Stories

A two-day workshop on the Sendai Framework for Action (SFA), an international legal framework for implementing disaster risk reduction (DRR) projects, was conducted for stakeholders of the humanitarian and disaster management community in Kabul, Afghanistan this November. The workshop was conducted by Community World Service Asia and supported by the Japan Platform (JFP) and the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA). The prime objective of the workshop was to orient participants on the SFA, enhance their understanding in order to use it more effectively and to identify its gaps while working in the Afghanistan context.

A total of sixty humanitarian actors and policy makers representing the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW), Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock MAIL, UN Agencies (UN-WFP, UN-IOM) , Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), INGOs, and NGOs, participated in this learning event.

Afghanistan being a signatory to the SFA, the ANDMA took an active part in the workshop and their Director of International Relations, Mohammad Omar Mohammadi, also welcomed the audience and expressed his gratitude towards Community World Service Asia for arranging this workshop. He believed that this workshop would really enhance ANDMA staff’s level of understanding on the framework and would further enable them to improve the implementation of DRR activities and policies at a national level.

Emmeline Mae Managbanag, Deputy Director at Community World Service Asia (CWSA) in Afghanistan briefed the participants on CWSA’s DRR initiatives, coordination, and partnership with ANDMA since 2008. She further conveyed that the organization has been active in DRR through a number of projects. This was followed by a presentation by Ezzatullah Siddiqui, advisor to the ANDMA. He introduced the workshop overview and explained Afghanistan’s overall disaster management system and its current international cooperation on DRR status.

The workshop included both presentations on SFA and practical group activities on its various priorities and outcomes. Participants knowledge on key SFA areas such as its history dating back to the Hyogo Framework for Action, it’s scope and purpose, expected outcomes, targets, priorities for action, guidance principles and stakeholder roles was developed and in some cases further enhanced.

Participants representing UN agencies and iMMA shared their DRR policies and projects and its impact in Afghanistan so that other participants, specially ANDMA, could learn from their experiences and would subsequently help them in preparing their national report on the Sendai Framework for Action. In a group activity participants explored gap analyses of the DRR work in Afghanistan. They specifically focused on the areas of the country that needed improved national level DRR initiatives. Through the group exercise, participants learnt how to identify and address  gaps on Capacity, Implementation, Systems, resourcing and coordination mechanism in DRR work in the country.

This group work allowed participants to share their experiences on improvement in the field in Afghanistan. Participants learnt a lot from each other. The workshop facilitator advised participants on how to use SFA for DRR. He discussed the application areas of SFA for each organization, main actions points to use for SFA and the support required for implementation of the framework.

Participants’ knowledge and understanding was assessed through an evaluation test post training.  The average pre-test score was 30% while the post-test score was 75%. This reveals a 45% improvement in participants’ understanding on the Sendai Framework for Action workshop.

Participants, including ANDMA key personnel, agreed to use Sendai Framework for Action and showed their commitment towards its successful implementation.

Community World Service Asia, with the support of Act for Peace (AfP) has set up three Rural Health Centres (RHC) in in the villages of Nabiser, Dhoronaro and Hyder Farm, located in the Umerkot district of Sindh in Pakistan since 2015. These health centres are run and managed by Community World Service Asia and are supporting more than 100,000 people in the district. The RHCs provide routine OPDs, Reproductive Health Services, Family Planning Services, Health Education Sessions, Antenatal and Postnatal services, and also provide free of cost medication and a full range of preventive health coverage.

The community mobilizers assigned with these RHCS regularly visit and monitor the catchment population to mobilize, organize and increase the awareness of the communities residing in these areas on health issues. They are also delivering health awareness sessions for men and women in their villages and for children in their schools.

Access to well-equipped health facilities is a major issue for most rural communities in Sindh. In order to provide health services nearly at the doorstep of these deprived communities, free medical camps were organized in three different Union Councils in the farther catchment areas of the RHCs. The religious ethnicities of the communities where the medical camps were set up were mainly Hindu and Muslims, belonging to different sects and castes of each religion.

