In a quaint little village named Birkhio in Umerkot, a woman named Pohno experienced loss and suffering as her cherished goats, a primary source of livelihood for her, fell prey to skin diseases and infections. The devastating floods in 2022 had not only damaged lands and taken lives in the area but had also led to a spread of infectious diseases among people and livestock both.

Sadly, Pohno’s animals were among the many thousands who had succumbed to the post-flood epidemic. As a widow and single mother of three adult children, all of whom had their own responsibilities now, Pohno found herself in a challenging situation – without any means of income.

“My primary source of livelihood revolved around the livestock we possessed. But my world was swept away along with the floods that struck Birkhio last year. The floodwaters contaminated our surroundings, leaving our goats exposed to a range of harmful pathogens. The skin diseases and infections ultimately led to the demise of most of my livestock,” lamented Pohno. She had heavily relied on her goats for sustenance and income, and their loss had left her devastated. Pohno owned a total of 35 goats, 20 of which perished due to underlying issues. The primary problem leading to their demise was the insufficient supply of proper nutrition to their bodies. The remaining 15 goats were only able to survive because Pohno started providing them with extra care.

To support households and individuals affected by the economic and social impact of the floods, Community World Service Asia and its long-term partners, Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe (DKH) initiated a humanitarian project to provide essential relief resources that would be sustainable but also income-generating.

As a participant of the project, Pohno received animal food and health kits that were designed to retain and improve the health of her remaining goats. These kits included medicines, vitamins, and hygiene products specifically tailored to increase the well-being of local livestock. Pohno also received Hydroponic seeds, which helped her produce a more nutritious diet for her livestock. “The use of Hydroponic seeds has been something new and very innovative for us. It is a novel approach that has incorporated specific leaves into the goats’ diet, enhancing their overall health and improving their skin conditions.”

During dry seasons in Umerkot, there is a huge scarcity of nutritious fodder for livestock, leaving them with little to consume apart from dry leaves, making them weak and leaving them hungry. Hydroponic, on the other hand, is a type of fodder that takes approximately ten days to grow and is then fed to the goats. It involves mixing Hydroponic grass with dry grass to provide the goats with enhanced nutrition. This proved to be a pivotal factor in significantly improving the health of Pohno’s goats. “Incorporating these leaves into the goats’ diet had a profound impact. It provided the goats with a valuable infusion of essential nutrients and antioxidants, strengthening their immune systems and equipping them to combat infections effectively. The combination of this improved diet, along with the medication and hygiene measures supplied in the health kits, resulted in a remarkable transformation in the overall health and well-being of the goats.”

Pohno was among sixteen individuals who received training under the project to strengthen the livelihoods and resilience of communities that lived below poverty and those that were most vulnerable to climate change impact. This training became instrumental in familiarising participants with the use of hydroponic seeds and their advantages for livestock survival. It also helped communities learn about proper feeding practices and timings necessary for improving the health of their livestock.

As the health of Pohno’s goats improved, they began to produce better-quality milk. This not only benefited Pohno’s own household (where she takes care of her ailing daughter) but also served as an additional source of income for her. The recovery of her goats instilled a renewed sense of hope and strength in Pohno’s life, empowering her to regain control over her livelihood.

Community World Service Asia is a non-governmental organization, which implements humanitarian and development activities in Pakistan. We have been effectively implementing development projects in KPK, Punjab, and Sindh. Community World Service Asia is registered under the Societies Act of 1860, bearing Registration No. KAR 0072 as a local NGO recognized by the Government of Pakistan. Our headquarters are located in Karachi, with liaison offices in Islamabad, Lahore, and Umarkot. Additionally, we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Economic Affairs Division (EAD) in Islamabad, under the Government of Pakistan.

Community World Service Asia is inviting sealed quotations for the construction of 15 solar powered water points at UC Faqeer Abdullah and Kejarari, Umerkot. The Bill of Quantities (BoQ) documents can be found within the documents as Annexure – A.

