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For a zero hunger world, people around the globe should eat healthy diets, the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said in a booklet that is released ahead of World Food Day on October 16.

The goal of the UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goals of meeting ‘zero hunger’, according to the document, can be met by eating more seasonal fruits and vegetables and reducing the consumption of junk food. Over 820 million people — approximately one in nine people around the world — were hungry, and malnutrition affected one in every three people, the FAO noted.

To share the learning, Community World Service Asia organized a session in the village of Padmoo Bheel Union Council Khararo Charan, District Umerkot on October 16. Fifteen men and women from the community participated in the activity. The session focused on the theme which said “Our Actions Are Our Future. Healthy Diets for a #ZeroHunger World”. As a result of globalization, urbanization and income growth, our diets and eating habits have changed. The event generated awareness who suffer from hunger and increased knowledge for food security and nutritious diet intakes for all. Communities were sensitized on ensuring food security in households and how to avoid wasting food at home, marriage ceremonies and other communal gatherings.

Community Voices:

The session was very informative in terms of learning how to avoid food wastage and eat healthy food items for better health. New learning for me was food being our fundamental and basic right.

Janat from Padmoo Bheel village, Umerkot

It is important to make food as per the needs and number of people. Excess food often is wasted which is not good. The session shed light on how food is made excessively in communal gatherings and is wasted in large number. We will in the future make the food according to the need and number of people.

Ranjeet from Padmoo Bheel village, Umerkotet

Pribhat theater group performing a play on the role of rural women in climate resilience.

Community World Service Asia, in collaboration with the Social Welfare Department and District Engagement Group[1] (DEG) Umerkot, celebrated the International Day of Rural Women 2019 to pay tribute to the rural women who are playing a vital role in the development of their communities. More than three hundred people attended the event.  Participants of the celebratory event included representatives from the district administration, police force, local government, the Population Welfare Department, Women Development Department, civil society organizations, teachers, artisans and the rural women of the district.

At the event, rural women were awarded appreciation shields for their proactive role in promoting socio-economic and cultural development in their communities. A local theater group, named Pirbhat, performed a play that conveyed messages on the role of rural women in societal development and climate change awareness as part of one of the event. The play was emotional in nature and gave a strong message. As part of the event format, participating human rights defenders, specialists and relevant government representatives gave inspirational speeches and acknowledged the contribution of women in socio-economic development, food security and rural development. Stall was set which displayed handcrafted apparel and home accessories produced by rural artisans.

Contributions and Challenges of Rural Women

The crucial role that women and girls play in ensuring the sustainability of rural households and communities and their overall contribution towards improving rural livelihoods and community wellbeing has lately been increasingly recognized. Women account for a substantial proportion of the agricultural labor force, including informal work, and perform the bulk of unpaid care and domestic work within families and households in rural areas. They make significant contributions to agricultural production, food security and nutrition, land and natural resource management, and building climate resilience.

Structural barriers and discriminatory social norms continue to constrain women’s decision-making power and political participation in rural households and communities. Women and girls in rural areas lack equal access to productive resources and assets, public services such as education and health care, and infrastructure, including water and sanitation, while much of their labor remains invisible and unpaid, even as their workloads become increasingly heavy due to the emigration of men. Globally, with few exceptions, every gender and development indicator for which data are available reveals that rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women and that they disproportionately experience poverty, exclusion and the effects of climate change.

The impacts of climate change, including on access to productive and natural resources, amplify existing gender inequalities in rural areas. Climate change affects women’s and men’s assets and well-being differently in terms of agricultural production, food security, health, water and energy resources, climate-induced migration and conflict, and climate-related natural disasters.

Comments from Speakers

Rashida Saand, renowned women’s rights worker from Umerkot, commented during her speech,

We believe that rural women have unique ideas and indigenous solutions to solve the current challenges facing a society that must be heard by the government and decision-makers. To benefit from the wisdom of women, community organizations must amplify the voices of rural women and call for women’s inclusion in the decision-making process at all levels.

Tarique Waheed Baloch from Women Development Department said that, on the occasion of the International Day of Rural Women,

They shall be encouraged to struggle for their just right of education, social welfare, and their legitimate rights. Village girls should be encouraged to get an education and step ahead in the field. Rural women face, among other problems, under-age marriages, and domestic violence, while they also share in work with men in agriculture and livestock farming besides sewing and embroidery. The government should ensure that technical training programs for rural women in the field of vocational training be started to provide them with opportunities to earn better incomes and live a better life along with educating their children.

