Introduction Lok Sanjh

Lok Sanjh is a farmers’ based organization and struggling to bring a livelihood change for small holders through an organized effort to make the farming communities aware of their rights and enable them struggle for protection of their rights, particularly the women farmers and landless families who do not have the capacity to organize themselves for their rights.Consequently, they are unable to avail the livelihood opportunities.

The origins of Lok Sanjh are particularly interesting, reminding us of the intertwined nature of food, health and livelihoods. Dr Shahid Zia together witha group of small farmers, formed the Lok Sanjh Foundation in 1996 to encourage farmers to switch from chemical intensive to organic agriculture and re-educate them about the wealth of indigenous knowledge and biodiversity that could be applied. Farmers’ work helped them identify skills gaps and the Foundation’s work quickly moved into training and capacity building.

Lok Sanjh has implemented several programmes. The Village Food Security Program, focuses on organic farming, capacity building, food security and supports farmers’ research in these areas. With its focus on women farmers, looks at restoring and strengthening traditional farming roles women have such as maintaining seed banks, sustainable farming and livestock management, as well as building their capacity for newer roles and emerging technologies, such as bio gas plants, water harvesting and marketing.

The Farmers Rights Programme, provides organised farmers groups various fora to interact with government and research organisations, to give them a greater voice in policy decisions and planning.

What is unique about Lok Sanjh’s approach is the methods of community engagement and empowerment. Women for instance, have been encouraged to form their own associations and committees. These committees then make decisions on selection of beneficiary women farmers.For the selection of the poorest of poor women for poultry programme of Lok Sanjh, village committees of women played key role. The women’s committee decides who the next beneficiaries should be. Once the preconditions have been met, villagers are free to use the poultry as they wish. Chickens, though vaccinated, are raised according to traditional, free range, organic practice.

Lok Sanjh Mission is “people-centred development to reduce poverty, enhance food security through strengthening local democracy, empowering women, and sustainable use of natural resources”.

Organization’s Strengths:

When started, Lok Sanjh was the only organization in the country working on agriculture and more specifically the organic one to cater the issues , particularly on ecological and biodiversity based food security systems. In this regard it has developed seed banks, biodiversity research farms, and have the largest programmes in the country on organic farming. Lok Sanjh, at the national level, has been recognized as the pioneer organization on organic agriculture in the country.

Strategic objectives:

  1. 1. Capacitate Farmers to enhance control over their resources to produce food
  2. 2. Organize farming communities at different levels.
  3. 3. Strengthen capacity of women farmers to analyze their problems and enhance access to control over resources.

Strategic Network Alliances:

Presently, the Lok Sanjh is a member of South Asia Network on Food Ecology and Culture (SANFEC), Sustainable Agriculture and Action Group (SAAG), South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE), Peoples’ Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), Pesticide Action Network-Asia Pacific (PAN-AP).For instance, SANFEC members in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka bring experiences of shifting rice-farming systems to organic farming.

Important achievements of the organisation:

In last 25 years, Lok Sanjh has supported thousands of farmers in conversion process from conventional agriculture to ecological agriculture by capacity building, demonstration of ecological farming technologies and researching and preserving indigenous crop varieties to give farmers more choices to maintain agro-diversity and ensure food security.

Lok Sanjh has been on forefront to support earth quake victims of Kashmir and Balochistan disasters and is now actively working on regeneration of biodiversity based livelihoods in earthquake affected areas of Kashmir.

Under Lok Sanjh’s platform, Dehqan Assemblies have proved very helpful in building the capacity of the farmers to raise their voice and concerns on different issues. Farmers and other stake holders have been able to discuss their problems regarding the introduction of BT Cotton (Genetically Modified Cotton) varieties and possible introduction of Genetically Engineered Rice and other crops by different companies.

Women have been especially focused by recognizing their role in the Ecological Agriculture, Seed Saving and involving them in income generation activities like poultry farming, Goat farming and kitchen gardening. Resultantly, women have developed small seed banks in their homes and are contributing to increase the family income by raising goats, developing kitchen gardening and poultry farming.

Main geographical areas:

At present Lok Sanjh is working in four agro-ecological zones: a) Mountain Agriculture b) Dry land Agriculture c) Rice Based Agriculture, and d) Cotton based Agriculture. Altogether LSF is working in 11 districts of Pakistan: Rawalpindi, Attock, Bagh, Sheikhupura, Nankana, Gujranwala, Toba Tek Singh, Jhang, Khanewal, Bagh, Rawlakot.

Lok Sanjh the Organization:

Lok Sanjh staff comprises of more than 60 professionals having expertise in areas of biodiversity, ecological agriculture, natural resource management, forestry and range management, women empowerment, food security, social mobilization, livestock management and disaster management, organize policy advocacy campaigns for the rights of marginalized farmers.

Research and Development:The Lok Sanjh facilitates institutions and individuals in developing research priorities and in research on the issues and problems relevant to communities particularly in the fields of biodiversity, indigenous knowledge, and ecological farming.For example, Lok Sanjh in collaboration with agricultural research and education institution has set up a Centre for Agricultural Research and Technologies (CART) in Fateh Jang, Punjab. The CART is working on regenerative agriculture, organic olive production, Soil improvement technologies, Water stewardship and medicinal plants and herbs.

