Established in 1991, NRSP is the largest Rural Support Programme in the country in terms of outreach, staff and development activities. It is a not for profit organization registered under Section 42 of Companies Ordinance 1984.
NRSP's mandate is to alleviate poverty by harnessing people's potential and undertake development activities in Pakistan. It has a presence in 54 Districts in all the four Provinces including Azad Jammu and Kashmir through Regional Offices and Field Offices. NRSP is currently working with more than One million poor households organized into a network of more than 102,000 Community Organizations. With sustained incremental growth, it is emerging as Pakistan's leading engine for poverty reduction and rural development.
Strategy and Approach
Historical Perspective |
An Acceptable Solution |
Vision and Purpose
NRSP works to release the potential abilities, skills and
knowledge of rural men and women, to enable them to articulate their
aspirations and to effectively marshal the resources they need to meet
their identified needs. The purpose is poverty alleviation - enabling
people to break the cycle of poverty, which begins with lack of
opportunity, extends to the well-known miseries of economic and
nutritional poverty and leads new generations to endure the same
conditions. The process is social mobilization - bringing people together
on new terms for a common purpose. The conceptual tools are 'social
guidance' (recruiting local men and women who will take on a leadership
role), advocacy, capacity building and awareness raising. The programmatic
tools are training, support to institutions, micro-credit, infrastructure
development, natural resource management and 'productive linkages'.
NRSP works to release the potential abilities, skills and knowledge of rural men and women, to enable them to articulate their aspirations and to effectively marshal the resources they need to meet their identified needs. The purpose is poverty alleviation - enabling people to break the cycle of poverty, which begins with lack of opportunity, extends to the well-known miseries of economic and nutritional poverty and leads new generations to endure the same conditions. The process is social mobilization - bringing people together on new terms for a common purpose. The conceptual tools are 'social guidance' (recruiting local men and women who will take on a leadership role), advocacy, capacity building and awareness raising. The programmatic tools are training, support to institutions, micro-credit, infrastructure development, natural resource management and 'productive linkages'.
Our purpose as an advocate for the poor is to bring the concerns of economically-marginal men and women to public consciousness and to affect policy so that the poor are brought into the mainstream of the economy.
NRSP's vision is manifested in expanded opportunities for income-generation; community schools which provide quality primary education, community owned and managed infrastructure schemes, improved agricultural productivity, and higher returns for labour and so on. From the widest perspective the vision is manifested as the first stages of a transformation of civil society.
As of December 2009 a total of 1,458,411 rural men and women decided it would be to their advantage to take part in NRSP’s social mobilization process, believing it to be the best way to address the problems of poverty and under-development in their villages.
For both new and long-term CO members, participation brings about new levels of awareness concerning service provision and infrastructure development in their villages. CO membership also helps people to improve their asset base, by increasing both their income and their ‘social capital’. This might be brought about by adding land to their holdings, increasing the number of animals they own, pooling economic resources to buy new and improved inputs and equipment for farms or businesses, or diversifying the stock for their small shops.
CO participation enables people to accumulate savings, perhaps for the first time in their lives. It gives the rural poor access to an affordable financial service (micro credit) that is designed specifically for them. It provides an outlet through which to invest their savings for household needs and community development schemes. For some of the very poorest and most vulnerable people, such as the former bonded labourers in the NRSP-ILO Project in Hyderabad, NRSP membership provides the possibility of achieving a foothold on a more certain and improved economic future.
CO membership enables rural men and women to greatly expand the purchasing power of their savings and other assets. The best example is NRSP’s partnership with the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, in which the CO’s contribution of 20% of the cost of a community physical infrastructure scheme is multiplied fourfold by the PPAF grant. As of December 2000 a total of 813,724 rural households benefited from these CPIs: in all, CO contributions of Rs 913,131,884 were parlayed into schemes worth Rs 3,713,232,728. Other examples of leverage are found in numerous small-scale partnerships between NRSP, COs and the private or public sectors.
M. H. Khan’s study of NRSP COs found that “ … there is a 7.5% additional increase in income over non-members leading to significant economic impact on the participating households in terms of their total and farm income, total expenditure, savings, consumer durable goods, and children in school and it tends to increase with time …”.
The fact that NRSP works in 32 Districts that encompass diverse socio-economic, geographical and cultural conditions is evidence that the paradigm of social development which NRSP embraces can be applied successfully anywhere in Pakistan. Wherever it operates, NRSP is always working to improve its performance, to reach more deeply into communities, to learn how best to respond to the issues people identify as their priorities, and to work more efficiently and cost-effectively to deliver the programme. NRSP is committed to continuously refining its development vision. Despite the complexity of the task, poverty-alleviation remains the purpose of NRSP’s existence.