Muhammad Bux Kumbhar, DEG member, said the observance day recognizes,

The critical role and contribution of rural women in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty. As the world faces a critical need to act against climate change, this year’s theme highlights the important role that rural women and girls play in building resilience to face the climate crisis. Rural women represent the backbone of many communities, but they continue to face obstacles that prevent them from realizing their potential. The devastating impacts of climate change add to their hardship. Almost a third of women’s employment worldwide is in agriculture. Women cultivate land, collect food, water, and essential fuels, and sustain entire households, but lack equal access to land, finances, equipment, markets and decision-making power.

The guest of honor, Dr. Rubi Dharmdas from Umerkot, paid thanks and applauded Community World Service Asia, the Social Welfare Department Umerkot and District Engagement Groups for organizing such a great event to pay tribute to rural women. She added,

The contribution of the rural women is not being given due importance. Moreover, the right to basic facilities such as education and health are also overlooked. This is a great tradition initiated by Community World Service Asia to honor rural women by giving them due respect in terms of awards, as it will encourage many rural women to play a vital role in society.


[1] The District Engagement Group (DEG) comprises representatives from district-based CSOs, Steering Committees and Social Welfare Department responsible for networking and influencing relevant stakeholders and government departments on implementation of laws and policies related to women empowerment.

Ali Sher Ranto, the son of a poor farmer, was eager to get an education and have a better life. Despite facing significant economic challenges during his schooling, he pressed on and completed his bachelor’s degree. Now, with new learnings and skills from the trainings organized by Community World Service Asia (CWSA), Ali Sher is helping to make life better for others in his village as well.

Ali Sher lives in the rural village of Ranta, located in Sindh’s Union Council Bijora. The village faces several social and economic challenges, including poor infrastructure, low literacy rate, lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene systems and practices, and limited livelihood opportunities. While a few individuals in Ranta are well educated, due to high unemployment rates and limited resources, many of them are jobless. Despite his degree, Ali Sher was one of them.

Since 2015, Ali Sher has been an active member of the Health Management Committeeⁱ in Ranta. He has been committed to bringing positive change in his village and area. He has actively participated in several events and trainings organized by Community World Service Asia including Community Management Skills, Disaster Risk Management, Leadership and Record Keeping, and Health and Hygiene. The learnings have helped Ali Sher to convey healthcare messages to others in his community as well.

“As a member of the health management committee and a representative of my village, it is my prime responsibility to think about and work to improve social issues within my village and area. I am determined to contribute to the development of my village, so I decided to teach the children on a voluntary basis to promote education in our area. This all happened with the knowledge and awareness that we obtained from meetings, trainings, seminars and workshops organized by Community World Service Asia and other organizations,” shared Ali Sher.

Today Ali Sher voluntarily teaches children at the primary school he himself once attended in his village. He has been doing this for three years now. He teaches classes one to five. In addition, he is supporting the school staff members in forming a school health and hygiene club in the same village. Through the club, he will impart the knowledge he has gained from the health and hygiene sessions he attended under the health project. As a result, Ali Sher’s students are more active, disciplined and healthy.


ⁱ Health Management Committee formed under the Health project to ensure community participation, ownership and support to communities in building awareness.

Health sessions were conducted where community members were provided with IEC material for better understanding to build a hygienic living environment.

Community World Service Asia (CWSA) provides basic health services with a focus on Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Care (MNCH) under its Umerkot Health Project, supported by Act for Peace. The project is implemented in two Taluka Headquarter Hospitals (THQs) in district Umerkot, namely THQ Pithoro and THQ Samaro.

Free medical camps are set up, under the health project, to bring health care and health education to vulnerable populations who have no access to basic health care services or knowledge about diseases. The medical camps aim at providing free medical advice, medicine and referrals for specialized treatment if required. These camps make sure that people receive health care at the right time and see a doctor early enough before a small health problem turns serious.