The Medical camps services focused primarily on Mother and Child Care. The first two camps were set up at the Syed Muhammad Memon village and Abdul Majeed Arain village through the 24th and 25th of November, while the third camp was organized at the Daim Nohri village on the 30th November. Apart from delivering free consultations, free medicines were also provided to patients visiting the camps. Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI), Gastritis, Diarrhea, flu and fever were found to be the most common health concerns while diagnosing patients at these camps.

Antenatal cards were also issued to pregnant women visiting the medical camps and were advised to visit their nearby Rural Health Center for further consultation and medication. The lady medical officers at the camps shared key awareness messages on the importance and methods of family planning. Community Mobilizers conducted sessions on Child Spacing, family planning and the importance of check-ups during pregnancy among camp visitors as well.

A focal person from the town committee also visited the medical camp and appreciated the efforts of the health team involved and emphasized on the need to conduct these camps on a monthly basis.

The three villages where the camps were set up were all at a distance of seven to nine kilometres from the district of Umerkot. These areas were identified as the most vulnerable in terms of access to health facilities and frequency of diseases. Most of the community members from these villages are unskilled laborers and farmers who cannot afford expensive medical treatment or travel costs to health centres in the cities.

Honestly, neither the students nor was I actually enjoying the lessons,

confessed 3rd grade Mathematics teacher Inayatullah. Teaching at the Zangue Girls High School in Behsood District of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, for the past four years, Inayatullah has a students capacity of 77 in each of his two classes.

In these four years of his teaching,  Inayatullah had been using traditional teaching methods that he had learned during his academic years. Rather than engaging his students in the classroom, he taught them through lectures and theory based learning methods which led the students to lose interest in the subject and topics taught. This was damaging the quality of the school’s education standards and was leading to absenteeism. Inayatullah had not been introduced to new and interactive teaching methods then so he went with what he knew only.  With time, Inayatullah observed that many students in his class could not even identify [alphabet] letters easily and were not able to combine letter to spell or read our words properly. This was very worrisome for him as a teacher as well as for the institute.

In March 2016, Inayatullah got the opportunity to participate in a five-day teachers training conducted by Community World Service Asia. The training was conducted for school teachers to learn about new teaching methodologies to be able to establish child friendly classroom environments and to motivate students towards learning. It focused on enhancing teachers’ capacities on being more interactive in their teaching styles and finding ways of actively involving students in daily classroom activities. The teachers were trained on development and utilization of various low and no cost teaching methods and teaching aid materials. Moreover, the teachers were encouraged to form student groups in their classes, assign various tasks to each group and conduct group work exercises with them to ensure students involvement in classroom activities. This will bring into practise the learning by doing theory. As a result of this training, the teachers adopted different teaching methods and started using colorful and visually appealing materials during classroom learning sessions making the lessons easily understandable and interesting for their students.

One activity introduced to the teachers in the training was the “Morning Meetings”. This, among other exercises, was something new and interesting for Inayatullah. Teachers were encouraged to use the Morning Meeting activity to help students and teachers interact with each other through questions and answers. A simple question like “What is your favourite fruit?” would spark up conversations regarding likes and dislikes of students and teachers.

I liked the Morning Meeting activity with the students the most. It not only helps establish a trusting and friendly relationship between the teachers and students but it also improves students’ confidence in sharing ideas, asking questions, and discussing issues with each other.

According to Inayatullah, prior to the training, teachers mostly used the lecture method or reading from the book, which was not only hard for students to understand but they also lost attention of students very easily during class.

As i started using the many creative teaching methods i had learnt in the training, not only did my students start engaging and participating more in class activities but it also made the learning easier for students. They responded to new lessons much more and much better now.

Inayatullah now forms four to five groups of students in his classroom and assign tasks to each group to carry out during the day. By carrying their responsibilities, they are involved in classroom activities, feel a sense of ownership and are confident.