The deadline for the submission of sealed bids or through email is Sunday, November 5, 2023, by 15:00 hrs.

Download tender documents

Kitchen Gardens: A sustainable model for food security & diversity for the people of Umerkot

“We, none of us in this village, ever thought of keeping a kitchen garden. It was something beyond our thinking,” with these words Sohdi of village Charihar Bheel echoes the voice of thousands of women and men across the desert area of Umerkot. This is what they believed until Community World Service Asia (CWSA) launched the training sessions on kitchen gardening.

Now, even though they live in a sand desert, the communities of Umerkot are all farmers and livestock keepers. Their practice has long been to plough their fields in late June and sow the seeds of their seasonal crops in anticipation of the coming monsoon. For vegetables, however, they made a separate set of furrows on one side of the main field. Because the fields are outside the village, sometimes a little way off too, there was no way of watering them. Therefore, while hardy crops like guar beans, mong or millets could survive until the rains begin in July, the vegetable seeds needed watering.

Consequently, the seeds that made it through until the first shower produced a small crop of vegetables to last a few days. If the rains were good, the farmer’s family had a supply of wholesome, organic vegetables for a few weeks. And then the plants withered. That is, a farming family in Umerkot had vegetables only once a year during the first fall of summer rains. Of course there is the hardy chibhar (Cucumis melo agrestis), wild and abundant in the summer whose miniature melon-like fruit can either be stewed fresh or dried. There is also the kandi (Prosopis cinerara) tree with its leguminous seed pods that make another nourishing stew known as singri. And then, during the monsoon, the people of Umerkot have the luxury of a fine and rather abundant mushroom, even if for a short while.

This, then, is the limit of their fresh local vegetables. The other source is purchasing from the city. This is done only when someone is in town for work; to go especially for vegetables would make the purchase unaffordable. Since there is no way to stock them fresh at home, the purchase is usually for two or three days and consumed in this period before the vegetables go off. Unsurprisingly, the usual diet in Umerkot was wheat or millet flatbread with chilli paste washed down with water. Variety in diet was virtually unknown for the most part of the year.

Yet, as Sohdi says, no one ever thought of preparing a patch nearer to their home to have a regular supply of fresh vegetables.

The kitchen gardening intervention, by Community World Service Asia, Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) and Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D), with relief following the drought of 2021 introduced the farmers of Umerkot to the idea nobody had thought of before: a small patch right by the house for vegetables. This is always in the charge of the woman of the household and speaking with several of them one can learn how to manage a kitchen garden for fresh vegetables: water the patch and keep it moist for three days before adding animal manure. Then prepare the furrows and plant the seeds. Flood irrigation is a wasteful idea of the past; watering should be done with a used PET1 cola bottle with its cap punctured to deliver a small stream in the root of the sprouting plant. And the kitchen garden is ready to supply vegetables two to three weeks after the sowing.

An hour distance away, in New Subani, the very vocal Dai who is a member of every committee in the village, has no doubt how well her kitchen garden serves her family. She says she planted her first patch in March 2022 with okra, chibhar, guar, cucumber, squash and zucchini. It was very fruitful and she has never looked back since. The garden sowed in March lasted until the middle of May before withering away in the arid pre-monsoon heat. “Everyday we had vegetables with our chapatti which beats chilli paste any time. And my crops of squash, okra and zucchini were so abundant, I gave away vegetables gratis to my neighbours,” she says.

According to Dai, the fear of what to feed a visitor was banished from her life after she began her kitchen garden. That year, Dai did her second batch in July. The rains were very good and her garden lasted well into August. She kept the seeds from her vegetables and with some supplied by CWSA, planted a very successful kitchen garden again in March 2023. In July, she yet again had a little garden coming along well after the first rain of the season.

Earlier, every year Dai planted a small patch of vegetables by the side of her agricultural plot. It was always a dicey business. To get some little out of it was considered good fortune, and that only when it rained on time. But the CWSA training on kitchen gardening and this idea of having the patch next to her home has made her a supplier of free vegetables to her neighbours and anyone who comes asking.

