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Community World Service Asia has partnered with Presbyterian World Service and Development (PWS&D) and Canadian Foodgrains Bank to implement a Humanitarian, Early Recovery and Development (HERD) program to support drought and climate change impact communities with food provision and sustainable agricultural inputs. The project aims to assist most vulnerable, rural agrarian communities in Pakistan’s rain-fed Umerkot District of Sindh. The target communities will receive immediate humanitarian support, followed by recovery and development assistance, to ensure their resilience is enhanced against future natural and man-made catastrophes.

A total of 1,125 drought and COVID-19 affected families have been provided with two monthly food packages under the project. They will continue to receive the food packages till August (to complete a period of six months). Each package has been designed in line with the Sphere minimum standards and ensures all family members receive 2100k calories each per day. The items include 60kg of wheat flour, 15kg rice, 7kg pulses, 6liters cooking oil, 4 kg sugar, 400gms tea leaves, 800gms iodized salt and of match boxes. Feedback mechanisms that are put in place to ensure quality and accountability mainstreaming have been explained to communities at various stages of the project. Communities have also been oriented on safeguarding and complaints response guidelines.

Through the provision of food packages, we aim to ensure food security of affected communities in various parts villages of Umerkot to increase their nutritional status and improve their general health. Most of these communities live in extreme poverty, with their primary livelihood of agriculture being affected by extreme weather conditions that prevent them from spending on the most basic food and health needs.

A Rapid Gender Analysis was conducted as part of the project to gather critical information and data on the local gender dynamics and the many challenges and needs that exist and potential goals and opportunities to explore and meet through the project. The analysis is a necessary first step in creating gender-sensitive, suitable, and successful programming. It is supporting in the development of practical programming recommendations to suit the needs of women, men, boys, and girls, as well as ensuring that execution does not unwittingly harm them. Additionally, an environment assessment has also been conducted to identify environmental impacts of different project activities and their possible mitigating measures.

The HERD project is a two years’ program started from January 1, 2022 with ten months of humanitarian phase and 14 months of recovery and development phase. The project will end in 2023.

The year 2022 is critical for achieving gender equality in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction, which are some of the major global challenges of the twenty-first century. Without gender equality now, we would be unable to achieve a sustainable and equal future.

Today on International Women’s Day, let us be equally part of the solution towards a sustainable future.

IWD2022 #TheRoad2Equality

World Environment Day 2021

For too long, we have been exploiting and destroying our planet’s ecosystems. Ecosystem loss is depriving the world of carbon sinks, like forests and peatlands, at a time humanity can least afford it. Global greenhouse gas emissions have grown for three consecutive years and the planet is at one pace for potentially catastrophic climate change.

The emergence of COVID-19 has also shown just how disastrous the consequences of ecosystem loss can be. By shrinking the area of natural habitat for animals, we have created ideal conditions for pathogens – including coronaviruses – to spread. Considering all these challenges, this World Environment Day focuses on the restoration of our ecosystem, with the theme “Reimagine. Recreate. Restore.”

Only in a healthy ecosystem can we sustain people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change impacts and reduce the degradation of biodiversity. A recent German Watch Report of the Long-term Global Climate Risk Index 2020, a global think-tank working on climate change, had rated Pakistan number 8th most affected country due to adverse impacts of climate change. Community World Service Asia continues to encourage and build awareness on environment conservation with communities on the ground that are most affected by climate change and pollution.  We are continuing to invest in preservation, prevention and preparedness, together with the communities, as a necessary part of all systematic efforts to increase resilience to climate change and disaster risks and protect the environment.

Growing Sustainable Kitchen Gardens

Sustainable farming and kitchen gardening impacts everything from the air we breathe to the carbon footprints we leave behind. Community World Service Asia has been working with the most vulnerable, flood and drought affected rural communities by promoting sustainable agriculture among them to improve their food security, health and nutrition. These activities are allowing community members to sustain livelihoods, ensure good well-being and be an active part of preserving their environment.