Inayatullah regularly develops teaching plans which he follows on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis now. This helps him set targets and utilizes various activities he has learnt in each of his lesson. He has also started using low-cost or free teaching materials to help students learn. The various activities and games he now uses have created a child-friendly and a nurturing environment in the classroom. This productive learning space is encouraging students to become more and more participative classroom activities, and shows the improving students’ interest in school and learning activities. Inayatullah further expressed,

The biggest change I have observed is the improved learning ability of the students and decreased number of absentees in my classroom. The students can easily read and write now and are learning better. The quality and accuracy of their homework has improved by more than 50% in just six months. This is a tremendous achievement for both the students and me.

Last year after an unfortunate encounter in Pakistan, Jumadin, living a life of a refugee for 30 years, sold all his belongings and returned with his family to Afghanistan. Jumadin, a disabled man, begged for money on the streets and well-off neighborhoods of Peshawar in Pakistan as a means of earning for his family. One day, however, after collecting his daily money on the streets, he got into a dispute with the local authorities and was taken into custody.

Following the incident, Jumadin with his parents, wife and six children, fled Pakistan and crossed the border to settle back in his country. The family migrated to the village of Murkondy, Mehterlam in the Laghman Province of Afghanistan. They started living in an extremely old, terribly conditioned two-room house. Even back in Afghanistan, Jumadin continued to beg for money in order to support his family, and also asked wealthier families for charity in the form of food and clothes.

Six months ago however, Jumadin’s life took a positive turn as he was selected as a recipient of cash and food supplies under Community World Service Asia’s Emergency Response to Afghan Refugees and IDPs project. An elderly villager had submitted Jumadin’s name for selection under the project after which the project team surveyed the destitute family’s living conditions and needs. Looking at the results, they immediately selected him as a recipient. Consequently, Jumadin received cash amounting to AFN 13,000 (Approx. 189 USD) for two months.

Jumadin spent some of this money on purchasing basic food supplies for his family, and saved AFN 9,000 (Approx. 130 USD) to begin a small family-run business of his own so that he could provide a sustainable income for his family. Jumadin’s wife cooks salty peas every night, and his fourteen-year-old son then sells them in the village market the next day, generating about AFN 400 a day (Appox. 6 USD). Jumadin’s sixteen-year-old son now works as a conductor in a private car service, earning a a daily wage of AFN 300 (Appox. 5 USD). With these improving family income conditions, Jumadin no longer resorts to begging and instead stays home to support his family.

It was with the help of Community World Service Asia that we started the small business. As a result, I am now a happier person and no longer suffer from exhaustion, poverty, and poor living conditions,

shared a thankful Jumadin.

As he was sharing his story, Jumadin prayed for Community World Service Asia to continue this kind of assistance, for disabled people especially, so that they can live peaceful lives and support their families.

Social mobilization is the backbone of any non-governmental organization.  Since most work of NGOs are centered around communities, social mobilizations becomes essential,

insightfully remarked, social worker Umme.

Social workers act as changing agents in the society by motivating communities to think about their social and economic problems in a community forum. This enables the community to work together in achieving their mutual goals of social welfare.

Forty-seven-years-old Umme Kalsoom Siyal, resident of one of the poorest and most under-developed areas of Punjab, Pakistan, has always had a passion for social empowerment and improvement. Umme is the first woman social worker from Dera Ghazi Khan, a district in Southern Punjab province of Pakistan, and home to a community that largely discourages women from stepping out of their homes, even for basic needs. Umme, however, is a fearless lady who not only stands up for herself but also for the disadvantaged community around her. Her numerous demanding experiences in her social work reveal this inner strength and resolution, encouraging her to never give up.

Umme first began her career in social work in 1994 as a supervisor, along with her husband, in an education project called “Alif Laam Mim.” The education department tasked them with conducting a survey of fifty nonfunctional schools so that they could devise school improvement plans. Umme recalls,

This field task was extremely difficult. We had to travel for 7-8 hours on a motorbike to reach the schools, which were located in the desert. Sometimes, it would take days to reach the right places. When we started working in the field, we observed that people had to deal with manifold issues; low income, poor health, food, education and others.

