Majda Shabbir, IFRC
The glow of lightbulbs in the pristine Neelum valley, North of Pakistan, marks an impressive wave of progress for communities living in the village of Naqdar. With help from the Pakistan Red Crescent Society’s Integrated Community Based Risk Reduction (ICBRR) programme, local villagers, led by Muhammed Shafiq, have recently discovered a way to systemise the power flow to 400 households, allowing them to channel electricity into their homes high up in the mountains.
As a member of the local Community Based Organisation (CBO) and an employee in the state electricity department in Neelum valley, Muhammed, with help from his colleagues and other community members, has set up two hydroelectric or hydel power systems capable of generating 50 KVA each. Every household is then charged 2 US Dollars a month, which is used to employ another CBO member who is trained in maintaining the hydel. Any additional expenses are covered with help from the Red Crescent’s local branch.
Through this programme, Pakistan Red Crescent teams have been able to support some of the most vulnerable communities in the country, empowering them through long-term sustainable initiatives, reducing their dependence on external assistance by encouraging community ownership. Part of the initiative involves linking local communities with state departments and local humanitarian organisations for partnerships on small scale projects to resolve pressing concerns, like finding a power source for the village of Naqdar.
Under the ICBRR programme, the Red Crescent also linked local communities with various actors in government including the Forest department. This has resulted in the plantation of 5,000 saplings in the districts of Neelum and Bagh in Kashmir, and Mansehra in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while the Irrigation department rehabilitated irrigation channels in Neelum. Other interventions resulted in the deployment of a doctor at a basic health unit in Thub in Kashmir, and a medical dispenser in Thar, Sindh. Families in Bagh also received 100 poultry chicks from the government’s Community Development unit.
Like many of her neighbours, Maria from Bagh received vegetable seeds from the Agriculture department. An 11th grade student of economics, who recently lost her father, Maria lives with her mother and six siblings.
“These extra earnings from selling the home-grown vegetables will go a long way,” says Maria. “I attended a training organized by the Red Crescent. We received hens and seeds, which are of very good quality compared to what we had before.”
Asma, a CBO member in Mansehra, feels the Red Crescent has revived the process of all-inclusive decision making in communities.
“The Red Crescent teams moderate the discussions on any issue that the community faces,” she says. “They are able to convince each group to listen to each other and assist in reaching a common ground,” says Asma.
She and her fellow CBO members are happy to have their voices heard. The CBOs regularly save money to contribute to bigger projects as well as meeting smaller community needs. The ICBRR programme prioritizes the most vulnerable communities and promotes the integration of gender and diversity considerations to ensure that aid reaches those who may be particularly marginalized.
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