Originally published on November 25, 2014.
“Nowhere in my dreams did I see myself growing this high,” said Muhammad Jan, the CEO of Community Development Foundation (CDF) in Jacobabad, Pakistan. In 2005, he invested in his future using personal savings to launch a small business. Today, the Community Development Foundation is a remarkably fast-growing company, with continuous support from Land O’Lakes.
According to the Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which measures the degree to which an area has developed, Jacobabad is not only one of the least developed districts of Pakistan’s Sindh province according to several criteria, but it is also among the lowest ranking areas in the world. Until 2005, lacking employment and educational prospects, residents faced a desolate future. But, Muhammad Jan cared too much to allow his community to slip away. He knew there was an urgent need for skills development and education opportunities in the area. “Knowing the importance of education, I wanted to enable the youth of Jacobabad to become empowered enough to find employment, otherwise they would end up gambling or involved in other crimes,” said Jan.
Concerned about his community, using his own money, Jan launched a skills development project and provided vocational training skills for mobile phone and electrical repairs, along with computer operation. He later extended the program into more sophisticated trainings, such as presentation skills, report writing, and résumé composition. Later, Jan took on a number of smaller projects related to basic primary education and adult literacy programs in the district.
CDF has now become a generic term for NGOs in Jacobabad with a positive image and respect. People acknowledge my organization, and me, for the work done for education in the region.
In late July 2010, a destructive flood submerged almost one-fifth of Pakistan’s total land area. Jacobabad was among Sindh province’s most-affected districts. It was during this period that many government schools were forced to close. Jan could not fund any rehabilitation projects, since he had no prior experience working with international donors. The annual budget of CDF was no more than approximately PKR 500,000 ($4,500 USD), as it was working only on small projects.
Thankfully, after the flood waters receded, Land O’Lakes International approached CDF to collect survey data on girls’ enrollment in government primary schools in Jacobabad. The data was required to launch Land O’Lakes’ three-year Pakistan Food for Education (FFE)
program funded by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Muhammad Jan and his small team volunteered to collect data. “I was aware of the dismally low enrollment of girls in primary school,” he explained, adding, “I wanted, with all my heart, for this project to be launched in my district, hence I volunteered without hesitation.”
The project was implemented in Jacobabad district because, at 33.8%, it had the lowest girls’ enrollment rate in Pakistan. CDF was eventually selected as a monitoring partner with Land O’Lakes and that was CDF’s first step in growing larger. Land O'Lakes distributed a monthly take-home ration of 4 liter soybean oil bottles to students and teachers who met the program’s attendance requirements of at least 80 percent. Oil was also distributed to pregnant and lactating women who agreed to participate in a health program.
Muhammad Jan, second from right, with his staff in front of the newly constructed CDF office
Land O’Lakes provided capacity-building opportunities to CDF to monitor and manage the program components effectively and efficiently. Before partnering with Land O’Lakes, 167 girls were part of CDF’s projects on education. The improved literacy rate for girls is 59%, according to Sindh Government data, and CDF has developed a more diversified profile of working with additional international donors in the district. Pakistan FFE was the first international project for CDF. By late 2013, it had completed 13 international projects and is currently working on five additional programs running in the region. Land O’Lakes provided ample opportunities for training and capacity building on a regular basis. The annual budget of CDF has increased to PKR 30,000,000 ($283,000 USD) in the three years that it has partnered with Land O’Lakes; a considerable increase from the meager funding they worked with previously.
CDF has now managed to create an organizational structure with departments for Human Resources and Finance. They have a clear and transparent account maintenance system, data codification and maintenance, and conduct annual financial reviews and audits, as required by the donor agencies. CDF has a staff of 45 people, with a growing number of volunteers. It has been strengthened internally to ensure sustainability.
Sitting proudly in his newly built office, Jan says that CDF started out in a small, two-room rented office he financed. It has grown into an organization – the first of its kind in Northern Sindh – with a head office and three other offices in the province. Muhammad Jan has increased his annual budget from PKR 500,000 ($4,500 USD) to PKR 30,000,000 ($283,000 USD).
“CDF has now become a generic term for NGOs in Jacobabad with a positive image and respect. People acknowledge my organization, and me, for the work done for education in the region. That is my biggest achievement so far. People trained by and with CDF continue to man about 12 - 15 NGOs operating in Jacobabad,” Jan said.
With an aim to further education in the region, Jan’s vision is to open up an institute that will provide quality education for girls and boys in and around Jacobabad. He also wants to empower the weak, the marginalized, and minority groups. He wants a more tolerant attitude for the downtrodden, those who are subject to social, cultural, traditional, ethnic, and religious discrimination. Growing continuously, it is not hard to believe that Muhammad Jan’s determination for working on education has resulted fruitfully.