The main objective of NRSP is to foster a countrywide network of
grassroots level organizations to enable rural communities to plan,
implement and manage developmental activities and programmes for the
purpose of ensuring productive employment, alleviation of poverty and
improvement in the quality of life.
NRSP is designed in such a way that it
specializes as a support organization, which provides social guidance to
the communities. The
guiding tenets of NRSP’s philosophy are to organize rural communities develop their capital base at the local level
through savings and credit schemes, support human development endeavors and
the communities with the government service delivery departments, donors,
NGOs and the private sector. While interacting with so many stakeholders,
NRSP carefully outlines its role as that of a facilitator. This leads the
communities and other partners to maintain their relationship independent
The generic principles of NRSP’s philosophy prevent it from following a
preconceived package approach. The whole quest is to identify and support
whatever activities communities intend to do on their own according to
their prioritized needs.
The only reliable indicator to assess a
community’s willingness to achieve a particular goal is the intensity of
its previous endeavors to accomplish that desire and the persistence and
consistently towards the work.
To harness people's potential to help
To mobilize people's willingness through the provision of social guidance,
NRSP takes the following steps:
Relying on local perceptions, a
profile is prepared to assess the intensity of poverty prevailing in
the community that seeks social guidance.
The willing community is introduced to
philosophy of NRSP, based on which the
community organizes itself into a socially
viable group called the community organization (CO). In view of the
information provided by the poverty profile, an attempt is made to
encourage the poor to join the CO.
|During initial interactions with the
community, genuine activists, who have an ambition to support
their communities in their quest to overcome poverty, are identified.
The role of these activists in harnessing the willingness of the
communities is of paramount significance.|
|Following the identification of an
activist, a micro plan for each member is developed to see what he or
she is willing to do on his/her own. Along with catering to the
individual needs, group level and village level needs are also
identified. A thorough analysis of each is conducted in view of
available resources and|
constraints to assign priorities to the identified needs.
|The next step after the
cost-benefit analysis, is the arrangement of the desired resources to
address the priority needs. These resources are pooled by the community,
provided by the support organization or managed through other
stakeholders like private and public sector service delivery
departments, NGOs and donors.|
The core assumption of NRSP’s philosophy is that there is a tremendous
willingness amongst the people to help themselves. However, people cannot
harness this willingness on their own. There is a need to mobilize it. To
achieve this, a support mechanism is required that can ensure the
provision of social guidance to the people. Social guidance initiates a
process wherein the communities learn to organize into socially viable
groups, enhance their skills, expand their collective and individual
resource base and optimally utilize their available resources. Experience
has taught NRSP that in the process of social guidance, the availability
of an honest local level activist is vital.
The idea behind the process of social guidance is to find out what people
really want to do themselves and to assess whether whatever they want to
do is possible while keeping in view the resource constraints. If it seems
that the identified activity is practical, then NRSP assists the community
in arranging the desired resources which may be credit, technical
assistance, or specialized skill training for overcoming those
As a result of effective management, despite financial constraints, NRSP
has managed to extent its programme outreach to twenty four districts of
all four provinces and Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK).
The problems of the rural poor in Pakistan are many. These include low
production, low prices, low incomes, low wages, meager savings and
unemployment due to which the rural populace struggle day by day to fight
against the never ending abyss of debt and destitution.
In addition, over-population is leading to pressure on the capacity of natural resources,
upon which the livelihood of the rural poor depends. Many
millions live in abject poverty, marginalized from the mainstream and
often hidden from the public eye. Apparently, the rural poor have no hope
to improve their quality of life.
Development administrators of the ilk of Brayne, in colonial India, once
held that the rural poor had only themselves to blame for their poverty and
misery; ignorant, lazy and morally bankrupt.
An objective analysis of the rural poor has indicated that they are not a
homogenous group but are differentiated with respect to socio-economic
conditions, agro-ecological situations and religio-cultural patterns. They
also have certain commonalties such as; landlessness or small subsistence
holding, isolation from the main economy, unorganized and leaderless, lack
capital and have no access to credit, and lack of marketable skills.
The late Dr. Akhter Hameed Khan, an eminent development scholar of
international fame called this the peasant mentality. In his view the poor
in the sub-continent are mainly subsidy oriented, look for doles, are
fatalistic and follow factionalism. These characteristic elements
essentially translated into lack of capacity of the rural poor to change
their own lot. These are remediable defects, unlike the impression Brayne
had, of the shortcomings of the villagers being irremediable.