We have also added Research and Development Units in different areas, where communities are involved in developing ecologically sound farming systems and breeding programmes and preserving hundreds of crop varieties. They have regenerated more than 100 varieties of wheat and about 100 varieties of rice. These units work under the CART.

Strategic Positioning
Lok Sanjh has been promoting the agenda of sustainable development since its inception. The mission of sustainable development is pursued:

  • 1. Through the creation and strengthening of local institutions to inculcate the democratic values at grass roots level,
  • 2. Involving communities in the decision making processes through decentralized and bottom up planning with the active participation of marginalized particularly the small farmers and women,
  • 3. Enhancing the capacity of rural communities to plan, implement, manage and pursue their development needs efficiently and effectively.

Intervention Strategies:

Lok Sanjh firmly believes that sustainable development cannot be achieved without securing the livelihood and active participation of the partner communities. The social mobilization process thus plays vital role for launching all its programmatic interventions in the field. The partner communities themselves implement the projects in the field, with the technical backstopping, financial assistance and participatory monitoring being the responsibility of Lok Sanjh. The Central Punjab, Northern Punjab, Islamabad, and South Punjab offices are the executing Centres with the supervision and technical backstopping of experienced staff. Where needed, we bring relevant experiences from the South Asian countries with the active support from the SANFEC.Lok Sanjh Foundation with head office in Islamabad and regional offices in Toba Tek Singh , Layyah, Bhakkar, Bahawlnagar, Fort Abbas and Chishtian is working with more than 160,000/- cotton farmers in different districts of Punjab.

The partner communities are involved at all stages of the project activities in planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting through adopting the participatory planning, learning and action methodology. Women are given equal space in entire development process.

Community Support in Early Recovery and Livelihoods

The organization has worked in desaster affected areas of earthquake in 2005 and flood affected areas in 2010. We helped the pepole by providing them support to stand on their own feet and regenerate rural economy to overcome the challenages and difficulties of desaster.

Lok Sanjh has supported thousands of farmers in Bagh, Rawalakot and Muzaffarabad . The center of our support activities was in Bagh, Azad Kashmir where Lok Sanjh built the longest hanging bridge of Kashmir. Helped farmers regenerate their agricultural systems, revived their irrigation sources, added rain water harvesting structures and introduced sustainable agriculture and rural development technologies.

After 2010 floods, Lok Sanjh teams rushed to support flood affected areas of Layyah. After providing initial emegency support, Lok Sanjh immediately started early recovery and sustainable livelihood projects. In order to build capacity of the flood vulnerable communities, trainings on construction of flood protected houses, secure food storagewere organized and needed support to adopt safety approaches were also provided.

Lok Sanjh has been on forefront to support disaster (floods and earthquakes) victims of Kashmir, South Punjab and Balochistan disasters and has worked on regeneration of biodiversity based livelihoods in disaster affected areas of Kashmir and Punjab.

Capacity of the farmers to raise their voice and concerns on different issues. Farmers and other stake holders have been able to discuss their problems regarding the introduction of BT Cotton (Genetically Modified Cotton) varieties and possible introduction of Genetically Engineered Rice and other crops by different companies.

Journey of Lok Sanjh Development projects

Main target group is the poorest of the poor small farmers and landless families, with women as an essential part of all activities. Women and rural youth is the main target group to work with. Our main area of work is agriculture and natural resource management. In this regards focus is to revive the livelihood strategies by using low cost regenerative agriculture technologies, particularly soil health, water stewardship and natural resource management.

Lok Sanjh has been working in four agro-ecological zones:

  1. 1. Mountain Agriculture – Kashmir
  2. 2. Dry land Agriculture – North Punjab
  3. 3. Rice Based Agriculture – Central Punjab,
  4. 4. Cotton based Agriculture – South Punjab.

On-going Projects
  1. 1. Interloop Organic Cotton Project (ILOK)working with 2000 small farmers in Fort Abbas to produce organic cotton. The project will also help produce 10000 acres of organic wheat.
  2. 2. Better Cotton/IL project: In collaboration with IL, Lok Sanjh is working with 18000 small farmers to produce licensed Better cotton that goes through Looptrace to ginners and Interloop.
  3. 3. Sustainable Seed Network (SSN). Lok Sanjh in collaboration with CIMMYT and IL has developed network of seed producer farmers. To begin with SSN is initiated in Bahawalnagar, Toba Tek Singh, Layyah, Attock and Chakwal districts of Punjab.
  4. 4. Water Stewardship Project. In collaboration with ACIAR and NUST, Lok Sanjh is working on the development, improvement and testing of digital technologies that can help assess the moisture and water requirement of the crop.
  5. 5. Mobile Health Clinic. In order to provide health facilities to rural communities in cotton project areas, Lok Sanjh introduced Mobile Health Clinic facilities with financial support from Interloop.