MS Finance Student Sows Microfinance Seeds to Boost Lives of Poverty Stricken
A graduate student from the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business was recently recognized for her plan to improve the lives of Texas citizens by incorporating microfinance principles in urban community gardening.
MS Finance candidate Asal Shokati applied what she learned in the Principles of Microfinance course she took at UH Bauer to become a finalist in the Academy of Distinguished Scholars 2009-2010 Public Interest Awards, a statewide competition sponsored by the University of Texas – Arlington.
Originally from Tehran, Iran, Shokati received her bachelor of business administration in management information systems from Bauer College. She worked with UH Bauer faculty Michael Newman, director of accounting programs, and Saleha Khumawala, an associate professor who teaches the microfinance course, who sponsored and mentored her throughout the process of developing her idea for the contest and drafting an essay outlining her plan.
“I tried to look at this proposal as a brief business plan, which included the financial, marketing and other business and entrepreneurial aspects necessary to launch the initiative, all of which I had learned during my undergraduate and graduate years at Bauer,” Shokati said.
Shokati’s proposal focused on encouraging and providing assistance for the city’s impoverished population to cultivate small plots of land to grow their own fruits and vegetables, using microfinance (providing small loans to low-income entrepreneurs and helping them become self-reliant).
“I’ve been interested in local farming and organic produce and have been aware of some community gardening movements around Houston, like the Ecotone Project in the Third Ward,” she said. “After taking the microfinance class, I decided it would be best to combine these two concepts and wrote my proposal on microlending in urban community gardening ― I strongly believe in both!”
If the plan were to be implemented, Shokati estimates that many new jobs would be created within inner city neighborhoods in running farmers’ markets, cultivating gardens and educating residents on urban farming. The integration of local, fresh foods into these communities would have obvious positive health benefits, she added.
“With the general cost of food rising globally, buying high quality fresh fruits and vegetables seems to have become a luxury,” Shokati said. “Those facing poverty, especially the urban poor, rely all too greatly on cheap canned goods and processed junk foods.
“My plan is to create a healthier, stronger Texas. As the number of these community gardens grows, the abundance of local produce will provide for a larger number of Texans to consume healthy, fresh, local and affordable foods,” she added.
Shokati will be recognized during the Academy of Distinguished Scholars Public Interest Award luncheon at UT-Arlington in April.
By Jessica Navarro