Far away in Kachbe Jo Tar, another village in the same district, school teacher Bhammar Lal Bheel tends his wife’s kitchen garden. He speaks of the joy of having fresh spinach, okra, eggplant, marrow and pumpkin and says that the variety of the menu in his home has given him more energy than he ever had. “The millet chapati (unleavened flatbread) slides down very easily when taken with a vegetable stew,” he says with a smile.

Being the man who goes frequently into town, he knows the rate of vegetables and recounts it for the listener. Two days’ worth of greens for a family of eight members like his put one back by at least PKR 800 (Approx. USD 2.75). And even then the vegetables were not very fresh. He also knows that they are treated with harmful chemical pesticides. But now with their own kitchen garden the family has fresh, straight off the stalk vegetables that are one hundred percent organic too. It is free because CWSA provided his wife the seed to augment her stock she saves from her previous garden.

Bhammar Lal produced a MUAC (Mid Upper Arm Circumference) measuring tape. He says he first of all began by measuring MUAC in his own family and was surprised by the progressive increase in size among the children in the weeks following the addition of vegetables to their diet. Then he went around the village comparing the measurements of those families with kitchen gardens with those who did not have them. “There was such a clear difference, not only in children’s MUAC, but of grown women as well. That speeded up my personal campaign to encourage more and more kitchen gardens,” he says with visible pride. “It’s the vitamins!”

Bhammar Lal says his wife participated in the CWSA training sessions and learned how to make the best of the little vegetable garden. But there are women who were not part of the training and who are not in on this little open secret. “I go around the village instructing other women on how to make a kitchen garden. And then I follow up a few days later and if they are not at it, I encourage them to at least try it out,” he says. He is happy that by his effort, there are many more kitchen gardens in the village. To paraphrase Sohdi again: everyone is happy because chapati goes down so well with stewed vegetables.

Not too far, in Rohiraro village, the ever-smiling Gauri points out one effect of the kitchen gardens that have now sprouted almost all over the village. And this may not have been foreseen by the NGO: with the vegetable patch to look after, women have not gone to ‘Sindh’ (as they refer to the irrigated districts to the west) last year and again in 2023. In consequence, children who leave school in March to travel with the family and return after the summer vacations have had two full years of education.

In Gauri’s view, the real winner is education. That is even more important than just good health.

  1. Polyethylene Terephthalate

When the deluge of 2022 hit village Kumbhar Bhada bringing down so many of those mud-plastered chaunras all around, Saleh Mangrio and his wife Shabana had a fall back. They salvaged what they could from their collapsing hut, particularly Shabana’s sewing machine and the large tin trunk out of which Saleh ran his small provisions and snacks store and escaped from their damaged home to another they owned that had stayed intact on a dune in the village.

With plastic sheeting protecting the snacks in his tin trunk, Saleh continued his little business. However, Shabana’s work as a seamstress suffered because in that time of uncertainty with nonstop rain teeming down and no work to be found for a community of unskilled workers, women did not want new dresses done up.

Meanwhile, in the summer of 2022, with seed provided under the Humanitarian, Early Recovery and Development (HERD), Saleh had sowed his three-acre holding with millets, mung and guar beans that he watched over with increasing anxiety as he knew the nonstop rain was likely to damage the yield. With food taken care of by the aid programme, Saleh’s primary worry as the deluge let off was for housing for the family and a place where his wife could again set up her own tailoring shop in their new location. He borrowed PKR 45,000 (Approx. USD 156) to strengthen the main chaunra, add another one, erect a thatched otaq to entertain his male visitors and even build a covered latrine.

Harvest rolled around in late October and Saleh recalled, “The harvest was not what should have been had the rain stopped after irrigating the sand. Nevertheless, it was enough for me to sell some for cash and repay my debt. And this was possible because the last two instalments of food aid took away our major worry and expense.”