The health team organized a free medical camp on September 24, 2019, in the village of Maryam Nagar, Taluka Pithoro, District Umerkot. This village is nine kilometers away from THQ Pithoro and lacks a regular transport facility in the area. Patients from more than four surrounding villages came to the camp for treatment; in total, 127 patients were treated, including 55 women and 7 men, 29 girls and 36 boys. Five antenatal care (ANC), three postnatal care (PNC), and six family planning patients were diagnosed and provided with medical services. The remaining 113 patients were treated through the outpatient department and provided with free medicine. Major diseases diagnosed and treated during the camp were anemia, scabies, musculoskeletal pain, diarrhea and ear and eye infections.

The Village Health Committee (comprised of both women and men) was involved in organizing the camp and facilitating the patients, while community mobilizers delivered health education sessions to women, men and children on food and nutrition as well as on the causes, symptoms and preventive measures for malaria and dengue fever. The community mobilizers also distributed Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material on related topics.

The Government Girls Primary School (GGPS) Abdul Wahid Colony in Umerkot, Pakistan, was struggling with low enrollment, low attendance and low engagement from the School Management Committee (SMC). In 2015, the school had a total of 80 students, with only 20 students newly enrolled. Sami, the school’s principal, identified several reasons.

Weak infrastructure and limited basic facilities discourage parents from sending their children to schools in Umerkot. Moreover, far off distances, social evils and child labor contribute to the high illiteracy rate as well. Teachers in schools often use old methodologies of teaching, such as reading the lessons, giving lectures and assigning lengthy homework. As a result, students do not have positive outcomes and lose interest in studies,

she said.

In 2016, Community World Service Asia invited teachers from the school to attend Teachers’ Trainings as part of the Girls’ Education Projectⁱ.  In 2017 and 2018, six teachers from GGPS Abdul Wahid Colony—Sakeena, Mariat, Mohni, Naheed, Tania and Sami—were trained on pedagogical skills, early childhood care and education (ECCE) teaching methodologies and implementation of the Scheme of Studiesⁱⁱ.

When Community World Service Asia came to us,

said Sami,

things started to change gradually.

Putting New Methods into Action

Sami was pleased with how practical and hands-on the trainings were, packed with new strategies they could implement right away. For example, they learned about new ways to engage with their students, such as involving them in morning meetings to increase social interactions and in practical work to build interest in learning. The training also placed strong emphasis on lesson planning, which has renewed the teachers’ excitement and dedication to their lessons.

Naheed attended a Teachers’ Training focused on ECCE Scheme of Studies and ECCE Methodologies in January 2019. Back in the classroom, she began implementing new teaching methodologies involving group work, pair activities and learning through play. Since then, Sami observed,

Students have become confident and regularly attend school, as they are enjoying their studies.

Sharing her learning experience, Naheed said,

We have developed a different attitude towards our students after the trainings. The child-friendly environment created in our classrooms has encouraged students to learn more freely and ask questions frequently without any hesitation. The quality of education has improved immensely as students are more engaged in active learning.

Naheed and the other teachers have also worked to increase teacher-parent interaction, with positive results among both students and their parents.

Parents are more involved in their children’s education updates and have witnessed the support the teachers give to their students in school. We have received positive feedback regarding teachers’ behavior with their children and the children’s increased interest in studies,

Sami added.

The students have noticed the difference. Humera, a student from class 4, shared,

There is so much change in our classroom. Our teacher, Naheed, encouraged us to participate in sports and cultural events and academic activities. We meet with students from different schools in these events and now I have made many friends in Umerkot. My parents motivate me to study hard after the parent-teacher meetings. They are very supportive and helpful, especially when I do my homework.

Reinvigorating the School Management Committee

The School Management Committee (SMC) of GGPS Abdul Wahid Colony is comprised of a General Secretary, a chairman, two teachers, two parents and two students. Its primary functions are to monitor teacher attendance, increase student enrollment and build awareness among parents on the importance of education for their children. It also holds administrative functions such as organizing co-curriculum activities, monitoring provision of free textbooks and disbursing SMC funds for improving the school. Unfortunately, the committee had not been fully engaged in its duties.

Abdul Razzaque, Senior MEAL Officer at Community World Service Asia, conducted a session for the SMC in February 2018, emphasizing the key role of the SMC in strengthening relationships between the schools and local communities. He highlighted each of the SMC’s functions and why it was important.

Shahida, who has served as the chairman of the SMC since 2017, said the difference was dramatic.

It was after the teachers’ training and SMC session that the SMC of Abdul Wahid Colony was actively involved in the school’s operations and academic decisions. The learnings provided by Community World Service Asia further built on our capacities to work towards better outcomes for our students, teachers and the entire school system,

 she said.

