Lessons from Pakistan

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Two Men Purfying Themselves at a Mosque

Mohammed Shafi is an eight-acre farmer who must support fifty members of his family by farming, raising a few water buffalo, and working as a day laborer. He cannot afford to cover his expenses and as such, must take loans from local money lenders at rates in excess of 10% per month. It is farmers like Mohammed Shafi, that I am trying to help through my work with Micro Drip. Micro Drip is not a non-profit, but rather a social business. We sell low-cost drip irrigation systems to poor farmers at a reasonable price so that the farmer has access to this incredible technology, and we can serve him without asking for handouts.

Incredibly, it has been six months since I first arrived in Pakistan and God has been faithful in keeping me safe in spite of the violence that has plagued parts of the country. Thankfully, I’ve found that the reports on the news are scarier than the ground reality. The assignment has been the most challenging of my life, but I’ve also learned more here than anywhere else.

1) No plan will work unless it includes on-the-ground knowledge
The typical aid model of the past 50 years has been for smart people from the developed world to decide what people in the developing world need. This strategy is doomed to failure from the beginning. Poor people aren’t dumb. They understand their ground reality better than you or I.

2) Innovation does not only come from the developed world
When working with poor farmers with little-to-no education, I have been amazed by some of the human ingenuity that I’ve witnessed.

3) I am now more aware of my own basic assumptions
When explaining how to calculate a farmer’s net profit to a room of Masters-level sales people, I was shocked to learn that they did not understand basic percentages.

4) Human Resources is THE strategic function
You can have the greatest strategy in the world, but if you don’t have the right people, then the strategy is worthless.

5) You and I are spoiled
I have had the opportunity to live with an incredible Pakistani family. I have access to a car, internet, AC, a TV, etc. The electricity goes out some five or six times daily and yet we have a generator to power the fans in the extreme heat. Most of this country is not so lucky. When in America, we don’t even think about the electricity, water, or internet not working.

Photo Credit: Joel Montgomery

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