His harvest was not the only commodity Saleh sold. He also had two male goats that fetched a reasonable price. Some of these proceeds serviced his debt, one part paid for a female goat and the rest was invested in the store. He reported that the store he started with stocks worth PKR 3500 (Approx. USD 12) just three years ago, was now worth PKR 16,000 (Approx. USD 56) at the end of 2022, fetching a net profit of about PKR 500 daily. He said that this investment in building his home and expanding his little store was possible only because of the food aid programme.

Asked what he thought was the greatest advantage of the food aid, agricultural training and input Saleh unequivocally said that it had kept him free of loan for the first time in some years.

“Normally, when crops fail and even though we recover the cost of the seed, it is loss because the reduced harvest cannot feed us. Most times we end up selling our livestock only to pay for food items. When I sold my goats late last year, I was not consuming the money but investing it in housing for the family. That was the win for us.”

The Mangrio family knows adversity as well as so many other natives of Umerkot. In 2021, he had fifteen goats, recalled Saleh. The drought was so bad that water ponds and even underground storage tanks dried up. All around the village livestock began to perish and Saleh acted swiftly to sell off five goats. The price was well below the going rate, but it could not be helped. At least he got something out of his livestock even as three of his animals perished.

But as 2023 dawned, Saleh Mangrio was happy that he still had four goats that were bound to multiply. Also, his store was fetching a little profit to pay for the daily kitchen expenses and, best of all, he was not under debt.

Village Soheb Khan lies some 25 kilometres south of Umerkot, in the nook formed by the Cheelh-Kantio road and the one coming south from Umerkot. It is now a sprawling village, but when the primary school was established here back in 1992, it was just a sprinkling of houses. What began as a two-room primary school with two dozen students then, now has six rooms and a strength of two hundred and fifty students going up to the middle level.

Schoolmaster Farooq Ahmed recalled the time when he was the only teacher at the primary school. But there were so few students it was easy to manage them. Slowly the rolls began to grow and the school was upgraded to middle level in 2012 and more rooms were added to the original two. With that expansion the number of teachers was also added to and it began to look like a real school. In March 2023, there were five teachers and as these lines are being read, another has been added to the primary level.

Farooq said he underwent the teachers’ training, under the education project of Community World Service Asia (CWSA) and Act for Peace (AfP), from which he benefited greatly. By his own account, until this training, he assiduously kept to the schoolbooks and did no ‘events’ with his students. He said the Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE) training organised by CWSA opened up a whole new world for him: education could be innovative rather than drab and run of the mill. Activities now include science experiments, skits and discussions between students and teachers. According to him, his top of the class students are still top of the class, but with a higher average of marks than before. He admitted that earlier there were occasions when he lost his temper, but the positive learning training changed that altogether.

It was good to note that Farooq’s students, even of the primary level, spoke very clear and unaccented Urdu. Kashif, twelve years old and in Grade 6, loved to read English books and wanted to be a doctor. His father worked for a petrol filling station the income from which was augmented by the income from his small holding of agricultural land. Kashif topped in his class in the last exam for promotion to Grade 6. Although two years earlier, he was again first, but he ceded the first position to another student in the exams for Grade 5. That was when he vowed that he would regain his position at the top of the class and hold it all the way through school.

The child is clearly very ambitious and had already charted his course: after he finished middle school in the village, he would enrol in the high school in Kunri1 and then college in the same town. Thereafter it will be Hyderabad and medical college. Kashif said he liked to play cricket in his spare time after he had done his homework. Why he wanted to be a doctor, the child was very clear: “There is no doctor in the village and sick people have to go to the city. I will be the doctor always at hand to be of help.”

Eleven year-old Afshan of Grade 6 was schoolmaster Farooq’s daughter. Though she played football in her spare time, she was clearly inspired by her father and wanted to be a teacher. Her reason for choosing this profession was because she wanted to help others get ahead in life just as her father was doing. Throughout her six years in school, Afshan topped in her class even though she rarely got help in her homework from her elder brother who is studying to be a lawyer or from her father. When she was not playing football or doing her homework, Afshan read English books.

