Pakistan has a population of over 162 million, with over 60 percent living in rural areas. Despite rapid GDP growth until the 1980s, the country continues to under-perform compared to others at similar levels of per capita income, particularly in terms of income poverty, malnutrition, literacy, gender disparities, and access to health facilities and clean water. Social and human development is constrained by the lack of reliable and sustainable livelihood opportunities and the exclusion of the poor and of women from most decisionmaking processes.
Rising food prices, the energy crisis, and other inflationary pressures have not only pushed more people below the poverty line, but have increased vulnerability of the ultra-poor to an unprecedented level. The rising levels of ethnic and religious strife, conflict and insecurity, and recurring natural calamities have further limited the country’s capacity to deal effectively with persistent poverty.
The IDA-financed Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) was launched in 1999 to support Government efforts to empower poor people to achieve sustainable livelihoods. The objective was to increase their incomes, improve their productive capacity, and provide them better access to services. The project facilitated the formation of inclusive community groups, with the aim of increasing economic activity, skills enhancement, asset base, infrastructure access, and market linkages. The third PPAF project (PPAF III), launched in 2009, built on successful PPAF experiences and further targeted marginalized groups of the most vulnerable and poorest households, including women.
PPAF I and II supported the organization of over 80,000 community organizations in 119 of Pakistan’s 134 districts. The two projects provided 1.9 million micro-credit loans, 16,000 community infrastructure schemes, and skills and enterprise development training for 232,000 people — with substantial increases in incomes and assets acquisition.
- Infrastructure strengthened communities. There have been 16,000 subprojects reaching more than 1.5 million households and 8 million rural poor around the country, with efforts ranging from safe water to irrigation, rural access roads, flood protection, and micro-hydroelectricity.
- Drinking water made safe. Of the infrastructure subprojects, 34 percent have provided safe drinking water to over 2 million people.
- Land replenished by irrigation As a result of more than 4,600 irrigation subprojects, farmland of an estimated 186,000 acres has been irrigated, and around 40,000 acres of barren land is newly used for productive farming purposes.
- Roads and bridges opened access. Multiple subprojects were responsible for 1,580 kilometers of rural roads, which now provide access to markets for rural producers, as well as to health and education services more regularly.
- Micro credit financed opportunities. More than 710,000 active borrowers of micro credit (with 44 percent loans disbursed to women) had close to 100 percent recovery rate.
- Livelihoods enhanced. More than 230,000 individuals received skills development and business development training. This has significantly increased demand for new business investment among poor rural households.
- Health and education. More than 87,600 community citizens (75 percent female) benefited from the establishment of 22 health facilities, and 260 persons were trained to provide quality health services. There were 69 schools established with 8,172 students enrolled (71 percent girls) and attending school regularly, and 270 teachers have been trained.
- Building safer homes in areas affected by earthquakes. More than 30,000 households benefited from the rebuilding of 425 infrastructure subprojects (water, drainage, roads, and sanitation). And 74,000 completely damaged houses were reconstructed in compliance with guidelines for seismically safe houses.
IDA provided a total of US$328 million for the first 2 PPAF projects. Additional funding of US$238 million was also provided for its earthquake reconstruction program. A further US$75 million of additional finance is supporting participatory development through social mobilization in over 50,000 villages. Through the PPAF III, IDA is providing an additional US$250 million.
PPAF is working with 70 partner organizations, including the Rural Support Programs, micro-finance institutions, and civil society organizations to make progress reducing rural poverty. The PPAF has entered into collaborative arrangements with United Nations Development Program, World Wildlife Fund, the World Food Program, the International Labour Organization, UN Habitat, and Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, as well as local and international corporate firms in Pakistan.
The long-term PPAF strategy is to cover all villages and hamlets of Pakistan through a comprehensive range of activities. PPAF III will work to promote stronger community institutions, particularly their ability to manage their own development and to access services. Targeted households will have greater livelihood opportunities and lower vulnerability. Access to social and physical infrastructure will be fully integrated to maximize the impact on poverty. Furthermore, there will be a major effort to provide increased occupational skills training, with the goal of spurring exponential growth in micro-enterprises.