As Umme and her husband sought to empower struggling communities, the communities developed high expectations from the couple. Consequently, Umme and her husband decided to establish Social Youth Council of Patriots (SYCOP), which works with communities to improve their lives. SYCOP was registered in 1996 under a government act in 1961. The organization had humble beginnings, as it began in a one-room office in Rajanpur. However, it slowly expanded over the next twenty-one years into a highly distinguished non-governmental organization.

Umme and her husband first worked as supervisors in SYCOP, but after her husband’s death, Umme took charge as Executive Director. In addition to this role, Umme is a member of Zila Council Assembly and Punjab Commission on the Status of Women from Dera Ghazi Khan Division.

Notwithstanding her countless years of social work, Umme had never received proper training on social mobilization before she attended Community World Service Asia’s training in July this year. Rather, she learnt all her social mobilization skills through her fieldwork and had no knowledge of the specific tools used in social mobilization. However, this summer, Umme learned the fundamentals of social mobilization through the training in July.

The training not only personally benefited Umme, but it also had positive impacts on SYCOP.

During the training, Umme easily connected with the other participants, and they exchanged their field experiences and discussed community behaviors. This exchange of ideas benefited the participants, as they had diverse experiences and came from all over Pakistan. Umme is still in contact with the friends she made at the training, and they share networking and funding opportunities with each other. Umme explained,

Sharing this experience and conversing with participants has left me with innovative ideas and ambitions for the future.

Furthermore, Umme learnt risk management and conflict resolution at the training.

That was the first time I realized how important it is to go to a new community fully prepared. Social mobilizers should be aware of the underlying community conflicts and risks so that they can develop a risk management plan.

Umme also appreciated the experience of conducting a mock survey on Disaster Risk Reduction with a trainer in a village since she learnt all the practical steps of initiating such a field survey. She particularly benefited from this exercise as SYCOP is also working on Disaster Risk Reduction, so she says it could help SYCOP to replicate the same activity with their communities. In the activity at the social mobilization training, the participants conducted a field survey on hazard identification and then held a community meeting.

Another key part of the social mobilization training was cost management. The training improved Umme’s budgeting skills, so now Umme can discuss SYCOP projects with partners and donors with more clarity. Therefore, Umme is more confident in negotiating project agreements for her organization. Moreover, her communication skills have also improved through Community World Service Asia’s social mobilization training. These skills have helped her build contacts and linkages with other stakeholders’ including government departments, civil society organizations, communities and staff.

Umme replicated the social mobilization training with the SYCOP staff and also shared training results with her board members. They plan to develop a social mobilization strategy for SYCOP, as the organization intends to register with the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan at a national level.

SYCOP has enhanced its’ mobilization skills, and now the staff is working on the field on challenging projects, such as reproductive health. Umme believes that it is important to work with men first in order to break social taboos as it is difficult to get women participation in such projects. She said that her team discussed the health issues of women in the community with their husbands openly and made them realize to prioritize health needs of their wives. After listening to them, they acknowledged SYCOP for taking such useful initiatives and asked them to work with women and protect their lives.

Umme asserted,

The social mobilization training met my expectation, and I am happy that I not only learnt myself, but also that I passed on the information to the other staff. In this way, I transferred the training’s benefits to the communities with which they work.

Umme recently experienced an incident of community conflict while working with the community. A dispute between two community members of a target village of SYCOP was adversely affecting the progress of one of their projects. Umme called both members to the SYCOP office and had individual meetings with them. In these meetings, she discussed the matter in detail with them by listening to them and identifying the reasons for conflict. Hereafter, Umme held a joint meeting with both of them in which she calmly discussed the issue. She gave both of them time to talk to each other and understand each other’s point of view. Both the parties were able to clear their misunderstanding by the end of the discussions. Umme expressed,

I believe that there is no conflict which cannot be resolved through discussion.

The Social Mobilization Training equipped Umme with necessary tools that will strengthen her social work, harnessing her potential to achieve even greater accomplishments in social mobilization.

Before construction, the road was narrow and the ground was not leveled.