Azeeza joined school late: at age fifteen, she was still in Grade 5 where her favourite subject was English. But that did not take away ambition and dedication from her for she was always at the top first or second position in class. Though both her parents were illiterate and ordinary farm labourers, she being greatly inspired by her teachers, wanted to be one herself. However, it went entirely to the credit of her parents who despite their own illiteracy saw that all five of their children were educated. Her elder brother having completed his graduation from Sindh University, Hyderabad was now on the lookout for a job.

Little Iqra, small for her nine years of age, was in Grade 3 and again among the two top pupils in her class. Unlike the others spoken with, her favourite subject was Urdu. Her father who managed a petrol filling station was full of encouragement for his daughter who wanted to be doctor when she grew up.

  1. Kunri is a tehsil and town located in the Umarkot District, Sindh province in southern Pakistan.

Written and Contributed by Samina Jamshaid, CWSA Staff, Professional Art Therapist, and Visual Artist

What springs to mind when we see a pair of hands?

For me, a hand is that magic that constantly creates miracles, and turns dreams into reality.
During my visit to Umerkot, I came across multiple pairs of such fascinating hands, young and old. Every wrinkle and mark on those hands had a story to tell about the journey it ventured – some of their own and others of the hands used to accomplish someone’s dream. Yes! You read that right. Someone’s dream living far away, whom they have never seen or met but with the artistry of their hands and a smile on their face, made their dreams into reality; a momento for them to cherish for the rest of their life.

These are the women of rural interior Sindh; no matter which small or remote village in the Province they live in, these women work tirelessly to create miracles with threads and needles and their skillful hands.

A beautiful, warm smile greeted me in a remote village on my first ever visit to Umerkot. While I was waiting in the courtyard of a far-away village, with hundreds of eyes fixated on me and astonished smiles of a handful of children, I saw a lady walking towards us, dressed in mustard yellow traditional Sindhi attire. She had the most mesmerising smile, and a sparkle of contentment in her eyes. The pride of being a bread earner for her family and a supporting hand for her husband, was clearly evident in her walk. She is Kalawanti from Kharoro Charan. Her name means “Talent”, making her a walking definition of her name.

Kalawanti’s talent and skill was identified by Community World Service Asia’s (CWSA) livelihoods team that leads the organisation’s skill enhancement and social enterprise programs which are envisioned to empower women and strengthen their roles as key household decision makers and sustainable livelihoods sources. CWSA also launched a social enterprise brand, Taanka1 meaning “Stitch” of which Kalawanti is a part of as an active member of its Women Enterprise Groups (WEG).

My day with the community and the villages that are supported through Taanka showed me the relevance of the name as it was not only about the literal craftsmanship of the community but the idea is to stitch the communities together with acceptance, love, care for each other and promoting each other’s good work. CWSA’s Livelihoods program binds the communities together in a way that they become inseparable.

Many of us in Pakistan wear reputed clothing brands and designer fashion wear but do we stop to think twice about the intricate, delicate embroidery and embellishments on our apparel and fashion accessories and whose craftsmanship this is. Many times, it is the creation of women like Kalawanti living in remote villages.

As it is said behind every successful woman there is a man, but I would say behind every progressive community there is a group of dedicated humans and in this case, it is the group of artisans working together under the umbrella of Taanka. Taanka has faced its challenges and took risks but always tried to make things work so that the livelihoods of the artisans behind it don’t stop. This is true perseverance.

Artisans like Kalawanti are hard working and resilient. They are not only artisans but housewives as well. They take care of their families, leading all household chores, ensuring everyone is fed, in good health, children going to school. Their everyday struggles are endless but the output of their work as artisans makes all their hard work worth it. The support they get from CWSA through linkages with markets, quality control, and product development ensures their hard work is paid off and valued.

This visit to villages in Umerkot made my heart and soul smile with pride! And i couldn’t help but share about it with the world.

