Geo-political issues, rise in commodity and energy prices, exacerbating debt problems and finally the devastation of floods – the people in Pakistan have had their share of crises.
Lack of infrastructure has left a large part of the rural population underwater in the most unhygienic conditions. The rising death toll due to the floods are followed by waterborne diseases and contaminated water or in some cases complete lack of it. Despite relief funds from some of the world’s richer countries, the long-term and sustainable solution needed to come from within the country.
The long-term effects of this crisis will not only affect Pakistan’s vital agriculture sector – which contributes 23 per cent of Pakistan’s GDP and employs 42 per cent of its labour force – but also poses a huge threat to energy and food security for the country that ranks fifth most populated in the world.
Financial crisis aside, the floods have further highlighted the issue which needs immediate and urgent attention – a lack of clean drinking water. A recent report published by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) titled: ‘Water Crisis in Pakistan: Manifestation, Causes and the Way Forward’, painted a bleak picture.
According to the report, Pakistan is among the list of 10 most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. Receding glaciers, unwarranted floods, rising temperatures, and declining water levels of the Indus are just some of the factors responsible for this crisis.
For our part, the long-standing Hashoo Foundation, part of Hashoo Group, concentrated its effort and focused on the prevention of health-related issues and safeguarding people from further water-borne diseases. As a knowledge-based, impact-oriented foundation aimed at empowering communities, Hashoo Foundation launched Hashoo Relief Initiative.
Activated throughout the country, Hashoo Relief Initiative provides hygiene kits, nutrition and medical kits for women and children in addition to clothes and blankets to survive the harsh winters in northern parts of the country.
They also partnered with local sponsors to provide portable clean water solutions using a cost-effective, innovative and durable water purification system called EveryWater (PakVitae). The ground-breaking and award-winning filtration system using innovative ERM (Esoteric Resistive Membrane) technology provides safe and clean water for thousands of people with just one filter. Whilst we have had massive success with this initiative and have helped over a million people by ensuring their access to clean water we often ask ourselves if it’s enough and how we can continue to scale our efforts to ensure the entire population gets safe drinking water.
The EveryWater story is also unique and started when two young scientists, Arslan and Shayan, won the Hashoo Foundation annual start-up competition. Driven by their passion to bring about real change, the EveryWater brand was founded and has won global sustainability awards for its cost-effective and patented technology.
Over the years, our work with communities with a specific focus on women and youth has been extremely rewarding. What keeps us going is the human side of things, the lives that are impacted by our work. That’s motivating, encouraging and inspiring at the same time.
Hashoo Foundation’s mandate is to invest in social enterprises and innovation especially in helping pilot new ideas that promote sustainability, renewable and clean energy, and recycling. The foundation also works strategically to link learning from the field level to create an environment that truly serves the people and helps them become self-reliant.
The Foundation has been able to successfully launch two independent start-ups in the remote areas of Pakistan – Organiks Plus, which packages and sells locally produced organic products; and Shine Services, which provides industrial support services such as polishing, maintenance and sanitization.
Perhaps one of the foundation’s most popular projects is the honeybee farming initiative that was set up in 2007 and has been earning awards locally and internationally. The project uses simple technology to create an entire value chain where women from the local community are trained in beekeeping and collecting honey which then finds its way to major hotels, local consumers and international markets.
In one such project, 20 underprivileged women of Skardu, a town in Gilgit−Baltistan, situated some 2,500 metres up in the Skardu Valley, were trained in honeybee farming. A total of 60 beehives were distributed to them – three per beekeeper – along with a kit that included safety gloves, masks, smokers and veils.
We totally eliminated the middleman and you can imagine the transformation that has been brought in the lives of these women. The project also promotes social change: The Foundation agrees to buy the honey from the women while also helping them sell their produce directly to major supermarkets, hotels and even airlines in Pakistan, provided the families agree to send their children to quality schools, have regular health check-ups and improve nutrition at home.
Barely a year after it was set up, in 2008, the project bagged the BBC World Challenge award – an international contest aimed at projects showing enterprise and innovation at the grassroots level – a first for Pakistan. It was also featured at the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative.
Thanks to the success of this project thousands of children have enrolled in schools and enjoying better nutrition and enjoying better health.
When you meet individuals whose lives have been shaped for the better through the various programs launched by Hashoo Foundation since its inception in 1988, it just humbles you and makes you want to do more. My father launched the foundation to help communities become self-reliant, and provide income opportunities to women in families so that their children can pursue education.
The Foundation has since grown into a national entity with 18 offices across Pakistan and an expanding footprint in education, inclusive economic growth and more recently climate action. The Foundation’s data shows that it has reached over 1.3 million beneficiaries across Pakistan over three decades, a number that leans towards women and youth.
Murtaza Hashwani is Chairman of the Hashoo Foundation.