Participatory Poverty Assessment-Pakistan

Participatory Poverty Assessment-Pakistan



There is a serious gap in national, international, academic and NGO discourses on how poverty in Pakistan is discussed and how it is lived by those who experience it first-hand.


In early 2001, a participatory poverty assessment mission was implemented in North-Western Frontier Provinces and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan by provincial and national steering committees, PPA-NGO partners, and a team of national consultants. The aim of the project is to empower the voices of the most marginalized members of Pakistani society,  FATA’s poor, by engaging their opinions in not only public discourses on poverty alleviation, and policy-making but also, in the design processes of the PPA itself. The primary aims of a participatory poverty assessment are four-fold: 1)better understanding of poverty, 2)new constituencies for anti-poverty action, 3)enhanced accountability to poor people and 4) more effective policies and action. The PPA aims to involve the poor in a process with the government and civil society that can result in a change in policies and programmes.

 The primary stakeholders are the poor, and other stakeholders include policy makers, at all levels of government and NGOS, as well as public opinion and image-makers, researchers and academics. This project is different than the World Bank’s respective participatory poverty assessment in Pakistan.

The project aims to build a reciprocal relationship between those who are trying to understand poverty for policy-design and those who actually live in poverty and are affected by those policies and programmes.

Participant Selection

The primary stakeholders of this project are women, men and children of Khyber, Kurram, and South Waziristan Agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).  Site selection, the question of which areas are the poorest, who constitutes the ppor, was decided by area, agency and tehsil (Administrative decision) input in a consensual manner. Due to local customs and power inequalities, women were not allowed to participate in the site selection process. There was some resistance in one area, Khyber, by the malik but local participants/analysts offered personal guarantee of protection to the PPA team. Another issue in participant selection was a fatwa issue in South Waziristan by the Afghani Taliban and their allies against NGO presence in the area. SUNGI development Foundation acted as the coordinating NGO for the PPA in FATA. The sites were selected purposively with a focus on in-depth case studies with different agro-ecological and social contexts of poverty and livelhiood.  Among the local analysts/participants included those self-identified as the poorest within the sites of Mula Ghori, Parachinar and Toi Khola. A team of four candidates from NGOS, government departments and academic institutions were assigned to each site to conduct fieldwork. At each site, around 50-80 locals would gather for joint analysis.


The project relied on a mixed methodology of a questionnaire and qualitative analysis methods such as triangulation and Participatory Reflection and Action.

Deliberations and Decisions

A participatory poverty assessment (ppa) is defined as instrument for including poor people’s views in the analysis of poverty, and in, the formulation of strategies to reduce it. The project has three stages: 1)setting up the institutional framework, 2)fieldwork, which involves participatory activities, decision-making, discussions, and 3)follow-up. The project was introduced as a tool through which Pakistan’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper framework policy can be critically assessed. Through qualititative data, the project aims to shift the conversation on poverty reduction from Who are the poor?” to “What is going wrong with the design and implementation of anti-poverty policies and programmes?. Stakeholders work together to bridge the gap between grass-roots realities and the implications for policy-makers through the methodology of Participatory Reflection and Action (PRA). This relies on the principles of “learning together” and “triangulation”. In terms of methodology, the project relies on PRA to facilitate an open-ended enquiry in which local people take the lead through techniques such as participatory mapping, matrix scoring, Venn diagramming, and well-being ranking to help individuals articulate their natural and institutional environments.More information on the particularities of the method and how it framed the conversations and participation is included in the final report.


The project’s upshot was a report for each of the four provinces, the two areas and one overall on poverty in Pakistan and AJK, a film, a dissemination programme, workshops for government, NGOS/donors, briefings for journalists, screenings of PPA video, and actions plans to take forward the principal findings at both provincial and federal levels. The final report also consists of several, detailed policy reccomendations for different levels of government to respond to the more specific needs of each area, as described by the individuals themselves.

Originating Entities and Funding

In particular, at the federal level, the Poverty Section of the Planning Commission managed the project and Oxford Policy Management and Overseas Development Institute offered technical and managerial support.  The government of NWFP, the Poverty Section of the Planning Commission, Government of Pakistan, SUNGI Development Foundation and the Federal Bureau of Statistics all played major roles in achieving the project’s goals. UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) funded this project and the views and opinions expressed in the final report were not influenced or representative of DFID.

Criticism and Analysis

Though the project offers honest commentary on its limitations (security, power inequalities, methodology), one major issue for this project is that its final reports were not co-authored with local analysts/participants. Rather, fieldworkers chose how the raw stories of locals were told by fitting the data into existing narratives on policy reform and research. The locals were seen as participants of a study, before they were seen as citizens affected by policy outcomes, and equal members of a joint-analysis. Though literacy, language and security are major reasons for this, some efforts could have been made to discover local mediums and styles for expressing policy critiques, gaps and reforms. A strength of this project was that its design (from the language used to describe what constitutes “poor” in different areas of Pakistan, to how the study was to be implemented) was defined by its participants. From inclusion in the projects design to creating space for joint-analysis on poverty between government, NGO officials and those affected by policy outcomes, the projects realized its aim to change how poverty is discussed on a policy level to be more responsive to conversations on the ground. There have also been quite  few critiques on accuracy and consistency issues with the kinds of qualitative data relied upon by this particular project as seen in the article below by David Booth from the Overseas Development Institute.


Secondary Links and Resources



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UK Department for International Development
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Andere: organisierende Instanz: 
Oxford Policy Management and Overseas Development Institute
Government of NWFP
the Poverty Section of the Planning Commission
Government of Pakistan
SUNGI Development Foundation
the Federal Bureau of Statistics
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