  1. Taanka is a social enterprise launched by Community World Service Asia in 2016, to develop sustainable market linkages for rural women artisans in Sindh. The brand promotes the finest handcrafted amalgamation of contemporary designs with traditional stitches, produced by rural women artisans from interior Sindh, Pakistan and facilitate collaboration between the women artisans and urban designers, design students, commercial textile companies and fashion brands, to reflect consumers’ demands in ethnic designs.

Shehdev of village Veri Sal Sarety lying 6 kilometres southwest of Umerkot, the second youngest of seven brothers is a bachelor while all the others are wedded. One of them passed away some years ago leaving behind three little children. Then the widowed mother walked out of the home leaving her children in the care of their uncle. Shehdev thus cares for four souls that includes these three children and his mother. Herself illiterate, the mother is a remarkable women for she and her husband had worked hard to educate all her seven sons. No surprise then, that Shehdev is a matriculate.

Shehdev works as a bricklayer wherever he can get work. And this is mostly in Umerkot, 6 kilometres away. With the fare being PKR 60 (Approx. USD 0.27) out and back, his daily wage varying between PKR 800 and PKR 1000 (Approx. USD 3 and 4.45), is enough to put reasonable food on the table for the five-member family. To supplement this income, Shehdev’s mother goes to the flooded cotton fields to pick the ripe crop. She knew the flood has caused venomous snakes to take refuge among the vegetation, but the work cannot be given up, especially at a time when other work is hard to find.

In July, the deluge came and construction work came to a halt. Some little savings from his work helped Shehdev and his family make it through the first couple of weeks before things began to get difficult. Had there not been some work helping local landowners drain their flooded fields and for his mother to endanger her life in the cotton fields, Shehdev would have gone under debt.

In early September 2022, food was the least of Shehdev’s worries because his mother continued her work and brought some cash. He was more concerned with the rebuilding of his collapsed home. Sahehdev, now living under a makeshift tent on higher grounds nearby to escape the flood waters, admitted the cost would be negligible because the clay for the bricks was locally available and the rafters for the collapsed roof were undamaged. Being a bricklayer himself, he was better acquainted than most with the work and as soon as he got some cash, he would begin reconstruction. If only his two yearling bulls had not died during the rains, he could have easily disposed of them for a neat PKR 70,000 (Approx. USD 312) and raised his home in quick time. But without that ready cash gone, he has to rely for cash from his mother’s farm work and himself if he is called to help drain a field. Shehdex, who is now supported through one of Community World Service Asia’s development projects, will only be able to return to work as a bricklayer when construction begins again after the last crowds have dissipated.

When: 19th-21st, December 2022 (arrival at venue on 18th Dec 2022)
Where: Umerkot, Sindh
Language: Urdu and English
Interested Applicants: Click here to register
Last Date to Apply: 5th-Dec-2022 (incomplete applications will not be entertained)

Training Objectives: Through this training, you will be able to:

  • Identify the key Q&A initiatives and their tools to support Project Cycle Management
  • Select and adapt existing Q&A tools and resources to overcome challenges throughout the Project Cycle
  • Outline the opportunities and challenges faced by humanitarian workers in implementing Q&A approaches and tools throughout the project cycle
  • Identify means by which you and your colleagues can collaborate and coordinate with other agencies to improve the quality and accountability of a humanitarian response
  • Introducing and mainstreaming quality and accountability mechanisms through the organisation

Training Purpose

The impact of humanitarian work on communities depends greatly upon the quality of services and accountability of actions both during emergency and non-emergency times. With millions of people affected by disasters and conflicts, the importance of Quality & Accountability (Q&A) is undeniable. The effective implementation of Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) requires a commitment to build institutional and individual capacity of people engaged in designing and implementing humanitarian as well as development projects.

Community World Service Asia (CWSA) aims to ensure that all relevant agencies including NGOs, INGOs, UN, donors, universities and government agencies, playing an active role in the disaster response & rehabilitation are given the opportunity to implement Quality and Accountability approaches and tools in their work.