Sami is very pleased with the progress she has seen at the school since her team started to work with Community World Service Asia and implement what they learned through Teachers’ Trainings.

This year we have enrolled 60 new students, and today, a total of 210 students are studying in GGPS Abdul Wahid Colony. Moreover, 50% of the parents come to us for regular updates regarding their children’s progress after the Parent-Teacher meeting held in collaboration with Community World Service Asia,

she said.


ⁱ Improving Access and Quality of Education for Girls in Umerkot Project is implemented by Community World Service Asia with the support of Act for Peace.

ⁱⁱ A guideline for teachers that defines the structure and content of an academic course, its learning outcomes.

Representative of University of Agriculture Tando Jam delivering a presentation.

Water scarcity is one of the main challenges for communities in the Thar Desert, which also includes almost half of Umerkot district. During field operations, Community World Service Asia and partners observed significant negative impact on the lives and well-being of the local communities from chronic water shortage and drought, putting these communities at high risk. Their main sources of income are agriculture and livestock, which are totally dependent on the availability of water. Owing to these issues, Community World Service Asia is partnering with Community World Service Japan (CWS Japan) and Japan Conservation Engineers & Company Limited (JCE) to implement an emergencies project to enhance drought-related disaster resilience by improving access to water and supporting drought-resilient agricultural practices in Umerkot district.

Under this project, the partners organized a one-day workshop on August 30, 2019, to determine how various stakeholders within government and non-government organizations can better coordinate to resolve these issues. Key questions to explore included how to determine the best locations for well digging; how technologies can be used to identify potential areas for aquafers; and how communities and relevant government departments can support the maintenance of these resources to make them more sustainable.

The training drew an estimated 25 participants from government departments such as the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), Arid Zone Agriculture Research Institute (AZRI), Extension Department, Pakistan Meteorological Department, Sindh University of Tando Jam, Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Sindh, Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), and Water Management Department as well as staff from Community World Service Asia.

Mir Hassan from Community World Service Asia started the workshop with an overview of the project and its stakeholders. During the training, the participating government agencies were given a chance to share about their roles, responsibilities and achievements in the field of disaster management to highlight best practices and find synergies in support of the at-risk communities. Representatives from PDMA Sindh, Sindh University of Tando Jam and Pakistan Metrological Department began by presenting their work and areas of expertise.

Then the lead trainer, Takeshi Komino of CWS Japan, shared the findings of the field visit with the workshop participants and discussed where collaboration is required to address the water-related issues of the communities. He also shared how potential areas for digging wells can be determined in cheaper and more appropriate ways using technology and how Electrical Resistivity Surveys can be done at specific locations to get clean water.

Then the representative from PDMA Sindh, Ajay Kumar, shared about their mandate and the response they have extended to the drought-affected communities to date. The representative of the Sindh University of Tando Jam, Arshad Narejo, followed by sharing about their work in the field of Disaster Risk Management. Then a representative from the Pakistan Meteorological Department, Abid Laghari, shared about their research and existing resources and how one can efficiently utilize meteorological data to minimize a community’s vulnerability to drought and other disasters.

The workshop was concluded with a note of thanks by Komino for the participants’ collaboration and expertise in service to the communities affected by the drought.

The role of the community members in the education system is immensely valuable.  It can lead to greater advantages in terms of improved school functions, low dropout rates and increased positive attitude of parents toward the schools. Community participation contributes in strengthening the education system as a whole,

shared Saleem Malik, Chairman of the School Management Committee (SMC) at Government Girls Campus Pithoro. Located in Umerkot city, the school has a total enrollment of 80 girl students. According to Saleem, the inactive role of the SMC in the planning, implementation and monitoring of developmental programs for the school has decreased academic achievement.

92% of the SMC members have not appeared in meetings or have not attended any training in relation to school management. They did not have a clear idea of their responsibilities towards the development of the school until they attended the session conducted by Community World Service Asia.

The SMC session conducted in March 2019 by Farhat Fairy, Project Officer at Community World Service Asia, was attended by 7 SMC members including parents, students, community members and head teacher.

