Centuries-old barter system revived with this Pakistani startup

Published: August 21, 2016
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The start-up is planning to now expand operations to two more villages in Sindh. PHOTO: GOATSFORWATER.COM

The start-up is planning to now expand operations to two more villages in Sindh. PHOTO: GOATSFORWATER.COM

KARACHI: It is not a hidden fact that Pakistan lacks in areas of infrastructural development, faces an acute energy crisis, and is unable to provide basic facilities of healthcare and education to many.

Hence, it makes sense that startups tend to focus on these areas to fill the void.

‘Goats for water’ (GFW) is one such endeavour and was recently selected as one of 18 South Asian companies in the USAID- and DFID-funded SPRING programme – a startup accelerator.

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The programme has chosen startups based on the businesses’ commitment to providing economic empowerment to girls. They will receive nine months of technical expertise, investment-readiness support and mentorship.

The business model

The GFW, as its name, is based on the centuries-old barter system, allowing rural communities to exchange their ‘goat holdings’ for a solar-powered water pump or solar home-lighting solutions.

The model is currently being tried out in off-grid villages in Sindh hit by the energy crisis but have ample access to sunlight to sustainability meet their energy needs.

Fariel Salahuddin, the founder of GFW, is an energy consultant who had advised governments in South Asia, East Asia and MENA region on energy policy.

“It was while advising the Pakistani government on circular debt and energy crisis that I identified the need for a community-based, off-grid approach to fulfil the rural populations’ energy needs.”

The start-up has so far successfully installed solar pumps in three villages, Pathan Goth, Faiz Muhammad, and Haji Nabi Buksh, said Salahuddin.

“Most of these villages in Sindh are operating pumps on old (tractor) engines running on diesel. We offer them our services in return for livestock; the number of goats is equivalent to the communities’ one-year expenditure on diesel fuel consumed to pump water from the ground and the market price of the goats.

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“The cost varies from village to village as depths of the wells vary. For a 300-400 feet well, the cost is usually Rs1 million to 1.5 million.”

One solar pump provides about 200 households with daily supply of water. According to the GFW team, the daily availability of water has improved the health and hygiene of the community as well as increasing their livelihood.

“With low water access, the livestock was of lower weight and fetched a lower sale price. After the installation of the pump and with regular water access, farmers are able to increase the quality and value of their livestock holdings.”

Salahuddin said a normal transaction would mean a farmer giving up 30 goats for one solar-powered pump.

GFW then sells the ‘goat holdings’ around Eidul Azha time, when demand for these animals is at its highest.

The start-up is planning to now expand operations to two more villages in Sindh.

How does it help women?

Salahuddin said women or girls are generally responsible for fetching/collecting water for households in rural areas.

“Mostly, it has been seen that people do not have money to buy diesel to keep their pumps running and hence women have to walk many kilometres to gain access to water.

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“This wastes a lot of their time, which otherwise could be utilised in doing other productive work. This business model helps save them that time.

“Girls also tend to skip school to accompany their mothers to walk long distances. But in places that now have regular access to water, girls are reportedly attending school more regularly, and women have reported more leisure and income generating time,” she said.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2016.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Bunny Rabbit
    Aug 21, 2016 - 12:07PM

    Now thats called indigenous technology. Recommend

  • Abdullah
    Aug 21, 2016 - 12:43PM

    Local solution to a local problem, well done. Government will never do anything for these folks, so, educated people need to come up with creative ways such as these to help their poor fellow citizens. Win win situation. Recommend

  • Hammad
    Aug 21, 2016 - 10:22PM

    @Bunny Rabbit: What is the technology here. Nothing but deception from USAID and the consultant which wants to fill his own coffers by selling goats of poor people for water at high price.
    @Abdullah: This is not a local solution but a startup which wants to make money by tricking poor people with the active help of USAID.Recommend

  • Tariq
    Aug 22, 2016 - 12:32AM

    Rich kid from affluent background educated in Columbia university invents a new way to rob poor people with help of USAID. Just wow…..Recommend

  • Ghulam Habib
    Aug 22, 2016 - 12:50AM

    Liked the approach to solve the water problem through contribution from salable household asset that is goat. in fact access to clean water will help built and multiply the household goat asset adding to income generation. If this effect is bundled with capacity building through training of girls for improved management and heath care of goats it will turn into a sustainable livelihood source. The water can be used to grow fodder for goats which will improve milk production and growth both contributing to food security and income generation.several other interventions can be introduced to it more productive.

    I just wonder if similar project can be also implemented in some of the water scarce arid areas in Khyber Pakhtunkwa province (KPK) of PAKISTAN. Recommend

  • Fawad
    Aug 22, 2016 - 4:59AM

    How is it better than the Punjab government project of installing solar tube wells in villages on reduced price? Recommend

  • WellDone
    Aug 22, 2016 - 3:37PM

    Amazing idea, keep up the good work and don’t let negativity get you down!Recommend

  • Geun-Joon LEE
    Aug 27, 2016 - 2:34PM

    Energy system planning based on local resources can help improving life style. Proper international cooperation on natural energy development and education is needed to prevent our climate disaster. I wonder how we can do to proceed to the next step with the local NGO. Recommend

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