Number of Participants

  • 20-25 participants will be selected for the training. Women and staff belonging to ethnic/religious minorities are encouraged to apply.
  • Preference will be given to participants representing organizations working in Umerkot and surroundings.

Selection Criteria

  • You have experience in managing a key position
  • You have an idea about the Q&A initiatives
  • You are interested in introducing Q&A mechanisms in your organisation
  • You have a ‘good enough’ command of English.

Fee Details

  • Training fee for each participant is PKR 10,000. Fee concessions and scholarships are available for participants belonging to marginalised groups and NGOs with limited funding.
  • No TA/DA will be given to participants and travel expenses will be incurred by participants themselves.


Community World Service Asia (CWSA) is a humanitarian and development organization, registered in Pakistan, headquartered in Karachi and implementing initiatives throughout Asia. CWSA is member of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) Alliance, a member of Sphere and their regional partner in Asia and also manages the ADRRN Quality & Accountability Hub in Asia.

Twenty-five year-old Vadhri of Rohiraro rarely leaves home. Even though her village is just sixty kilometres southeast of Umerkot, she has not been to town for a couple of years. She may have had some liberty had her husband been alive, but since his death in 2018, she has been under the constant watch of her meddlesome, overbearing father-in-law.

Vadhri’s husband was a maker of the famous farasi (camel and goat hair carpet) of Sindh. Working ten hours a day, seven days a week, he made around PKR 4000 a month (Approx. USD 20). Though it was a pittance for the masterful work he was doing, he kept at it but remained perpetually in bondage to the middleman who provided him the required materials for the product. To this loan shark he was obligated to sell his produce at a price set by the buyer. That, it goes without saying, was considerably lower than the market price. Like hundreds of other Meghwar men engaged in this craft in Umerkot, he was too poor to procure the materials and become independent of the exploitation.

What little time he got, he laboured in the five-acre plot of land he owned in the village. Long years ago, when his father was a young man, rains were timely and plentiful and this holding provided the family with sufficient food for the year. But things had changed and now there were years when rains failed and he lost what he had invested in his land.

Meanwhile, even the priceless and exquisitely beautiful farasi was going out of fashion. Once a prized adornment in any self-respecting Sindhi home, its demand dwindled and craftsmen turned to other professions. Vadhri’s husband resolved to become a driver. From what he knew, that was a line of good and regular income. But to be a driver he did not have to go to school. All that was needed was to attach himself to a vehicle as helper to the driver.

The rules for this apprenticeship are that he was to clean the vehicle, fetch the master his cup of tea and food and be much like a slave. The master considering he was doing the apprentice a favour by teaching him a valuable skill, did not pay any salary. And so from being a slave to the farasi middleman and making a meagre living, the man became a slave to the driver without a salary.

Over time, he was permitted to do a little bit of reverse and forward practice in the village. But before he could actually master the skill, misfortune struck. On a journey perched precariously atop some baggage on a desert road, the vehicle he was riding struck an unseen speed breaker. The jolt threw the poor man onto the road where he quickly gave up his ghost because of a head injury. He was barely twenty-five years old.

Vadhri was left alone to fend for herself and her three little children. It was just as well that she was a skilled embroiderer of the prized Sindhi cap. But she too was in bondage to the buyer who supplied her the materials and purchased each complete piece for PKR 800 (Approx. USD 4). It took Vadhri a week to finish one cap, but there never was a month when she had work all four weeks. Her income therefore floated around PKR 2500 per month (Approx. USD 12).

She was fortunate to receive the monthly monetary aid under the Benazir Income Support Programme1  (renamed Ehsas) which allowed her to maintain her eldest child in the local school. Evidently a very foresighted woman, Vadhri dreams of enrolling the other two when they reach the age because, as she says, it is only be through education that they will break the shackles of poverty.

