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- Thursday, May 17, 2012 - From Print Edition


A state-of-the-art village for flood affectees


KOT ADDU: Yes or yes sir are two words popular with school-goers in a model village set up for 2010 flood victims in Ehsanpur in Kot Addu tehsil. Their faces beam when they utter these words. They talk to visitors with an ease and confidence unlike their elders who are illiterate and cultivators by profession. This is truly the beginning of a new era for the generation of these cultivators.


Gaddi Baloch, as they call themselves, used to live along the mighty Indus some 25 kilometers off the model village before the flash floods. The surging water badly affected over two-thirds of the farmland of over 200 revenue villages in Kot Addu tehsil and wiped out six hamlets - Basti Mumlee, Basti Shadi Wala, Basti Gaidry, Basti Rajab Pari Wala, Basti Kitha Chitt Wala and Basti Bukhsh Wala - in Loomarwala Union Council.


For the rehabilitation of the residents of these hamlets, the Punjab government allocated 20 acres to Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) in Seed Farm, Ehsanpur, for the development of a state-of-the-art village. The PPAF through a tripartite partnership with local Engro Foundation and Farmers Development Organization carefully selected beneficiaries from the hamlets through social mobilization and set up a model village with the name of Ittehad Village.


Under government instructions, a poverty score card exercise was carried out to ascertain the level of poverty among the benefiting communities while opinion of locals was also given due importance in the selection of beneficiaries from the hamlets or villages.


The next step was the formation of community organizations so that they could take control of their own development and could reach common decisions for their own good and peaceful living in new environs. Community organizations were named after their respective hamlets. Orientation sessions were organized with the members regarding Ehsanpur Model Village project, in which they were introduced to all partners/stakeholders and their respective roles. These bodies’ members were also briefed on the salient features of the project.


They were also briefed on terms and conditions, application process, affidavit, labour and financial contributions to the construction and development of the village. Now they are saving Rs150 per member/month and the amount is being deposited with the bank in the name of the organization.


As all residents of the selected hamlets belong to different tribes and clans and hence have different cultures and norms. The village layout plan comprises six blocks and one block has been assigned to accommodate the beneficiaries of one particular hamlet to ensure peace and harmony as well preserving their social fabric.


As many as 39 communities’ members were selected for a three-month comprehensive civil works training in masonry, steel-fixing and shuttering carpenter for the construction of housing units. The trained ones took part in the construction of their own houses and other facilities in the village.


“The training course was designed to cover all aspects from basis to advance, therefore, it provided us with an excellent opportunity for better understanding of the subject to those who even did not have prior knowledge of construction,” a resident, Muhammad Yousaf said, adding that the illiterate participants were given basic education like writing their names and simple mathematical calculations so that they could understand and learn their respective trades easily.


He said: “We are happy and feel motivated because of various skills imparted and consider our future secured now. We are confident to improve our living standards and will provide better education to our children.” He said that the training had benefited them a lot and it would go a long way in becoming a permanent source of their earning.


As many as 166 housing units have been constructed and handed over to the selected beneficiaries. Spread over a seven-marla piece of land, each housing unit consists of two rooms, a veranda, a washroom, a bricked stove and some space for kitchen gardening.


On top of all, independent off-grid solar energy panels have been installed at every housing unit for the round-the-clock power supply, avoiding recurring costs and introducing alternative energy solutions in the wake of energy crisis.


Connected to the solar panels, as many as 18 streetlight poles have also been installed in the village. The streets are of bricks while a sewerage and sanitation plan has also been put in place to avoid inconvenience during the rainy season.


There is a park and a playground for children. Livestock enclosures have been constructed for animals. Besides a shopping area, an efficient sewerage system has been laid down. Tree plantation has also been ensured to protect and improve the environment.


Another significant feature of the model village is that the ownership rights of the houses vest in the names of women, instead of men, to make them empowered and play a leading role in society.


“We could never imagine of having such a beautiful house,” says Rashida Begum while cooking food on the bricked stove.


“We are really thankful to the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund for helping us in the time of distress,” she says.


Tree plantation has been completed in Ehsanpur Village and every household has been assigned the responsibility of protecting and watering specific number of saplings. Management committees have been formed for maintenance, long-term sustainability, cleanliness, protection of livestock, security, watering plantation, etc.


“We have been living without electricity and other basic necessities of life for decades. It is a new world for us,” says 60-year-old Hafeez Mai while pointing towards the solar panels.


Renovation work of the basic health unit has also been completed while additional staff hiring and purchase of equipment has also been completed.


Paying special attention towards education of the local communities’ children, a baseline assessment of four schools in Ehsanpur has been conducted for enrollment of children.


Rakh Seed Farm and Yousuf Wala have been selected for education project interventions because of their easy approach. School management committees have been formed in both these institutions. Over 300 children have enrolled in the schools. Besides these schools, an adult literacy programme for the village dwellers has been initiated and so far 150 female and 70 male students have been registered.


A training shed has also been built for the locals to where they make prayers mats and other decorative items with Koonder, a self-growing plant found in abundance in the area. As many as 20 women have so far been imparted training in making prayer mats from mosaic.


A dairy hub has also been set up to promote livestock production through improved management services and collect premium quality milk in the target areas. Another purpose of the project is to connect the poor beneficiaries to the sustainable livelihood so that they could enjoy an improved lifestyle.


The Ittehad Village is a symbol of the true meaning of integrated development where a diverse partnership of the provincial government, multinationals, local corporate, non-governmental and civil society organizations have conjured up for changing the lifestyle of the poor and marginalized. -Imran Ahmad Sheikh