ISLAMABAD-A dedicated poverty graduation approach has become need of the hour for development of the country while supporting the rural poor by linking them to markets can move them up the poverty ladder sustainably, speakers said on Wednesday.

The Rural Support Programmes Network hosted a two-day RSPs Annual Strategy Retreat for strategic coordination, experience sharing, networking, and showcasing of new initiatives by Rural Support Programmes (RSPs).

The discussion focused on ‘poverty graduation’ programmes in Pakistan, role of private sector and RSPs in rural enterprise development to reduce rural poverty, and strengthening legal empowerment for women through community-based paralegals.

Experts on poverty elimination said that supporting the rural poor through responses like asset transfers and vocational training and linking them to markets and value chains [after graduation] can move them up the poverty ladder sustainably.

Statement said that Pakistan ranked 150th out of 189 on the Human Development Index, 148th out of 149 on Gender Parity, and 7th most vulnerable to climate change, has developed a need for dedicated poverty graduation approach.

Speaking about the Ehsaas programme launched by the government during his inaugural address, Chairman RSPN Shoaib Sultan Khan emphasized on the outreach RSPs possess in reaching every household in Pakistan for socio-economic empowerment that offers value addition to the government’s national initiative.

In the form of 573,000 community organizations and 9 million households formed by RSPs over the past three decades, sufficient social capital now exists for Ehsaas and National Poverty Graduation Programme to take off.

In three projects run by Sarhad Rural Support Programme in five KP districts: Peshawar, Nowshera, Charsadda, Chitral and Swat, around 6000 women (from a sample of 11,000) reported an average income increase of Rs6,122 per month, of which 35% was invested in better education and health services of their children. From the poverty score of 0-23, 2,653 women have been able to graduate out of poverty as a result of the financial assistance provided through the CIF.

Former Country Representative of International Fund for Agricultural Development Qaim Shah said, said on this occasion that poverty data to determine official poverty line in Pakistan has not been made available since Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey done since 2014-2015 which is a necessary tool for practitioners to have to work on poverty reduction.

Statement issued added that Southern Punjab Poverty Alleviation Programme running in 10 districts shows that economic empowerment of communities through income generating interventions also contributed to political empowerment as it helped them get released from bonded labour and so affecting voting choices.

It also brought a 41% reduction in unemployment rate in those 10 districts, and living and health conditions improved for 76% of the programme beneficiaries through infrastructure support.

Representatives from implementing partners of European Union-funded SUCCESS programme being run in Sindh, talked about the Government of Sindh’s latest Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) that builds upon the gains made from economic and infrastructural investments made in rural communities across Sindh through European Union’s support.

The retreat was well-attended by representatives from all four provincial governments and AJK and GB, community representatives, diplomats, donors and development practitioners, including the Additional Chief Secretary of Punjab Capt (R) Aijaz Ahmad, Additional Chief Secretary AJK Dr Syed Asif Hussain, and Deputy Head of Mission Sigbjorn Tenfjord from Norwegian Embassy.