Coca-Cola has always been dedicated to facilitating projects that contribute to the journey of growth and betterment for the community. As part of the initiative of giving back to the community, Coca-Cola believes water stewardship is the key to socio-economic development. Following the 100% Water Replenishment Goal by 2020, Coca-Cola Pakistan is vested in the efficient use and sustainability of water resources which are essential for human well-being.
MGPO is a non-for profit organization established in 2001 and certified by the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy. MGPO’s integrated development programs are designed to enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability of un-served and underserved communities enabling them to access resources and services through graduated empowerment, with a view to contributing to sustainable development. The adaptation actions follow a gender responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, guided by available science, local knowledge and indigenous practices to integrate adaptation into relevant socio-economic and environmental actions that reduce poverty and improve life quality indicators.
In 2016, Coca-Cola funded the project ‘Integrated Water Resource Management for Food Security, Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation Services in Gilgit-Baltistan’ in collaboration with MGPO and UNDP through the ‘New World Program’. Through this project, the target population of more than 4,000 individuals now has access to potable water and better sanitation facilities. Below is an infographic that covers the project features and benefits:
Founding Member and Chief Executive Officer, Mountain and Glacier Protection Organization
A team player, who leads by example, Aisha has over 18 years of experience designing and implementing sustainable development programs to build resilience and reduce the vulnerability of unserved and underserved communities.Her work includes interaction with Government and civil society on issues such as education, gender and conservation of natural environment. She has contributed in enhancing core program areas and expanding outreach, focusing on social economic and environmental wellbeing of the people. She has worked successfully in collaboration with multiple donors, national and subnational authorities and communities. She is on the Board of Directors of Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and Energy Conservation Fund (ECF). She is also member on the Certification Panel of Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP) and The Steering Committee of Pakistan Glacier Monitoring Network.
Aisha tells us about her journey with MGPO and Coca-Cola as inclusive partners towards sustainable development of communities in Gilgit-Baltistan:
1. What is the vision and mission of MGPO?
Vision: Building resilient communities with social, economic and environmental adaptive capacities working for a fair future through inclusive approaches.
Mission: Empowering communities to make equitable social, ecological and democratic choices through integrated and inclusive approaches for poverty reduction and sustainable development. MGPO aims to empower communities and enable them to make informed choices by maximizing growth and providing opportunity. Its mission is to bring about a qualitative change in the lives of disadvantaged communities utilizing a multisectoral approach to help map their journey out of poverty.
MGPO’s approach for bringing about change in disadvantaged communities is multisectoral. Development activities are seen as part of an integrated process that can only be achieved by involving strategic allies at all levels in a wide range of support activities. Along with providing essential services, MGPO simultaneously builds communities’ capacity to take care of their own needs and become partners in change.
2. How has MGPO’s journey with Coca-Cola been so far? What were the collaborative projects and their impact?
A journey with a shared objective, common goals and synergistic actions always produces harmonized outcomes. MGPO and Coca-Cola share a vision for the sustainable use of water by communities and within communities, by women who are the most important users and gatherers of water.
Both organizations are committed to the sustainable and integrated management of water for man and nature and believe that water stewardship and replenishment are interlinked with one unable to make progress without the other. With this in mind, Coca-Cola and MGPO collaborated to implement the ‘Integrated Water Resource Management for Food Security, Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation Services’ in Village Siksa, District Ghanche, Gilgit Baltistan. The target area is located in a high altitude mountainous region where water bodies play an important role in providing ecological goods and services to the people. High mountain areas are particularly prone to climate change, which affects species range, agricultural productivity and natural resource management practices. The local community relies on agriculture and livestock for sustenance and therefore any changes in snow cover, amplitude and timing of runoff in glaciers and snow fed rivers has a serious impact on agriculture and food security. Due to high altitude, only single cropping is possible, restricting opportunity for crop diversification or alternative pathways for income generation.
Under the project, MGPO was able to utilize perennial water sources, local technologies, skills and resources to successfully implement an integrated project that provides community with a reliable source of water, giving stewardship rights to communities and replenishment benefits to nature. The participatory and inclusive approach adopted by the project has benefitted 4,000 people and brought 355 hectares of barren land under cultivation with empowerment benefits to 1,400 women and enhanced skills and capacity for 500 youth. Women are now a part of the community organization with 50% representation and take an active part in decision-making. The community is sensitized to climate change and aware of its responsibility to manage ecosystems and resources in a sustainable manner. The hard and soft components of the project have strengthened adaptive capacity and resilience of the community to climate change.