Community World Service Asia is working in partnership with Christian Aid towards making the hazard prone communities of Thatta more resilient to disasters and its impacts through various participatory activities. Under this project, small mitigation schemes have been designed to provide access and safe evacuation to make communities more resilient to flooding, cyclones and other natural hazards.

Following a series of meetings between community mobilization and community based Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) teams, the design and implementation of the mitigation scheme for Raeem Dino Thaheem village was planned.  After attending the Village Development Training conducted in May this year, the Village Organization (VO) of Raeem Dino Thaheem listed down the issues faced in the village on priority basis. Referring to this list, the project team decided to work on reconstructing the main road linking the village to Bello and Darro city.

Laborers to work on the road construction were selected from amongst the VO members of the village in question. A total of ten VO members from Raeem Dino worked on leveling the ground and widening the road through earth-filling. These laborers worked effortlessly for ten days under the cash for work scheme of the project. As a result, the road was successfully completed within the timeline, benefiting approximately 1500 people residing in Raeem Dino Thaeem and nearby villages.

Ali Hassan, a member of the Rahim Dino Thaheem VO, expressed,

Being part of the construction activity gave me a sense of ownership. We worked hard so that the whole community can benefit as a result.  I appreciate this project’s team to provide us with this platform, enabling us to work for the betterment of our own people.

Tech. Assistance by CWSA at RDA Office Mithi_ Tharparkar District, Sindh

The training helped my organization to better understand methods of budgeting and keeping financial records. It also gave us the competence to develop sound and applicable financial policies for our work,

Muhammad Bakhsh Khaskheli, from the Rural Development Association (RDA) participated in a financial management training organized by Community World Service Asia in Mirpurkhas in May this year. The objective of the financial management training was to increase the financial management capacity and improve policy development of local community-based organizations. Kashkheli particularly sought after these improvements for his organization.

Our financial procedures were not that swift, and we had to work hard on assembling documents, making photocopies, and preparing missing formats for going through the annual audits. Moreover, we do not have an internal audit department, so an internal audit committee consisting of three executive body members did our internal monitoring. However, this committee was not competent to conduct an internal audit that provides insight on future planning and procedural intricacies.

A resident of Hyderabad city, 42-year-old Muhammad Khaskheli works as a program manager in RDA. Khaskheli’s primary responsibilities include program development, implementation, and resource mobilization. He is also responsible for corresponding with donors.

Khaskheli attended the Financial Management training, expecting that it would help improve and develop RDA’s financial management system. Various topics were covered in the training, such as financial planning, bookkeeping, and accounting. Khaskheli remarked,

The session on accounting taught us to base accounting on the principles of consistency, accountability, transparency, viability, integrity, stewardship, and accounting standards. The session was highly interactive. For each principle, the participants shared examples on how to harmonize accounting with these principles.

Khaskheli gained valuable information and tools at this training, which he introduced at his organization in order to improve their financial management. After the training, RDA developed updated financial management and Human Resources’ manuals. Community World Service Asia outsourced a consultant, who visited Khaskheli’s office, discussed and reviewed every policy and procedure in the updated manuals, before finalizing it, and then a held a one-day workshop with the staff to orient them on it. The consultant also supported RDA with developing specific policies in the newly revised manuals.

Before this training, we had a very simple manual, but we were not able to develop a clear financial management system. However, these revised manuals’ detailed policies and procedures have positively affected the organization’s financial management in different ways,

Khaskheli affirmed.

Our financial procedures have improved since the training. Now, we have a better financial policy system and our documentation is complete and updated, ready for audits.

According to updated policy, the organization will hire a professional consultant to lead the internal audit committee and provide reports that will help in identifying policy and procedural gaps that are beneficial for future planning. This will continue until RDA attains resources to develop an independent audit department. After the training, RDA developed procedures to minimize financial risks. A code of conduct was also incorporated within the finance and administration departments and a clear delegation of authority was planned.

The training led to profound changes in the organization’s budgeting techniques. According to Khaskheli,

budget reporting has become easy.” At RDA, budget reports only included numerical figures before, now however, they include proper budget codes and budget narratives where necessary so that external stakeholder can easily understand the budgets. Khaskheli attested, “Because of the training, we better understand how to prepare budgets through an accountable and transparent financial system.

