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Origins and Evolution

R. Parthasarathy

Edited by Shoaib Sultan Khan
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2009, pp. 502, Rs. 725.00


TheAga Khan Rural Support Programme: A Journey Through the Grassroots Development by Shoaib Sultan Khan is a narration of the author’s fifty-four years of experience working in the rural development sector in South Asia. The book is presented in an interesting narrative distinct from academic writings and is divided into three sections. The main focus of the book as the title suggests is the second section which is dedicated solely to the evolution of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) and the author’s experience. The preface clearly indicates the circumstances that led the author to the writing of the book, the role of his friends and co-workers and a few highlights of his experience in the field presented through photographs. The book’s treatment is very distinct from the works on development and rural studies in both the representation and narration. The first part of the book ‘Origins and Early Experience’ is the autobiography of the author, his career and his experiences in the field of development. Khan with his writing skills blends a very detailed biographical note in chapter one to a methodical scientific description in chapter two on the Daudzai project in Pakistan. The third and fourth chapters, ‘The Personal Diary of a UN Consultant’ and ‘Letters from Sri Lanka—The Mahaweli Ganga project’ read like a travelogue with emphasis on important projects inter alia. It highlights how the visits to the various rural areas have added to the author’s understanding of challenges in rural development while as he puts it—‘working within the system and living within the means’. The second section is organized into nine chapters starting with a brief introduction of His Highness the Aga Khan and his visions about AKRSP. Various interesting moments shared with His Highness add a personal touch to the chapter. The author’s beginnings in the programme as the Managing Director of AKRSP is presented in the chapter, ‘My Introduction to AKRSP.’ In chapters 8–13, the author details the goals, operating principles, impact and role of various partners in the programme. This section highlights the role of AKRSP in fostering village organizations to develop into small scale entrepreneurs and thereby ensuring social justice and equitable distribution of the fruits of development. The objectives and functioning of AKRSP described by the authors allows the reader to draw similarities with the author’s experiences in Sri Lanka and Japan ...

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