The session was very informative and effective. We learnt about the important functions of the SMC including monitoring teachers’ attendance, utilizing the SMC funds to improve schools’ infrastructure, disbursement of stipends to girl students and sensitizing parents on the importance of education. We initiated quarterly meetings to implement the learnings of the session. The SMC encouraged mothers of children in the school to participate in meetings and as a result, mother of 10 students attended the first quarterly meeting in April 2019. This achievement shows that parents are realizing the importance of education and are eager to send their children to school for quality education, especially girls,

 said Saleem.

The school has been associated with Community World Service Asia since 2018, under the Girls’ Education Project[1].

The Teachers’ Trainings trained our teachers on Positive Learning Environment and ECCE[2] Methodologies and Scheme of Studies. Two of our teachers participated in the trainings which were held on November 2018 and January 2019. They implemented the learning in the school and introduced new teaching methodologies, creating child-friendly classrooms. Students now feel comfortable in asking questions and are engaged in practical activities which have built the confidence level of the girls, 

shared Saleem. The new teaching methodologies, according to Saleem, have improved student relations with fellow classmates and the teachers. Group work activities have encouraged team building and strengthened communication skills in the students’ learning processes.

Seema, a teacher from Government Girls Campus Pithoro, said,

We have made the classroom rules with the students. The involvement of students in rule-making processes have helped them set their own boundaries, and learn the difference between what is right and wrong. They actively follow the rules in the classrooms as they have set these rules. The rules are listed on a chart paper and displayed on the wall for every student to read in the classroom.

As a teacher, Seema feels that the teacher’s positive and friendly gestures in the classroom reflect the behaviors of children.

By being cheerful and active in class, children will be encouraged to do the same. If we follow the rules, the students will also be motivated to follow the same. Likewise, if a child breaks any rule, we as teachers should act calmly and explain the child what they have done wrong, rather than being aggressive or loud. The trainings have helped in transforming our attitudes with the students, consequently building a trustworthy and friendly relationship between us.

Nisha, a student of class 5, shared,

All girls in the classroom are friends together. Our teacher, Ms. Seema, has taught us to act kindly and friendly with students of other classes as well. She continuously encourages us to behave at our best. Moreover, I encourage other students to construct their own classroom rules to follow so that they can also have a clean and well-behaved classroom like ours.


[1] Improving Access and Quality of Education for Girls in Umerkot Project, implemented by Community World Service Asia and supported by Act for Peace.

[2] Early Childhood Care and Education

Kamla is a 16 years old artisan and member of the Women Enterprise Group (WEGs) working for Taanka. She belongs to the Kharoro Charan village of district Umerkot and lives with her seven siblings and their widowed mother in a one-room house. Their father passed away two years ago. Kamla and all her siblings are currently unmarried. While their two youngest brothers attend school, none of the others are currently studying. The highest any of the older siblings have studied is till 8th grade.

With tailoring being a sort of family profession, as their late father worked as a tailor in Karachi, Kamla’s  eldest brother also worked as a tailor, for which he left the village for Karachi soon after he graduated from class 8, to learn the skill from his father and earn an income for the family. Two more of Kamla’s brothers are also currently working near the village to earn a livelihood for their family.  One runs a general store of his own, while the other mends embroidery machines. Together the two brothers earn around PKR 15000 (Approx. USD 95) a month.

Taanka not only employs Kamla, but two of her sisters as well. All three sisters work as artisans for the social enterprise brand that sells high-end fashion and home products in large urban centres like Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.  The sisters worked very hard on the handicrafts they produced and earned well from it whenever they got orders. Kamla was the most highly educated among all three of them and had further enhanced her skills. She really enjoyed studying as well but had to leave school after grade 8 as none of her brothers could accompany her to school.

Kamla’s education expenses beyond primary level were paid for by my brother. I wish she could continue, but this is not possible. How will we make both ends meet if she leaves her handicraft work and starts studying again?

expressed Kamla’s mother.

Financial problems in Kamla’s household heightened when her eldest brother returned to Kharoro Charan from Karachi because of his receding health and a newly diagnosed mental disorder where he kept forgetting and repeating things. With the little savings that he returned with, he planned to build a house.

Our brother first constructed a toilet as we did not have a toilet in our house. Soon after the toilet construction was completed, he collapsed and has never been normal ever since. The construction work was stopped immediately because he needed treatment and the money he had saved had to be prioritized for his medical treatment,

Kamla said.

The brother’s health has now exacerbated to a situation where the family experiences sudden and repeated episodes of aggressive and violent behavior and angry verbal outbursts. He also breaks and tears apart the family’s belongings.