Growing your own food allows you to stop relying solely on traditional methods of purchasing your produce from a grocery store. When you buy foods from these shops, you should take into consideration the sad, but true, fact that these foods travel several miles before ever being consumed. Not only does this impact the freshness and flavor of the food, but more importantly, this emits dangerous amounts of carbon emissions and waste associated with air freight and other transportation methods into the atmosphere. The concept of kitchen gardening is helping to reduce the high amounts of burning fossil fuels that fill our environment as a direct result of importing foods from commercial farmers. This initiative is also reducing waste from food packaging materials such as man-made plastics and cardboard, that also travel hundreds and thousands of miles. Women in Sindh feel safer and satisfied knowing what they are eating and what has gone into producing their food.

Under its Livelihoods portfolio, CWSA has conducted 291 workshops for more than five thousand people, a majority of these rural women, on kitchen gardening since 2015. Through these trainings, rural communities, especially women, have started growing kitchen gardens in their homes and have applied low-cost irrigation methods in their agrarian farming.

Introducing Eco-Friendly Farming

Most local communities in interior Sindh rely heavily on agriculture, but farmers in this region have struggled to cultivate bountiful harvests in the vicinity due to extreme water scarcity, harsh weather conditions and limited knowledge and resources on sustainable farming.

Under its food security projects, CWSA promotes sustainable farming and agri-based enterprises and provides continuous technical support and guidance on business development to rural farmers to enable them to achieve high quality agricultural produce. To further strengthen the skills and expertise of these agrarian communities, CWSA facilitated six exposure visits of 476 farmers, including men and women from twenty-five villages, to renowned agricultural research institutes in Sindh. During these visits, the community members observed multiple ongoing researches and agricultural activities. Some of these included kitchen gardening activities using drip irrigation systems, pitcher gardening schemes, solar desalination units and hydroponic cultivation systems. They were also familiarised with the use of bio fertilisers as one of the most important components of integrated nutrient management, being cost effective as well as being a renewable source of nutrients to supplement chemical fertilisers.

Through workshops on sustainable farming, 13,125 farmers, more than 50% women, from ninety villages in Sindh have been trained on sustainable agriculture. Communities have learned about crop production sustainability and productivity in changing climatic conditions. Most of these trainings focused on increasing productivity in agriculture and the level of economic prosperity among target communities while working on resource and environment conservation.

Improving ecosystems by restoring natural balance

Afforestation is key to sustaining the ecosystem and accelerating socio-economic development. Trees have remained a main contributor for sustaining resources including food, fiber, livelihood resources and water. Community World Service Asia has launched aeroculture[1] campaigns with farming communities in Sindh. These campaigns have promoted and enhanced biodiversity and mitigated adverse impacts of climate change in the areas that we work. One of the more long-term outcomes of the campaigns has been to provide an alternative livelihood source to water-deprived farming communities in the area. Tree Plantation activities have strengthened peoples’ bond with nature and helped purify the environment.

A variety of fruit and plant saplings such as Sapota, Lemon, Azarirachta indica (neem), Moringa, Falsa, Jujube and Guava, have been distributed among 690 targeted agrarian families of Badin and Umerkot. As many as 34,192 samplings were given out during the campaign that chanted the slogan Let’s make a promise to grow more trees.”

Ensuring human wellbeing and environmental health through Fuel-Efficient Stoves

To reduce smoke emissions and decrease deforestation, CWSA, under its Climate Action and Risk Reduction portfolio, is training women on effectively using and adopting a new technology of fuel-efficient stoves in their homes. The fuel-efficient stove is an energy system that has a positive impact on the ecosystem while providing basic cooking needs. The stoves are made of mud and straw enabling caretakers in the house to cook on two burners simultaneously while being able to control the flame at a required temperature. As a result, it reduces smoke emission and fuelwood consumption. A total of forty-seven trainings have been conducted by women community mobilizers for almost a thousand rural women on the use of the stoves and raising awareness among them on its environment-friendly nature. A cleaner environment and reduction in kitchen expenses has been seen as a direct impact of these trainings. More than three thousand stoves have been effectively installed in 2002 households in 16 villages of Umerkot district of Sindh province since 2019.

