Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Faces of Pakistan

The Pakistan that I see in the media and the Pakistan I see on the ground seem to be two very different worlds. I don't delude myself into thinking that they are not both realities of the same country, but I wish that people could see what I am fortunate to witness here on the ground. In that vein, this video is a collage of the faces of people I have met in my travels...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ethical Hurdles at the Base of the Pyramid

Micro Drip is a company that is committed to demonstrating the highest level of ethical behavior. Unfortunately in Pakistan, that makes our job even more difficult than it already is.

Besides the obvious benefit of helping farmers earn more with less, Micro Drip’s work has the added benefit of helping Pakistan address its impending water crisis. Currently, Pakistan is under a severe threat of water scarcity, according to the current level of per capita water availability, which hovers just above 1,000 cubic meters of water per person. The World Health Organization has set 1,000 cubic meters of water as the minimum amount of water necessary to satisfy basic needs for food, drinking water, and hygiene. At the current rate of decline, Pakistan is projected to reach 886 cubic meters of water availability per person in the year 2020, well below the minimum threshold.

In light of these issues, the Pakistani government has enacted a number of programs designed to increase water efficiency, including a US$ 1.3 billion program for subsidizing drip irrigation. On the surface, this seems like it would ideally suite Micro Drip, but the proposal was written primarily with the highest quality orchard drip irrigation systems in mind. Micro Drip’s innovation is being able to reduce the price of drip irrigation so that it is more accessible to poor farmers, but this same innovation is making it much more difficult for us to qualify for the subsidy.

Recently, we had a discussion with a government representative who asked us why we had flagged our products in the beginning as not meeting certain government specifications. He questioned why we did not simply forge certification documents and place fake labels on our material in order to qualify for the subsidy. This same representative also alluded to the fact that other drip irrigation companies are doing just that. By doing what is right, we have made the path before us even more complex, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Joel Montgomery

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Driving in Pakistan for Dummies: How to Reach the Gym

Think for a moment what it is like to take a normal drive from your house or apartment to a daily destination such as the gym, store, or work. Now compare that with my 10-20 minute trip to the gym. Driving in Pakistan requires a completely different skill set…

1. Walk outside house and unlock gate.
2. Enter right side of car and place key in ignition.
3. Use left hand to place car in reverse and back up, making sure not hit the mirrors against the sides of the house.
4. Put on emergency brake, step out of car and lock gate.
5. Step back into car and continue backward.
6. When back of car is 2 feet into road, look both ways for pedestrians, goats, kids, carts, cars, rickshaws, etc.
7. Back up fully on to Park Lane and begin driving on the left side of the street, making sure to dodge the potholes.
8. Honk just before entering intersection to ensure other drivers are aware that you are coming.
9. Pass old man holding out his hand for change.
10. Take a left on Clifton road toward Tin Talwar (“Three Swords” in Urdu. A roundabout with a monument of three swords in the center). If you wait until the coast is clear, you will be here all night. Force your way into traffic.
11. Honk at slow vehicles that are driving in the middle of the road so they will move into one lane.
12. As you get closer to Tin Talwar, move to the extreme left so that you can bypass most of the traffic that is waiting to turn right.
13. Wait in traffic. Wag finger and say “Nay” to: transvestites looking for money, kids wanting to clean the windshield, hawkers selling cheap inflatable toys, etc.
14. Sneak back into right lane about 100 meters before Tin Talwar and wait.
15. Honk at cars that are too close.
16. Keep your bumper 5 inches behind the car in front of you to keep other cars from cutting in.
17. Avoid hitting pedestrians and motorcyclists who will jump in front of you.
18. Pass the traffic cops extracting bribes and turn right.
19. Continue until the next intersection where the traffic light is not working. Force your way through the traffic to the other side. Pray the colorful buses with people on the roof will not hit you.
21. Drive straight into the water. It should be no more than a few inches deep. Continue toward the piles of gravel where the street crews have still not filled the holes.
22. Drive through the puddles of water and make sure not to stop in a trough as these can be five to seven inches deep. Allow cars and rickshaws through when necessary, as there is only room for one vehicle at a time.
23. Navigate the maze of potholes and take a right at the end of the road. Be sure to honk at cars with their reverse lights on.
24. Pass through the shops and veer to the left.
25. Take an immediate right past the guard, through the gate into Shapes.

Joel Montgomery

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