In most of rural Sindh, it is considered against the local culture for women to work outside their homes. Therefore, many women utilize their time working on ethnic embroideries and stitching apparel and home accessories; a skill that is passed on through generations. As per local tradition, the women are supposed to hand-embroider and stitch products for their own dowry or that of their daughters.  Keeping this ancient local tradition alive, Kamla and her sisters learnt embroidery at a very young age at home and hand-crafted most of their own clothes. Kamla particularly enjoyed this the most. Before working for Taanka, her sisters and she used to receive apparel design and embroidery orders from the Gumbar community in the neighboring village.

The money we made through personal orders was far too less compared to our expenses, raw materials or the time we spent on making them. Collectively, the three of us hardly made around PKR 5000 (Approx. USD 31) a month.

Kamla herself has not participated in any of the vocational trainings that WEG members of Taanka had been engaged in. She enhanced her in-born handcrafting skills through learning from her aunts and sisters who actually took part in the trainings organized by Community World Service Asia and its partners’ project to develop and strengthen the Taanka brand.

I feel motivated to work on new designs every day because the wages I earn through Taanka orders are fair. I learn new designs every day through the orders we receive from urban clients. The work is entirely different from what we did growing up. Designs are diverse, the fabric type is very thin, and there are different kinds and colors of threads and needles. In the past we have worked only on Pashanⁱ fabric, but through Taanka, I had the opportunity of embroidering designs on pure silk fabric too,

shared Kamla excitedly.

Kamla says that their mirror work is really appreciated by designers and they are receiving more orders for mirror work. Currently, she is embroidering mirrors on a daisy colored jacket. The three sisters collectively make PKR 25000 (Approx. USD 160) monthly through Taanka orders now.

The majority of what we earn is spent on our brother’s treatment. We also meet other household expenses with our earnings such as food, fetching water, and paying for our younger brother’s education expenses. Financial conditions of other artisans working with Taanka are also rapidly changing for the better.

I think women should not hesitate to learn new things. When we learn new things, we bring change in our lives and the lives of our loved ones,

says Kamla, wanting to motivate other aspiring artisans.

Kamla is an expert in hand embroidery now but she also wants to learn modern tailoring in the future.  With the little she is able to save after contributing to all the family expenses, Kamla wants to fulfil some of her own dreams too.

When I had to discontinue education, I felt very upset because my friends continued education but I could not. The day I am able to save up a lot of money from our Taanka earnings, I will go back to school, buy myself beautiful payal (anklets), matha patti (head jewellery), restart the construction work of our home, and will learn English. When I was in school, English was my favorite subject

, she said.


ⁱ A graphic embroidered silk with a jubilant festival spirit.

A training on kitchen gardening was organized in the last week of  June for twenty two women farmers of village Mandhal Thakaur located in Umerkot District of Sindh, Pakistan. This training was conducted as a key component of the Food security and drought response project supported by CGFB & PWS&D.

Through the day-long training, rural women gardeners were taught about the composition of gardening plots and were shown different ways of protecting their crops against diseases and insects. Economic and nutritional value of the harvested vegetables was highlighted as part of the training, and participants were made aware of the seasonal calendar of locally grown vegetables and how the growth and size of the harvest is affected by inclement weather. After the training, the women kitchen gardeners prepared patches of land to grow a variety of vegetables including okra, mung bean, brinjal, wild melon, cluster beans and ridge gourd. Their gardens now provide them and their families a variety of good quality home-grown vegetables which has improved their nutritional conditions as well as food diversity.

Here is a short video that captures participants of the training engaged in practical gardening exercises to prepare their land for cultivation and sowing seeds. While they are at it, these energetic and humble kitchen gardeners recite Gayatar Manthar, culturally considered one of the oldest and most powerful of Sanskrit mantras sung to cultivate agrarian lands in this region.

Mai Kenkoo, a 70-year-old elderly grandmother to four young children, lives in the remote, drought-struck village of Ramsar[1] with her son and his family. The family managed their expenses well with harvesting two acres of agricultural land that Mai Kenkoo owned. Her daughter-in-law worked to manage their land’s agricultural output and cattle which sufficiently fed the family and allowed them to save money to pay for the education of three of their elder children[2].