Ecosystem restoration can take many forms: Growing trees, making cities greener, rewilding gardens, changing diets or cleaning up rivers and coasts. This is the generation that can make peace with nature so let us all join hands to play an active role in Reimagining, Recreating & Restoring our precious ecosystem.


[1] A method of growing plants without soil by suspending them above sprays that constantly moisten the roots with water and nutrients.

Pakistani farmers have been struggling to combat the worst locust plague to hit the country in nearly three decades. Large parts of the country were hit by severe locust infestations since June 2019, with insect swarms decimating entire harvests in the country’s agricultural heartlands, leaving food prices soaring and many farming communities’ food insecure. On February 1st 2020, tackling the insects was declared as a national emergency as a large scale of crop land was destroyed in the country’s most fertile Punjab province.

Heavy rains and cyclones sparked “unprecedented” breeding and led to an explosive growth of locust populations on the Arabian Peninsula early last year. The same locust swarms made their way to Pakistan after wreaking havoc on agriculture lands in other neighboring countries, such as Iran. Locust swarms from southern Iran started migrating to Pakistan from the Iran-Baluchistan border. These locust swarms have since laid hundreds of thousands of pods which are likely to hatch as soon as they get a favorable environment. Local farmers feared their new batch of kharif seasonal crops would also be devoured by the locusts.

To mitigate further impact of the locust attacks on local small-scale farmers, Community World Service Asia (CWSA) in partnership with CWS Japan and Japan Platform (JPF) launched a project to assisted 1,600 farmer families with provision of cash grants for the tilling process in their lands. Under the project, 16,193 hectares (40,013 acres) of land has been cleared from locust eggs through introducing the tilling method to farmers in district Umerkot.

Tilling/ploughing is a renowned process used and adopted around the world to eradicate locust swarms. This process involves the ploughing of the infected land to a certain, carefully calculated depth and exposing the locust eggs to sunlight, which effectively destroys them.

“Community World Service Asia have been very supportive in Government’s effort to eradicate locust swarms by introducing innovative ideas that are much helpful for the communities. The trainings provided to the local farmers on Integrated Crop Management have made the communities resilient and have allowed them to mitigate the risks caused by the locust invasion,” shared Ayaz Kachelo, Agriculture O at the Agriculture Extension Department, Umerkot.

Through the project, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) of Pakistan has also been provided with 58,508 liters of Lambda Cyhalothrine insecticides to use for chemical application on the mature/adult locust swarms. The local farmers have also been further trained on Integrated Crop Management (ICM) and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques as part of the assistance. Since the tilling, use of chemical insecticides and the application of new farming techniques in the area no locust swarms have been seen. The farmers in the area have in fact also been able to cultivate their lands in time due to the effective tilling process.

“We were introduced to new techniques to eradicate locust swarms from our fields, such as digging trenches in the agricultural area. We have also been supported by the project teams in tilling/ploughing of our lands. The existing locust eggs on our lands were destroyed in the process. Our lands have finally been cleared from locust eggs, eradicating any future threat to our crops, and ensuring that the lands are ready for the next cropping season,” shared Nago, a sixty-year old local farmer from Nagho bheel village in Umerkot.

Sodho is the President of the Village Management Committee and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Committee of Male Jo Par Village in Umerkot, Pakistan. He has actively been working to promote sustainable farming practices and build community awareness on DRR to enhance community resilience on recurrent hazards and climate change impacts. The Village Management and the DRR Committees[1] were established in September 2020 under Community World Service Asia’s emergency response project[2], supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan.

