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A Fair Exchange

On her recent visit to Barhain, Fariel Salahuddin, founder of inspirational barter enterprise Goats for Water, spoke to Mobeena Inam about her work and plans for the future.

Born and educated in Karachi, Pakistan, Fariel Salahuddin is a young woman with a mission and an innovative mind. She is the CEO and founder of Goats for Water (GFW), a social enterprise that aims to provide community-led solutions to rural communities’ energy and water needs in her native land. She graduated in economics from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) in 2004 and went to the US for postgraduate studies in New York.

Unlike many young people of her generation, Fariel returned to Pakistan and worked on national power policy as an advisor to the government. She was recruited by international development agency USAID to work on infrastructure power projects and policies and, in 2014, she consulted with the United Nations Development Programme in Egypt on energy efficiency for several months.

Subsequently, an opportunity with the Asian Development Bank took her to Indonesia in 2015, where, she proclaims, her “idea for Goats for Water crystallised”. She explains that she was working in villages building solar water pumps and wanted recipients to pay for the facility, “thus maintaining their sense of dignity and to instil a sense of value for the service.” But, she soon realised: “The villagers were so cash poor, they could only pay in goats!”

On her return to Pakistan, Fariel went into the remotest villages to work on micro-grids, using solar power to provide lighting needs. She noted that basic necessities like water were missing. Thus began her social enterprise, Goats for Water. Working on-site in underdeveloped rural areas, it aims to supply livestock farmers with water solar energy in the form of home lighting. In the intensely harsh and desert terrain of Sindh, farmers’ only assets are goats, so Fariel lets them ‘pay’ in goats. The animals are kept on GFW farms and later sold for their meat. The move helps people become self-reliant and not depend on donations from government or charities.

Farial, right, with Mobeena

To spread the service around the country Fariel has partnered with a number of NGOs and grass-roots organisations, including the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) and Thardeep Rural Development Programme, which identify needy communities in the rural areas of Pakistan. Goats for Water goes and assesses what kind of water pumps or solar systems are needed; then outsources the work to experts.

Fariel’s proven track record in innovation has certainly grabbed attention. Earlier this year, she was invited to Bahrain to attend The Falak Unreasonable Thinking Summit in association with the Economic Development Board and supported by Tamkeen. This two-day forum was focused on innovation, disruption and out-of-the-box thinking, to inspire and educate start-up entrepreneurs and the Bahraini business community in general.

Impressed by the business-friendly approach here, she is planning to register Goats for Water in Bahrain, to enable her to expand her work – in solar home systems – in countries like Somalia and Nepal, which are in dire need of such an enterprise and, apparently, easier to access from Bahrain.

To learn g more about her organisation, visit www.goatsforwater.com

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