Posted by: Dr Martha Eddy | March 11, 2008

Peace through Economic Development

Frieder Krups and Deborah Heifetz – Rhine Chapter Alumni



We founded HiMaT Grassroots Development Foundation in the spring of 2007 in Pakistani Kashmir in order to coach the 40.000 villagers living at the foot of Nanga Parbat to tackle their abject poverty and build prosperous sustainable communities.

Himat is Urdu for “courage, self-drive, spunk”. The M in HiMat stands for an Urdu word denoting “effort”, and the T for the result – “transformative power”. “HiMaT” thus symbolizes our development philosophy:

“Self-drive and personal effort, create sustainable transformation”.


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In 2003, Frieder became fascinated by “community-led” development through a YPO resource who successfully applied similar principles to re-build Bosnian communities. A couple of years later, Frieder championed the “YPO Village Partnership Action Forum” and organized trips to Africa, India, Pakistan, the Middle East, Bosnia and Central America to learn from the most reputable practitioners in the field. These included Jeff Sachs’ Millennium Villages in Africa, the Aga Khan Rural Support Program in Africa and Asia and former ABB CEO Percy Barnevik’s highly successful job creation program Hand in Hand in India.


In 2006, Deborah, a social anthropologist, joined the Village Partnership Forum to direct her passion for peace building into community-led development in conflict zones.  She brings her academic and practical knowledge of conflict resolution and gender studies from her engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. Deborah makes sure that traditional cultural practices and values are well integrated into an over-all “bottom-up” plan for sustainable economic development, and that gender relations – a driving force of all culture – are gently negotiated. 

In our research we found that

Poverty is, in the first instance, a rural phenomenon – 80% of the world’s poor live in rural communities

Successful approaches like microcredit generally don’t reach rural communities and they need to be adapted to fit rural needs

Community-led development works – if communities truly lead the development process

Women’s empowerment is a critical catalyst to leading communities out of poverty

 Our “community-led development program” is therefore built on two pillars:

Encouraging individual engagement to create higher incomes

Our program focuses on what villagers know, where big improvements are possible and where there are local markets:

Yield increases and changes to high-value agriculture and livestock

Simple value-adding processing based on local skills and resources

We help villagers form groups so they can learn from each other and gain access to credit, and we provide training, market access and start-up support.


2.     Coaching communities to jointly solve their infrastructure problems

Again, we help villagers form groups to tackle their joint issues, coach them to identify and utilize their own resources and potential, introduce novel ideas and ways of thinking, and provide connections to external know-how and sources of funding.

The key is that villagers learn to build internal organizing mechanisms which are sustainable, and establish internal income streams to finance operating and maintenance expenses as well as future improvements

 We chose to pilot this approach in Pakistani Kashmir because of

the support we received from highly influential YPOers in Pakistan (especially Amin Hashwani, one of the co-founders of PAN)

the abject poverty and the cooperative attitude of the local population

we are dealing with Muslim communities – we want to show that community-led development is an effective way to promote peace

 Most importantly, in Nawab Khan we found a social entrepreneur to lead our activities there who

shares our vision of community-led development

is the ideal partner in terms of integrity, management skills and personal chemistry

has a strong reputation locally and extensive local connections

During the past year, we have invested a substantial amount of our time in helping take the project off the ground, and we have contributed most of the start-up capital. Meanwhile we have demonstrated initial successes with our approach:


a tripling of yields with new seeds and farming techniques

successful completion of a number of community-initiated projects (irrigation channels, drinking water supply, health clinics)

active community organizations in 7 villages with 4.000 people in total

initial project funding through listing on a new web-portal championing community-led development (, and we are confident that as of the second part of 2008, a substantial part of our funding needs will be supplied externally


Our larger vision is to gain so much practical learning and reputation with our Kashmiri pilot project that it becomes a model for others in the world to emulate. For this purpose, we have begun to build a “Village Partner Alliance” between the worlds’ most experienced and respected organizations in community-led development to exchange our learning, formulate Best Practices, develop joint training programs and create the necessary critical mass to popularize the success of the “community-led” development approach.

 A key aspect of our vision is to team up socially-minded YPOers with results-oriented social entrepreneurs to rapidly spread “community-led development” in the world. The arithmetic is simple: If 5.000 YPOers each take on communities of 40.000 people, like we do in Kashmir, and convince 10 of their business friends to do the same – then poverty will be no more…. 


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