of institutional setup at village level throughout the district can be of immense impact in terms of speedy resolution of issues and preparing the communities for accepting the challenge of adopting activities of greater volume and magnitude.
Balingahis a small village situated on the right bank of Thore Stream about 25 km away from Karakuram Highway while its distance from district head quarter is approximately 52 km. The village comprises around one hundred households. The inhabitants of the village are considered to be poorest of the poor in the entire district. The village falls in single cropping zone. Livelihood of the community is dependent on livestock raring and agriculture. The sole rights of all the natural resources – land, water, forest, are with aboriginal people but these villagers who are settlers are allowed to get minimum benefits from these resources like forest and by products of forest trees and naturally grown grass (as fodder). Inhabitants face harsh climatic conditions along with no basic facilities like education, health, water supply and electricity.
Keeping in view the vulnerable, marginalized status of the community and their hardships the community was facing, DPAP put especial emphasis on this community and constituted a representative body so as to uplift the socio economic standard of the people living in village. Observing the potential of the community, DPAP would encourage them to adopt Gayal Committee Model for the village. This would engage people of all ages playing their specific roles for the prosperity of village and wellbeing of its people.
Keeping in view the lack of awareness and illiteracy, the focus was on the religious leaders and elders of the community so as to ensure their active participation and ownership on the mutually agreed activities of development and their timely accomplishment. The approach has been applied on the community by sitting with them sharing their weakness and strengths along with opportunities. This exercise had let the community realize what resources they have and what they need. The resource need assessment helped the community in identifying the major issues and their solutions. In the later stages a spatial plan of the village will be developed in close consultation of the community. There after an action plan will be developed for the community mentioning all the major activities and roles and time frame so as to let the community has clear vision and their commitment to undertake the activities decided by the community in their action plan.
Formation this institution led by a team of religious leaders of the village supported by another layer of elders and notables of the village and the outer crust comprising of a team of youth - called front liners- would help in implementing the projects and ideas endorsed and decisions taken by the Committee of their own with best of outcomes.