Among the lessons that can be drawn from past efforts and the current
situation of the rural poor, we can say that:
- In order to make use of economies of
scale in the production and marketing processes and compete
effectively in input, output and capital markets, small farmers and
landless agricultural laborers require incentives, opportunities and the
organizational capacity to develop cohesion, discipline, human skills,
and the capital necessary to plan and implement development
- Many efforts in rural development have
tended to increase dependence on development agencies rather than
enhancing local capacity to conceive and undertake development
activities in accordance with local priorities and opportunities.
- The specialized agencies for training,
credit, input supply, extension etc. set up by governments are often
hampered in their effectiveness and reach by the lack of a strong and
broad institutional base at the village level.
- At the village level, utilization of
resources tends to be integrated systemically. Development agencies,
however, tend to be organized on a sectoral or functional basis
instead of following an integrated, multi-functional approach. To make
optimal use of the village opportunities, it is important
that villagers have the management capacity to integrate the
assistance available from outside agencies with their own specific
- Many efforts at promoting group
cooperation and activity have been captured by special interests that
seek only to maximize their own benefits. To meet this problem
requires special procedures and discipline that ensure
participation of all possible beneficiaries, and effective supervision
of the development process.
Over the past decades, South Asian
governments have taken various initiatives to create anti-poverty
programmes. However, despite the allocation of large sums of capital and
organizational effort, little seems to have been achieved on the ground.
This failure at poverty alleviation can be attributed to the following
Following a development paradigm alien to the region, utilitarianism sectoral
imbalances, conventional top-down strategies, ad-hocism, inequitable distribution of assets, inaccessibility to technological
innovations and finance, lack of rural productive infrastructure, over-exploitation of natural
resources, inadequate development of the social sector, the use of
development resources as political patronage, and viewing the poor as
a liability, therefore, to be shunned, ignored and disregarded.
This obviously led to the exclusion of a large number of rural poor from
benefiting out of the government initiated programmes, hence increasingly
An Acceptable Solution
One solution, held for many decades, to the problem of small scale farm
operation was collectivization of the kind implemented in China and the
former Soviet Union. The other one practiced in the capitalist world
envisages rapid transformation of agriculture into a corporate system.
Neither suited the rural poor of the Third World. A solution that was
needed was one that preserved the private ownership of land; at the same
time it called for pooling of resources and their cooperative management
at the village level.
More specifically, it was felt that there was a dire need for
combination of principles and implementation methods which have been
employed successfully to organize the rural poor around their interests,
and to service these rural organizations in a permanent and profitable
The philosophy proposed for the working of NRSP was extracted from the
experience of countries with flourishing small holder agricultural
sectors. These are the principles of Raiffeissen
used with success in the institutionally based development of German
agriculture. The Japanese pursued the same principles. These principles
of village organization were also adopted with successful results in
Taiwan and by the Saemaul
Undong movement in the Republic of South
In Pakistan, these ideas were first made the basis of a rural
development effort by Dr.
Akhter Hameed Khan, when he initiated the
Comilla project in 1959, in what is now Bangladesh. These ideas have
further been tested and proved to be successful by the implementation of
integrated development through a participatory approach by the Aga Khan
Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) in the Northern Areas, under the
leadership of Mr.
Shoaib Sultan Khan during the eighties.
The lessons learnt from AKRSP proved that organization of the poor was
the best means to alleviate poverty. Here community participation was
broad-based and decentralized with homogenous organizations at the
village and neighborhood level.
Broad-based and homogenous
membership was extended to all the members and decision making was
unanimous by all the members whose common economic interest was best
served by working together. Decentralized participation meant that
decision making was the responsibility of the local communities while
supporting agencies, like government and other development agencies
provided technical and financial assistance, but did not infringe upon the
sovereignty of the community organization. In other words, community
participation ensured development of, for and by the people.
The importance of a support mechanism for implementing the
conceptual package is central. The programmes for the poor can only be
effectively implemented if these are led by an autonomous support
structure, committed to the creation of a participatory village level
institutional framework. The traditional approach of establishing a large
number of specialized agencies (for training, credit, input supplies and
extension etc.) for reaching the poor has failed because they were
hampered in their effectiveness by the absence of a strong and broad
institutional base at the village level. Creation of a village level
institutional framework does not fall in the purview of any of these
NRSP was therefore set up as a Rural Support Programme, which has taken the
lead in the creation, promotion and support of effective and disciplined
community organizations to manage rural development in Pakistan on a
nationwide level. Wherever possible, existing or proposed organizations of
the communities have also been used or incorporated into this effort
provided that they were willing to operate in accordance with the
principles and terms of partnership offered by NRSP.