Despite the BISP support being just PKR 1000 per month (Approx. USD 8) and her own income only a little more, Vadhri, began to put away little by little. When she had saved about PKR 5000 (Approx. USD 24), she started a small general merchandise store in the village. This she gave to the charge of her father-in-law. Once again, the profit was not consumed but ploughed back into the business to constantly increase it. Meanwhile, she herself continued diligently with her cap making to feed her family.

But PKR 2500 Approx. USD 12) can scarcely keep a family of four fed for a month. Therefore, while she restricted herself to two meagre meals a day, she ensured that her children were fed as best as they could be given the tiny resource. And so, if the CWSA field staff picked a deserving candidate for food aid under the Humanitarian, Early Recovery, and Development project, it was Vadhri. This was just in time because the PKR 7000 (Approx. USD 34) accrued from selling her 2021 autumn crop of millets, guar and lentils was all but used up over the winter when children need more nourishment.

Since April 2022, her three children have food much better than they had ever had in their lives. Vadhri herself is now eating three meals a day. In mid-May, her larder still contained some of the supplies of the first handout even as she expected the second instalment the next day. She will not have to sell her goats to feed her family, she says. Why, in those difficult days of the Corona virus she had to sell two of her eight goats and had fretted that she soon might be left with no goats at all.

In May 2022, with food secured, Vadhri was yet putting away all her cap income for she had no idea how much longer the food aid would continue. There will be a time she will have to buy her own food for which she needed to save up, she said. Her next concern was that the PKR 500 (Approx. USD 2) that she spends every month on her school-going child should always be at hand. Soon the next child too will be eligible for enrolment. The food aid has made that possible.

Meanwhile, as her store continues to grow, one can only wish her well and would like to see her blossoming into an entrepreneur in a year or so.

1 The Benazir Income Support Programme is a federal unconditional cash transfer poverty reduction program in Pakistan.

Fifty year old Pehlaj works as a primary school teacher at a government school in Umerkot district of Pakistan. His co-education school is located in a remote part of Umerkot, with a student count of 262, and a total of five teachers.

As part of a training programⁱ for teachers, Pehlaj participated in three trainings focused on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE). The trainings aimed to increase teachers’ capacity on teaching in a pandemic environment, child-centrered and positive learning techniques. “This was a first of its kind experience for me. I became more acquainted with early-grade teaching techniques owing to the training, which also included classroom management, learning corners and class decorations. Additionally, the session on COVID-19 pandemic taught us practical steps to follow in schools to stop the virus from spreading among students and teaching staff,” shared Pehlaj.

Like other participants of the trainings, Pehlaj received an ECCE kit at the end of the training, which included stationary, poster cards, water colours, markers, wall clock, puzzles, play cards, learning cards of English and Urdu Alphabets, colour pencils and chart papers. “The learning kit was a good motivation and helped us make our lessons very interesting. Our students enjoyed learning through practical activities. I came up with a plan to develop identical kits for other classes at the school too.”

As a hobby and passion, Pehlaj also sings songs and performs as a professional dancer at religious activities for which he is paid mostly. Pehlaj turned down payments in the past and only recently has started accepting payment for his performing art services. “I began to accept PKR 5000 as remuneration for each performance at the festivals. I buy first aid kits, educational materials, stationery, and play cards for the students in Grades 1 to 5 with the additional money I make.”

The hygiene kits provided in the trainings focused on education during a pandemic, particularly COVID-19, have been quite useful, conferred Pehlaj. “I encouraged the students to use face masks and hand sanitizers in the classroom and made them wash hands with soap before and after lunch breaks. Additionally, we ensured phenyl was used to disinfect classrooms.” Pehlaj also oriented other students and teachers on COVID-19 SoPs through individual sessions in each classroom of their school.

A hand washing station was also installed in the school under the project. Students were oriented on effective hand-washing to prevent coronavirus.

“Students in remote schools have less resources to pursue a high standard of education and combat pandemics. This assistance was both necessary and timely. Our students are actively participating in their education activities and utilising classroom resources effectively,” concluded Pehlaj.

ⁱ Community World Service Asia & Act for Peace’s Education project