Visit of Prof. Dr. Manzoor Hussain Soomro, President ECOSF to Sindh Rural Support Organization (SRSO) Project Sites in Districts Larkana and Khairpur in Sindh-Pakistan (March 10-12, 2021)
While travelling in Sindh province of Pakistan on a private visit, Prof. Manzoor Soomro, President ECOSF visited the Sindh Rural Support Organization (SRSO) projects sites in Larkana & Khairpur districts and the Headquarters in Sukkur from 10-12 March 2021. The visit was taken up on especial request of the Chairperson of SRSO to review the on-going activities of SRSO for improvement of socioeconomic conditions of rural poor population. Dr. Soomro was given an exposure to the on-going projects; where he interacted with participants/beneficiaries of the projects and activities as well as the SRSO staff and finally paid a visit to SRSO Head Office in Sukkur for briefing and feedback. A brief report on the visit is highlighted below.
Activity- 1 (10-03-21)
Travelled to Larkana District Office of SRSO, met the District Manager and the Community Nutrition Officer of Taluka Bakrani. After initial briefing, visited the Village Organization (VO) and Farmer Field School (FFS) Ishaq Khuharo and had meeting with Agriculture Entrepreneur. The FFS is for training the poor farmers to grow vegetables in their backyard/kitchen gardens and also to keep goats in order to consume nutritious vegetables and pure goat milk so as to improve nutrition level of themselves and their children. The technical support how to conduct FFS is provided by the Agriculture Officer who joined the meeting. The District Manager Larkana Mr. Sajjad Kandhir and the Regional General Manager (RGM) Mr. Jamal Shoro also joined in the meeting. The Agriculture Entrepreneur man and his wife along with other VO member ladies were present.
According to FAO-UN and my personal experiences as Team Leader of an FFS lead Cotton IMP Programme in Asia, “the FFS approach is an innovative, participatory and interactive learning approach that emphasizes problem solving and discovery based learning. FFS aims to build farmers’ capacity to analyze their production systems, identify problems, test possible solutions, and eventually encourage the participants to adopt the practices most suitable to their farming systems”. FFS can also provide an opportunity for farmers to practice and test/evaluate sustainable land use technologies, and introduce new technologies through comparing their conventional technologies developed with their own tradition and culture.
A Farmer Field School brings together a group of farmers, livestock herders or fisherfolk, to learn on how to shift towards more sustainable production practices, by better understanding complex agro-ecosystems and by enhancing ecosystem services. A FFS group meets regularly during a production cycle, setting up experimentation and engaging in hands-on learning to improve skills and knowledge that will help adapt practices to their specific context. The FFS empowers individuals and groups to move towards more sustainable practices and improve livelihoods. Hailing from a rural farming community, I personally believe that “FFS is a better tool for promoting technological adaptation among the rural communities who may not know how to read and write, which leads to sustainable rural development and prosperity of the poverty-stricken people”.
During the discussions and Q&A session with the beneficiaries and SRSO Officials, I observed as under.
- While the Community Nutrition Officer knew the FFS concepts but she perhaps had a different responsibility and task. The capacity of VO & FFS participants needs to be enhanced by professional FFS Facilitators.
- In the light my life time experiences as agriculturist and non-formal educationist having introduced the concept of FFS in Sindh Pakistan under a “FAO-EU IPM Programme for Cotton in Asia” 2000-2004, I feel that SRSO team needs capacity building in FFS by professional FFS Facilitators, which are available in the Department of Agriculture Extension Sindh.
- Agriculture Entrepreneurship program using FFS methodology is an excellent concept but the activity needs to be monitored and quality assured. The target of improving nutrition status of poor participants of the Village Ishaq Khooharo seems to be quite a challenge! My feeling on the basis of discussions is that other FFSs may also have challenges of different kind!
On 11-03-2021, three SRSO projects sites in District Khairpur were visited for interaction with the Community Organizations under the Peoples’ Poverty Reduction Program (PPRP) funded by Government of Sindh and implemented by SRSO. Brief report on field visit and the interaction with beneficiaries is shared below.