“I have coordinated and helped the project team conduct 19 trainings focused on kitchen gardening, fuel efficient stoves, sustainable agricultural practices and DRR since last year. It is a relief to see that our people have the knowledge and skills to protect themselves from natural hazards.”

On September 24th, 2020, an orientation for VMC members was organised to share project objectives and to familiarise members with the role of the committee and as individual members.

“All 15 members, seven women and eight men, were explained their responsibilities as VMC members. We were taught on how and when to coordinate with the project team and how we can contribute in organising project activities. By the end of the training I was also elected as the President of the committee.” 

Sodho, along with fifteen other community members, participated in a training on DRR held in October 2020. All training participants shared and learned about common natural and man-made hazards such as earthquakes, floods and fire, experienced in the region.

“The knowledge on DRR was new to the community members. They now know of and are well aware of the different disasters that their people are faced with and have identified ways of alleviating and lessening its effects. Through the training, communities were provided technical knowledge on all kinds of hazards, developing disaster prevention plans and the importance and methods of raising community awareness on DRR.”

Sodho shared a recent accident where a fire broke out at a house in a nearby village. The family was saved but they suffered a massive loss as all their essential belongings and household items were burnt.

“As an active member of the VMC, I immediately called for a meeting to discuss how we can collect donations and help the family recover from the loss. We were able to collect some clothes, food items and essential household items for the family. Through the immediate help, the family found some relief and were hopeful to recover from the monetary and infrastructural loss sooner.”

“VMC members also organised a lesson learning session for their local communities on what they had learned at the DRR training to further enhance community knowledge and capacity on preparedness and mitigation. To overcome natural and man-made disasters, the participants were told about the different disasters and how to minimize the destruction they bring to affected areas. We also shared the story of the house-fire as an example and conducted drills to show what items to save first in the case of a fire and how to prevent the damage caused by such disasters.”

Kitchen gardening, primarily engaging women in the target villages, is another key component of the project. Sodho was personally quite interested in this initiative as having an opportunity to grow healthy vegetables at home seemed like a blessing and was a new concept introduced in the village.

“I saw the benefits of kitchen gardening immediately when the team shared the concept. Growing healthy vegetables at home can bring good health to families and save money as well which was otherwise mostly consumed on purchasing vegetables from the market.”

“I encouraged all women in the village including my own wife to participate in the kitchen gardening trainings. In the last winter season, my wife grew white radish, carrots, spinach, lady fingers and pumpkin in her new kitchen garden. I could see how much she enjoyed working and bringing seeds of different vegetables and fruits from the market to grow in her garden. She is now growing watermelon, guar[3], pumpkins, bottle gourd and lady fingers.”

Sodho further added that their village, Male Jo Par, has existed for the past hundred years and in these many years no-one had ever thought of starting kitchen gardening.

“We reside in the remote areas of Umerkot. The agriculture fields are faced by severe water scarcity. The land has low productivity due to unfertile soil and lack of water. We never thought of growing vegetables in our homes so conveniently with the help of home-made fertilisers and compost. Today, families in Male Jo Par grow garden-fresh vegetables on a daily basis, improving the quality and quantity of their food consumption, nutrition and well-being.”

Sodho also participated in a training session focused on sustainable agricultural practices for farmers, conducted in December 2020 under the project. Ten other small-scale farmers took part in this training.

“Before we took the training, all of us farmers stocked all seeds together in plastic containers and could not differentiate good ones from the bad ones. We would plough the land and sow all the seeds. Consequently, not all crops would grow well. The money that we spent ploughing and harvesting the land would be wasted as the produce would not be as fruitful as expected. This year was different. We stocked the seeds in Stoneware Pots (Matka) and before sowing them, we dried the seeds for at least three days under the sun. As a result, we had a good harvest this year.”