Adding further, Kashkheli stated,

Rural Development Association is a growing grassroots organization. We needed to develop a robust financial management system to make our financial matters transparent, easily functional, and to increase our credibility among the communities we are working with and other stakeholders, including donors.

Life was not easy for Indra, a mother of three children and married to a mentally handicapped man, Hoto Mal. The family lived with Hoto’s parents in the village of Kundo Meghwar, and Indra worked hard to support her family since her husband was unable to work due to his mental condition. Despite these difficult living conditions, Indra remained positive and hardworking since she believed that her situation was God’s will. She chose not to worry about anything but instead to accept everything as it came. Indra was content and loved her family.

Six months ago, Community World Service Asia started a skills-enhancer program of Embroider and Appliqué in Indra’s village, and it selected many women from rural villages in the district to become artisans in the program. Indra was amongst the women chosen. Through this program, women artisans are supported to become self-sufficient by teaching them embroidery and sewing techniques, linking them to the markets, and are also taught business tactics so that the women will sell their products at a market rate. Indra was already sewing women’s clothes, but she now has another platform through which she can enhance her handicraft skills. After being chosen as an artisan, Indra expressed,

I really feel proud of myself because now I can manage all my domestic expenses without any help and can give my children a better life. My aim in life is to educate my children so that they can live fulfilling lives.

Indra learned many new stitching styles such as the Hurmich, Kacho, Pako and Moti Taakna at the trainings, along with making trendier and subtler designs. She tried different color pallets and identified the ones that had the most demand. She is delighted and thankful that she was able to learn new handicraft skills through this program.

After enhancing her skills as an artisan through the program, Indra now receives product orders from surrounding villages and designers based in Karachi (through the project). Through the course of the trainings, she has established strong linkages with buyers in nearby villages and the local markets. This is where she plans to sell the orders that she is currently working on and also to promote her own private orders.

Indra has already received orders from local retailers and villagers. Once the trainings and the project ends, she also plans to introduce her own new products and designs to ensure that she provides unique and one-of-a-kind products to her clients.

Through these gained handicraft skills, women artisans like Indra earn decent incomes that are unprecedented for rural women. Besides acquiring skills, these trainings and classes are an imperative avenue of social interactions and much needed entertainment for these girls and women. Prior to her participation in the project, Indra was not allowed, and even did not get the time, to go out of her house or her village much. Now, she has made many close friends at the training centers and is looking forward to meeting them every time.

I feel much happier as a person now as I now have friends whom I can talk to, share my views with and also gossip with,

smiled Indra.

We artisans will use these lifetime skills to earn as much as possible. I really appreciate the positive and rare work environment provided to women like me. This type of environment will not only change the future for artisans like us, but it will also enhance the skills of and inspire other non-artisan women.

Since 2015, Community World Service Asia with the support of PWS&D, has been providing health services in four districts of Laghman province, Afghanistan. As part of this intervention, two sub-health clinics, one in Nawdamorra and one in Surkhakan, of district of Qurghaie, have also been set up.

Fahima, a mother of four, lives in Nawdamorra with her husband and children. Her youngest daughter is four years old, and the couple has chosen not to have any more children because of the financial strain it would put the already struggling family in. Fahima’s husband earns through daily labor work in Jalalabad city; so his income is unpredictable as it is dependent on finding work each day. Fahima engages in farming in a small plot of land. Currently, she has cultivated wheat and corn, and the amount of her work varies with different seasons. She does everything to harvest these crops on her little plot: irrigating, shoveling, and reaping. One day, Fahima was in the fields lifting heavy loads when she felt intense abdominal pains. She realized that she was pregnant, and the couple decided to abort the child as they could not financially afford to support another child.

However, life had something else in store for the family. A few months later, Fahima conceived again. In March this year, she found out about the local sub-health center in Nawdamorra, through another woman, from a nearby village she met. This woman told her that they were going to the sub-health center to receive treatment for general illnesses, vaccines, and to get medical support during pregnancies. This came as good news to Fahima and encouraged her to get a complete check-up and receive advice in relation to her health. Fahima decided to go to the health centre with these women.

