Mawlana Hazar Imam and Mrs. Lynda Chalker, Minister for Overseas Development, on Thursday 16th May, 1991 signed an exchange of letters relating to the pledging of UK Pounds 4.7 million, by the British Government, to the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in Chitral, Northern Pakistan. The signing ceremony took place in London, England.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mrs.Chalker said "The Chitral project is a trailblazer. It exemplifies so many of the major concerns of the British aid programme, directly reaching some of the poorest in the country, helping them to establish their own community organisations and to undertake small projects such as irrigation channels and link roads, establish saving schemes so they can invest in machinery, tools and seed or fertilizer, and offer technical advice and provide training."
The minister spoke of the programme's particular emphasis on encouraging women to become more active in the development process. "The project's success is above all due to the participation of the communities themselves in determining their own choice of activities and the way they proceed. This is an example of genuine grass roots development, where the ultimate measure of success is the greater control that individuals and communities gain over their own lives."
Hazar Imam, in responding to Mrs. Chalker, said that in much of today's approach to development, there is a vital element missing, that of access. "If we are to create an enabling environment in the Third World, we need to combine incentive and access. People need access to opportunity, to choice, to knowledge, to skills and to resources. We are searching for ways to enable these people actively to contribute to and to participate in the development process. This is what I mean by the Enabling Environment.
The people of the Third World have great ambitions for what they can do for themselves, said Mawlana Hazar Imam. "As incomes begin to rise, the most exciting possibilities are emerging. People are taking responsibility for creating, and paying for, their own social services. They are building clinics and schools. And they are insisting on quality in these services precisely because they are paying for them. These ideas of self-help and community partnership are a new dimension of development.'
Since 1987, special emphasis has been placed on the Overseas Development Administration (ODA) and Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) cooperation within the Aga Khan network of health and education programmes in Chitral, one of Pakistan's most remote areas. ODA had previously contributed Pounds 3.8 million to the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in this area. Chitral is one of five districts in the North of Pakistan served by the Programme covering a total of 1,350 villages, where village organisations as well as women's organisations have proven to be especially effective vehicles for poverty alleviation.
The New ODA grant will extend the AKRSP programmes in the Chitral area from 384 villages to about 600 villages, thereby covering ninety percent of the area's population by 1996. These village organisations provide a full range of services, including infrastructural programmes, savings, credit provision, human resource development and technology transfer in agriculture, livestock management and forestry. Mrs. Chalker also announced that the ODA had approved an additional UK Pounds 1.2 million contribution to the work of the Aga Khan Health Services in Chitral, over the next five years. The Aga Khan Foundation, a private development agency, places particular emphasis on health, education and rural development in low income-countries of Asia and Africa. It is part of the broader international network of social, economic and cultural development institutions, including the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Aga Khan Health and Education Services.
Source: Africa Ismaili (July 1991)
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