Our village has seen a positive change since the initiation of the DRR project. There has always been severe water scarcity in our area. The RO plant[4], which is being constructed in our village, will also help our people and those of surrounding villages to a great extent. It will provide clean drinking water at a walking distance. Our wives and daughters will not have to travel far places to collect water.”


[1] These are community based structures, members consisting of community people, who are responsible to coordinate project activities and awareness building. They are the key for sustainability and viability of project activities and mobilization of available local resource.

[2] Enhancing disaster resilience against droughts in Sindh Province

[3] Guar is an important legume crop. It is cultivated for fodder as well as for grain purpose.

[4] A reverse osmosis plant is a manufacturing plant where the process of reverse osmosis takes place. Reverse osmosis is a common process to purify or desalinate contaminated water by forcing water through a membrane.

A depression formed due to strong convective clouds over the south east of the Arabian Sea intensified into a severe cyclone storm named Cyclone TAUKTAE on May 15th. Centered at a distance of approximately 1640 km south-southeast of Karachi, the cyclone posed a potential catastrophic threat to parts of India and Pakistan. On May 16th however, the Pakistan Meteorological Department reported that the cyclone will not make a landfall along Pakistan’s coastal belt and has in fact further intensified into a Very Severe Cyclone Storm (VSCS), centering at a distance of 1210 km south-southeast of Karachi. Latest reports suggest that even though the storm will not directly hit Pakistan, widespread rains, dust/thunderstorms with heavy to very heavy falls and gusty winds of 70-90Km/h are likely to occur in Thatta, Badin, Tharparkar, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar and Umerkot districts of Sindh province in Pakistan from May 17th to 20th May 2021. The same weather conditions are likely to impact Karachi, Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Shaheed Bainazirabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Shikarpur, Jacobabad and Dadu districts from May 18th till May 20th.

The Government of Sindh has declared an emergency in all districts located at the coastal belt of the province. It has ordered to remove all bill boards in the area, cleared choking points of storm water drains and restricted fishermen from going into the sea or rivers until May 20th as part of preparatory measures.

Expected heavy rains in the mentioned districts may be life threatening, causing floods, severe damage to property and infrastructure and could leave affected-communities in need of Shelter, Food, NFIs[1] and WASH support.

Community World Service Asia Response:

Community World Service Asia is closely monitoring the situation. Its emergency response team is in close coordination and contact with the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Sindh and other relevant district offices of the Deputy Commissioners. The teams are on standby and will start relief operations immediately if required.

Contacts:

Shama Mall
Deputy Regional Director
Programs & Organisational Development
Email: hi2shama@cyber.net.pk
Tele: 92-21-34390541-4

Palwashay Arbab
Head of Communications
Email: palwashay.arbab@communityworldservice.asia
Tele: +92 42 35865338

Sources:
www.pmd.gov.pk
www.tribune.com.pk


[1] Non-Food Items

“Four years ago, my husband died of a heart attack. Since then, I have been supporting my family and trying to make ends meet. My embroidery and sewing skills help me earn PKR 700 a week (Approx. USD 4), and that is only when we receive regular orders. This is the only source of income for my three children and me,” shared Jatni.

Thirty-five-year-old Jatni and her three young children live in Ramsar village located in district Umerkot of Sindh (Pakistan), where they own a small piece of land and two goats. Jatni and her husband used their four acres of land next to their village to grow Guar[1] and Mung[2] on. After her husband’s passing away, Jatni continued with the farming activities on the land when she would be free from her hand-crafting work. She would sell the surplus produce to earn some extra income for her family. However, this year, despite being free from her handicrafts work since she barely received any orders due to COVID-19, Jatni was unable to grow any crop on her farming land due to locust infestations.

Since June 2019, the locust outbreak has been impacting eastern Pakistan. A plague of locusts hit Pakistan in February 2020, devouring crops, trees, and pasture as they moved through vast agricultural lands in Sindh and Punjab. According to the National Disaster Management Authority, 61 districts across the country are under attack from locusts, which have been damaging food crops. Pakistan incurred losses estimated to £2bn in winter crops, such as wheat, and is further expected to suffer another £2.3bn in the summer crops being planted now, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in May 2020.