At the sub-health center, Fahima shared her medical issues and her pregnancy history with the midwife. Based on Fahima’s information, the midwife recorded Fahima as an Anatenatal Care patient. Following Fahima’s trip to the sub-health center, the village lady health worker visited Fahima for a follow-up. Since then, the midwife from the sub-health centre, has also come to see Fahima thrice to guide her on taking care of her health and the baby’s. She received advice on taking a balanced diet, a session on health and hygiene and to avoid picking up heavy loads and overly exhausting herself. Fahima has been following all the advice that the midwife and the health worker gave her.

It is my hope to deliver my baby as safely as possible and to be a mother of a healthy baby. If I follow all the medical advice the midwife and the health worker have given me, then I believe that this hope will become a reality. I also appeal to Community World Service Asia to continue these services for destitute and needy people like us.

A group photo of the training participants

Community World Service Asia organized and hosted a four-day training on Project Planning for development and humanitarian organizations in the third week of September in Murree. The training focused on enhancing capacities of participants on project planning, its tools and their application, and donor-specific planning approaches and frameworks.

Thirty-five participants from eleven organizations including Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKDN), Helpage International, Malteser International, Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Multan Discoes Trust Association, Sungi Development Foundation, Forum for Language Initiatives (FLI), AAR Japan, AWARD, The Punjab Educational Endowment Fund (PEEF) and Helping Hand for Relief & Development (HHRD) took part in the training. The training was facilitated by Zeeshan Noel, a development professional and trainer with expertise in project management, policy research and advocacy, and emergency response planning. Noel has been working in the development sector for almost ten years, and has been associated with development agencies, human/civil rights bodies, NGOs, and public sector offices.

Comprehensive project planning and effective compliance with the requirements of donor agencies is often one of the key challenges faced by humanitarian and development organizations. Many small and medium scale organizations in the region lack these formal skills or have very limited focus on this significant aspect of project management.  Whereas, it is the efficiency and effectiveness of  a project’s planning that determines its true success. Applying accurate planning tools help in the smooth execution of a project, continuous tracking of progress and towards readjusting implementation approaches at any stage of the project, needed to achieve the desired outputs.

The prime objective of the training was to create a conceptual clarity on the subject of and improve Project Planning skills, specifically in development phase of projects. This four days training was designed for mid-level managers with interest and prior experience in project planning and execution of development sector organizations. Participants, with prior basic knowledge on project planning and management, were selected for this training. Key concepts of pre-planning stage were introduced in the training, including understanding on Project Cycle Management (PCM), key results, problem tree analysis and Logical Framework Analysis (LFA). It helped the participants to thoroughly understand and provided a base for practically applying these tools.

On the first day, many participants were new to the concepts of PCM and Logical Framework Analysis, specially those who did not have any prior experience in the planning phase before. The timing of the training had to be adjusted and duration of some sessions had to be prolonged to make sure that all participants are on the same page and planned topics are fully covered. However, by day two the concepts were much clearer and actual practice on developing the plans was initiated.

By the end of training, all the participants were able to develop project planning and implementation tools for their organizations. Through group exercises, they developed problem tree analysis, LFA, Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), Performance Management Framework (PMF), Work plan and budget and costed work plan. In addition to the planning tools, M&E plans were developed and the concept of GSMART planning was also explained.

As a concluding exercise, an action plan for the participants was drafted in which each organization identified the gaps in their project planning and committed to introduce the newly learnt tools to overcome these challenges. Besides all learning, one of the key activities of the training was its fun night in which all participants, coming from different corners of the country, exhibited their cultures and tradition. They sang folk songs, danced and played games.

Muhammad Fazil Sardar, General Manager-Monitoring, Evaluation & Research, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), participated as a chief guest on the final day of the training and awarded certificates to all the participants. Addressing the training, he talked about the importance of project planning tools especially problem tree analysis to identify the root causes.

Project planning tools carry equal significance in project cycle management and day to day life as well.