3. Can you tell us the story of your Organization’s prior success, challenges and major responsibilities?
MGPO has evolved from an environmental protection organization into a practitioner of integrated development. Its history reflects a steady growth that has shaped its philosophy, nature and scope of work. MGPO’s experience ranges from environmental protection work in the high mountain ranges of Pakistan to integrated rural development programmes in other parts of the country.
All programmes aim to help disadvantaged communities through empowerment and provision of basic goods and services. MGPO defines its journey as one of cumulative learning, and application of that learning to making a qualitative difference in the lives of the communities it serves. MGPO combines integrated development with multiple levels of capacity building, which helps in realizing the full potential of communities to plot their development trajectory in accord with their hopes and aspirations.
MGPO started its work in a remote region with a harsh terrain and poor communication links and infrastructure facilities. While serving marginalized communities’ has its rewards it also presents serious challenges in the beginning. Most are linked to suspicion of outsiders and resistance to new ideas especially with regard to emphasis on inclusion of women in decision-making. Winning the trust and confidence of the community and other stakeholders posed the most serious challenge to our organization but once that was achieved the rest was only a question of perseverance, team work and determination to get the task done.
Our major responsibility was to ensure that the processes we follow and all our actions are guided by our principles and remain transparent and accountable at all times, with the ultimate objective of empowering people to make informed choices that promote social harmony and economic development leaving no one behind. In the last sixteen years, we have successfully completed social infrastructure projects in Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh, organized communities at household level, built capacity of all stakeholders and mainstreamed the role of women and youth in all activities.
4. How would you describe the existing situation of water stewardship in Pakistan in contrast to the West?
Latest research by the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (2017) suggests that water scarcity and water borne diseases are causing serious economic and health crisis in the country that are costing the economy annual income losses of up to 28 billion, roughly 0.6 to 1.44% of the total GDP. As an agrarian society, Pakistan relies heavily on the agriculture sector to meet its social and economic needs. Both the quantity and quality of water are of critical importance. The growing population is increasing pressure on the domestic, irrigation and industrial use of water. This has resulted in a massive drop in the per capita availability of water. Pakistan is still working on it water policy and needs to streamline its internal management practices to ensure that water is utilized optimally and replenished adequately to avoid a crisis situation. Lack of consensus on water has also prevented construction of dams and increasing storage capacity. This is a poor reflection of water stewardship especially in a country that is water starved. Pakistan depends on its water from trans-boundary sources and monsoon rains. Both flows need short and long term management strategies taking into account changes in the social, political, economic and environmental landscapes and the inherent risks attached with each scenario.
The mismatch between water inflow and outflow is not receiving the attention it deserves and needs to be addressed as a priority. Generally speaking, water stewardship practices in the west are more structured and implemented to ensure that safe water and its access is made available to all citizens. The population growth rate in the west is very low and does not put the same pressure on resources. The sources of water are also not unpredictable and level of awareness about water use and conservation is better. There is evidence of efficient water stewardship practices where almost 300 Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) schemes are functional in Europe with household level conservation efforts. In addition, much emphasis is given to technologies that can be used on a national and local level to use, conserve, store and manage water efficiently. The main difference lies in making policies that are based on accurate need assessment and implementing them with due diligence with systems in place to address existing needs and make plans for future consumption patterns. The policies give citizens the right to information and services and hold government accountable.
5. What are some of the up-coming projects of MGPO that we can look forward to?
MGPO will be working on a project in village Gole Tasu with Coca-Cola and UNDP to deliver water and sanitation services to the community in Gilgit-Baltistan. As the lead organization in setting up the Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change (CSCCC) with a national and sub-national agenda of activities, MGPO is actively engaged in strengthening the networking platform to increase its membership base and build capacities of stakeholders to support knowledge, research and advocacy with the objective of building synergy between state and non-state actors for co-creation of policies that build resilience and reduce vulnerability. Other projects include development of social infrastructure and ecological enhancement of landscapes as well as building capacities for collective climate action at all levels.
6. How can people be directly involved in MGPO’s mission in Pakistan?
MGPO operates on the principles of participatory and inclusive approaches for realizing its vision and mission. This opens doors for all stakeholders to engage with the organization and support its work in multiple ways. This includes financial contribution, technology support, donation of equipment and materials and volunteering services in any or all of its focus areas of intervention. Endorsements and feedback on social media will help us to improve service delivery.
Direct involvement can be at two levels;
(i) Contribution for hard component (Construction of social infrastructure);
(ii) Contribution for soft component activities (Training in capacity building)
Both build capacity and resilience empowering communities to make informed choices and improve their life quality indicators.