Prof. Soomro along with District Manager SRSO Mr. Khadim Shar participated in the Village Organization (VO) & Business Development Group (BDG) meeting at Village Meenhoon Khan Jamro, Union Council Daraza in Tehsil Gambat. The VO representative made a presentation and elaborated all the interventions of PPRP/SRSO being done in the village through the VO. After the VO presentation on BDG, Community Investment Fund, Income Generating Grant and Vocational Training Program, the beneficiaries present in good numbers full of enthusiasm, were interacted with and asked questions about various interventions and their benefits to the community. The beneficiaries enthusiastically answered and defined the way they are utilizing the inputs/contributions of SRSO.
“I was very pleased with responses and explanations by the reasonably well organized women members of the VO. I highly appreciated the women for their joint efforts for their own empowerment using a bottom-up approach with the technical and financial support of SRSO”, observed Prof. Soomro.
He then visited the BDG’s Grocery Shop and checked the record of business. He felt pleased with the comments of Group members for developing their economic system through BDG Grocery Shop. He suggested them some improvement actions especially for record keeping, market linkages, communication & market skills and other ways of buying/selling. Efforts of the villager women were much appreciated for building a Grocery Shop under the BDG within their community.
Next stop of the visitors was Village Simno Ujjan, Union Council Shaheed Saleem Ahmed Kharl in Tehsil Gambat where they attended the VO and BDG meeting. The VO representative gave a briefing on theintervention of Peoples’ Poverty Reduction Program. Afterwards, opinion of the beneficiaries receiving the support of Community Investment Fund, Inter-Generating Grant for Vocational Training Program and BDG was sought. Each person nicely explained the process of receiving benefits from Micro investment plan for execution of the interventions. The role of well-organized women for uplifting themselves was much appreciated. Subsequently, the BDG’s Garment & Cloth, and Ladies’ Accessories shop was visited. The group members shared their business execution. The members told that all the items in the shop were purchased by BDG members from regional market of Sukkur. They showed record registers of the material and the cash flow of the business. There seemed quite a room for improvement in the program; particularly in terms of stock taking and determining the demand and the most selling items.
The 3rd location visited was the Village Mehboob Kalhoro, Union Council Razidero in Tehsil Gambat. Therein, a Vocational Training Program on Honeybee keeping was running. Program beneficiaries were interacted with to get their views about their future plans after receiving the training. Participants indicated that they plan to form a BDG for developing a honey business. The training program was much appreciated by the participating beneficiaries. The professional honeybee keeping expert trainers were from National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC) Islamabad, a gesture much appreciated by the visitor as the National Program was training farmers in far flung areas of Pakistan.
Activity- 5: (12.03.2021)
After the two days of field visits, President ECOSF Prof. Soomro had a briefing/debriefing session in the head office of SRSO at Sukkur. The SRSO team was led by Mr. Jamal Ahmed Shoro the Regional General Manager, flanked by five other officers responsible for field program management, logistics, entrepreneurship and monitoring & evaluation (M&E).
The meeting began with the name of God Almighty and participants introduced themselves. Afterwards, the RGM Mr. Shoro made a power point presentation on the establishment, objectives, governance structure and the projects of SRSO. This was followed by Q&A for better understanding of the organization’s projects.
Professor Soomro then debriefed the SRSO team and shared his observations and feelings about the SRSO initiatives and projects that he had visited. He then shared his wisdom and experiences and made some recommendation for improvement in the implementation of SRSO activities especially on entrepreneurship, business development and capacity building.
His major observations/comments and recommendations included the following.
- Team overseeing, implementing the programs needs to understand the bigger end goal of SRSO
- Staff implementing and facilitating FFS need to be trained and retrained by experienced professionals by involving the FAO-UN, who have the copy right on FFS concepts
- Hand holding of BDG by professionals needs to be continued for some time
- BDGs need to learn the whole supply/value chain of their products
Exchange of visits between BDGs and between FFSs should take place so as to learn from each other’s’ experiences. However, expert facilitators and mid-career program leaders better participate on the occasions