“The situation in Ramsar was worrisome. All the villagers were in a difficult situation because of the devastation the locusts had brought to agricultural production. Our food security was badly affected as the large swarms moved through the lands.”

Ramsar’s village committee, in collaboration with Community World Service Asia’s (CWSA) emergency team, selected Jatni as a cash grant recipient of PKR 13500 (Approx. USD 84) under an emergency response project supported by Japan Platform.  The project aimed to help 1600 locust affected farming families recover through cash assistance for livelihoods and provision of insecticides to fight off the locust swarms infecting their lands. Additionally, pesticides was provided to the National Disaster Management Authority in June 2020 for locust control. In Umerkot district, 867 hectare of lands were applied with the provided pesticides by Agriculture Department, protecting crops from locusts, pests, diseases and weeds as well as raising productivity per hectare.

Jatni used the cash received under the project in the tillage operation conducted to recover from the locust attacks.

“The tillage carried out in the last week of June helped me recover and prepare the land for cultivation. The land is now sowed with our usual Guar and Mung seeds. I am hopeful that we will have a substantial harvest by the end of the season to sell in the local market. The money I will earn from selling the surplus will help us purchase a variety of groceries that will last us a good six-months.”


[1] Guar is an important legume crop. It is cultivated for fodder as well as for grain purpose.
[2] The mung bean, alternatively known as the green gram, mash, or moong, is a plant species in the legume family.

Under the Enhancing disaster resilience against droughts in Sindh Province project, supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan,[1]  eight Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) committees have been set up in eight villages, with fifteen members in each. Established in April 2019, the committees work towards strengthening the local community’s capacity to manage emergencies and collaborate with government agencies and relevant authorities to reduce risks during emergencies. These DRR committees play a pivotal role in facilitating the implementation and oversight of the project and to ensure community ownership and inclusion to maintain its long-term sustainability.

As physical interaction and implementation of any kind was not possible after the nation-wide lockdown imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country since March, Community World Service Asia’s DRR team got in touch with the members of the committees through mobile phones. Together they discussed ways of raising community awareness on COVID-19 symptoms and how to stay safe from it. Upon agreement, training sessions with the DRR committees were planned and conducted in April 2020.

Haji Chanesar village in Umerkot district was one of the selected areas and five members of its DRR Committee were part of the remote training session. They were informed about what communities should be doing to be prepared to respond to a case, how to identify a case once it occurs, and how to properly implement the preventive measures to ensure there is no further transmission of the virus.

Prem, 28, is married and a father to three children. After completing his intermediate, he was engaged in different volunteer work as he had grave interest in helping others. As a member of the DRR Committee, he looks after and operates the RO plant established in the village and also supports in the implementation of the project activities. Prem, who is an active member of the DRR Committee of Haji Chanesar village was one of the participants in this training.

The trained members of the committee then replicated the learnings separately in a number of neighbouring villages. Over two hundred local community members were introduced to information on COVID-19 and learnt basic hygiene measures to protect against the infection. By the end of these awareness sessions, communities were able to identify basic symptoms of coronavirus, common transmission channels, how to assess the risk of infection and key preventive measures.

An isolation room was established in Haji Chanesar, in case anyone is infected or is suspicious of being infected. The sessions alerted the villagers and they followed all SOPs[2] strictly especially at homes.

“In my home, none of my children go out to play nor does my wife socialize with her friends or family. We have limited our external activities, and we only go out when food or important household commodities need to be purchased. We have been fortunate till date as no case of coronavirus has come up. To prevent the spread of the virus in our area, we remain secure at home and maintain physical distance,” Prem concluded positively.


[1] Disaster Risk Reduction
[2] Standard of Procedures

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