Life, however, became difficult for Mai’s family when severe drought hit the region and Ramsar village in September last year 2018. The area had been frequently affected by droughts in recent years, but the latest one had a more severe impact on the people living here. For more than a year, Mai’s family has not grown anything eatable. Mai remembered her deceased husband,

Not only were we better off when he was around but also it was less difficult to cope with the rigors of life in drought-stricken conditions.

 Her husband who was a cobbler and was a support system for their family until he passed away in 2009.

The old couple only had one son and no other children to call their own. Their son was diagnosed with tuberculosis a few years ago and treated with incorrect medicines which further exacerbated his health. Mai’s son works as a cobbler for a living and mended rubber skinned water gallons commonly used for fetching water in the area. His monthly income is between PKR 800 -1000 (approx. USD 6). His wife works on handicraft production from her house and embroiders ethnic Sindhi caps for the local community on order. Through this, she earns an average monthly income of PKR 3000-4000 (approx. USD 25). Before the drought, she was also engaged in farming activities on their land.

Since mid of last year, there were no yields from our fields. My daughter-in-law worked hard but could not grow a single crop without water. Her health started deteriorating too and was unable to breast-feed my youngest grandchildren. The children’s health suffered too. There wasn’t enough food to feed them.  They felt weak and refused to walk to school. I could see the weakness on their face. None of us were able to fill our stomachs well. And there was nothing to save for future meals or to sell-off. My son’s health also worsened as good nutrition fights back his illness but there was not enough food to keep him healthy anymore. He had to stop working due to his worsening health.

The drought had affected the health of their livestock.

With no rain and the continuing dry spell for two years, we had no fodder or water to feed our cattle. They had become like skeletons and we eventually lost them to malnutrition,

narrated Mai. With the leftover farm animals (four goats and a donkey), currently, the family’s daily needs are met with the fresh produce of the cattle. Mai’s goats and donkey graze on dried sunflowers receptacles that grow wild around their land which saves their fodder expenses and gives the donkey enough energy to fetch drinking water for the family[3].

While Mai’s two elder grandsons, seven and eight years old, are off from school for summer vacation, they fetch water as they place a tire-shaped rubber water gallon on their donkey on a three-kilometer (one-way) ride.  The water they fetch is used for the family’s drinking and cooking needs of a day. When their school was on, this task was carried by either of their parents. Water for animals is sought from a nearby approachable tube-well the quality of which is bitter in taste.

Mai shared that her grandchildren’s primary education is free, but the family’s income is insufficient to meet even their household expenses. In times of illness or medical emergencies, they cannot afford the travel expenses to go to hospitals or buy medicines.

To respond to the severe drought conditions in rural Sindh, Community World Service Asia launched its emergency food assistance project, supported by Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB) and PWS&D, in Umerkot district of Sindh in March this year.  The project aims to assist 1600 households affected by drought through the distribution of one-month food packages between March and August 2019. Some of these households belong to Ramsar village. Mai’s family is selected as a participant of this emergency food-security project.

God has now provided us a means to food through this project. We are coming out of difficult times and not only get to eat three meals a day but are also able to save for later. In the past, we not only worry about our own meals but also for that of the cattle.  Now we only worry for their survival. Worrying about providing meals for the family lead to a lot of tension among people at our home and in the neighborhood. Tension impacts our ability to do other work also,

stated Mai.

Water scarcity is a common problem in most villages of Umerkot. Rural women carrying matkas[4] on their heads and young boys riding donkey carts to fetch water long distances away are an everyday sight here. But with no water at all and the long droughts, it is becoming difficult for these agrarian rural communities to survive. Mai highlights other issues crippling the already resource challenged community, such as increasing unemployment and lack of nearby health facilities, especially for women. She remembers facing these problems here since she was a young girl but with time she feels the conditions have worsened.

This humanitarian drought response project not only supports provision of food inputs to communities but also ensures sustainability of livelihood beyond the project period through distribution of millet (baajra) seeds in its fourth round of distribution for the upcoming sowing season. These millet seeds will be cultivated and will provide the families a source of agricultural output in the months to follow.

My daughter-in-law will cultivate the seeds. If it rains, we will be self-reliant for our food needs. I have faith in God, he will do better for us,

 hoped Mai.


[1] Located 45 kilometers from Umerkot city.
[2] They walked to their school which was half a kilometer away from their home
[3] Water had to be fetched from a well it was 3 kilometers away from their house.
[4] Sand-made jars