Community based organizations boost economic growth

Community members rebuild infrastructure. Photo: UNDP Pakistan/2011

The people of Bahar Shah village in Punjab province, rely on the fertile land adjoining Indus River as their main source of sustenance. Villagers have been cultivating and selling sugarcane, wheat and cotton crops for generations.

However, the floods of 2010 changed everything. The worst floods in Pakistan’s history, an estimated 1.67 million houses were destroyed and 2.2 million hectares of agricultural land damaged.


  • UNDP provided around 7,000 agricultural kits, including tools, seeds, and fertilizers to help small scale farmers stand back on their feet.
  • Short-term work opportunities were created through cash for work, benefiting almost 1.3 million people. 3,600 small-scale community infrastructure schemes launched.
  • 10,494 community organizations members were trained in disaster risk management and planning.
  • UNDP helped restore 60 micro-hydro power units and established 2,000 bio-gas plants to provide communities with access to alternate energy.

Mukhtiar Hussain, a local villager said, “I saw my own house, crops, livestock and all my belongings carried away by the devastating waters. With everything lost, my family had to take refuge in a camp.”

When the villagers returned to what remained of their houses, they were faced with the stark reality of rebuilding their lives from scratch. Hussain’s foremost dilemma was to restore his livelihood. His biggest impediment was the damaged tube well that was used to irrigate crops. Hussain, along with ten other families, relied on the water from the tube well to grow crops. With no water, there would be no crops to sell and feed his family.

In response to the floods, UNDP launched a $90 million programme for the flood affected districts and worked closely with the Government of Pakistan to implement a large-scale Early Recovery Programme (ERP). The main focus was to rehabilitate community infrastructure and create livelihood opportunities. This in turn helped build resilience within communities.

At this time, UNDP with its area-based and integrated approach, lead the recovery process and established community organizations in the affected districts. This ensured that the needs of the community were determined by the community including those of the most vulnerable groups especially women, children, the elderly and impoverished.

Hussain became a member of the community organization in his village and repaired the tube well. With the tube well now operational, Hussian said, “I feel elated as now my crops will flourish again and life will return to normalcy. I can see the happiness in my children’s eyes. I am no longer thinking about the floods and am focused on recovering from my losses.”

Through the community-based, participatory approach, strong partnerships between the affected communities, community-based organizations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and government institutions were restored and strengthened in all aspects of early recovery. 2,337 community organizations were established across the three main provinces and 58,048 members trained on Community Based Organizations management. Through assisting in rehabilitating community basic infrastructures, the ER programme effectively supported 4,938,203 people across the 2,404 villages. Around 1.7 million people have been supported by restoring affected communities’ livelihood opportunities. This resulted in significant economic development for local villagers through agricultural based income generation.

The Early Recovery programme is among the largest early recovery and restoration programme carried out by UNDP. The programme worked in 4,000 villages across the country benefiting more than 5.5 million people in 29 most-affected districts.

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