Pakistan project wins award for shielding villages from natural disasters

In this undated photo, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) Pakistan workers are conducting glacier assessment in northern Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: AKAH)
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Updated 04 December 2020

Pakistan project wins award for shielding villages from natural disasters

  • More than 1 million people have benefited from the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat Pakistan project
  • The project combines satellite images, mapping technologies and local knowledge of villagers to help build climate-proof settlements in disaster-prone areas

LONDON: A project that combines satellite images, mapping technologies and the local knowledge of villagers to help build climate-proof settlements in disaster-prone areas of Pakistan won an international award on Thursday.
More than 1 million people have benefited from the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) Pakistan project, which was a gold prize winner at the World Habitat Awards that are organized with the United Nations housing agency (UN-Habitat).
AKAH has trained about 50,000 residents to better protect their villages from disasters in the mountainous northern areas which are vulnerable to earthquakes, floods and environmental degradation, and are home to some of the poorest communities.
“It’s not just responding to the effects of the climate emergency, but being proactive in protecting people from its effects, using technology and the knowledge of communities,” said David Ireland, chief executive of World Habitat, a charity.
“It provides communities with the knowledge of where and how to live in safety in a changing world. The potential for this approach to be adapted and used in similar areas in Pakistan and elsewhere is absolutely huge,” he said in a statement.
Since 1980, more than 2 million people have been killed by natural disasters, according to the World Bank. Worsening climate change impacts threaten to push an additional 100 million people into extreme poverty within the next decade.
Pakistan is among the most disaster-prone countries in South Asia, according to the World Bank, and the remoteness of the northern mountainous areas make response efforts difficult.
Launched in 2006, the AKAH project includes mapping and monitoring hazards using satellite images and drones, and creating disaster risk management plans with the involvement of local residents.
It enables communities to build in safer areas, and better prepare for and respond to disasters, AKAH said.
By combining local knowledge, community involvement and technology, the project develops “resilient, sustainable communities capable of living in dignity” amidst the threat of climate-induced disasters, said Leilani Farha, a former UN expert on housing, and one of the judges for the award.
AKAH plans to extend the model to other rural parts of Pakistan, while its projects in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Syria and India are also using this approach, and have completed risk assessments in nearly 2,500 villages covering 3 million people.
A key focus for AKAH Pakistan is the involvement of women, who make up about half the volunteers trained for disaster response, and who also participate in weather monitoring and mapping of high risk areas.
“This has given voice to women who had been considered mostly at the margins of society, and ensures their participation in developing the village disaster risk management plans,” said Samra Siraj, a program coordinator at AKAH.
“Women who had been conventionally viewed as vulnerable victims of disasters and emergencies, are now empowered individuals who can actively respond to disasters and serve the communities,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


Pakistani online marketplace raises $6.5 mln seed round, second largest in MENA

Updated 19 January 2021

Pakistani online marketplace raises $6.5 mln seed round, second largest in MENA

  • The round was co-led by Global Founders Capital and Indus Valley Capital
  • Saudi’s Derayah Ventures has also invested in Bazaar which connects retailers to wholesalers and manufacturers

ISLAMABAD: Bazaar, a Pakistani online marketplace that connects retailers directly to wholesalers and manufacturers, has raised a $6.5 million seed round, the second largest ever in the Middle East and North Africa region and the largest in Pakistan, one of the venture capital firms that invested in the project said on Tuesday. 
Last year, Bazaar raised $1.3 million in Pakistan’s largest ever pre-seed round. Co-founded by Saad Jangda and Hamza Jawaid in April 2020, Bazaar started a closed pilot in Karachi during extreme lockdown conditions because of the coronavirus pandemic when shorter working hours created major supply chain problems for retailers. 
“Congrats to @joinbazaar on raising a $6.5M seed round, the second largest ever in MENA and largest in Pakistan, co-led by @Global_Founders founder and @indusvalleycap,” Aatif Awan, the founder of Indus Valley Capital, said on Twitter. “Couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with them as they revolutionize the $150B retail industry in Pakistan.”


“Magic happens when smart ambitious founders take on huge markets. In just 8 months, Bazaar has built an incredible team and product, serving more than 10 thousand retailers every month.”
Awan, former VP of growth at LinkedIn, said when his firm first invested in Bazaar in May last year, they set ambitious targets for 2020. “They went on to crush those goals by 10x!” he added. 
He said it was exciting that so many investors had invested in Pakistan for the first time through the Bazaar deal, including early-stage VC S7V, Singapore-based Wavemaker Partners, Saudi Arabia’s Derayah Ventures and US-based NextBillion Ventures. 

“Bringing the fragmented B2B retail market online is one of the biggest startup opportunities in Pakistan. I have tracked it for over a year and have been waiting to back the right team to go after it,” Awan said in an interview last year. “Bazaar’s founding team is phenomenal on all fronts – product, strategy and execution. Indus Valley Capital is really excited to partner with them.”