Using Microfinance to Help Pakistani Honey Bee Farmers

Published on May 24, 2010

Student Microfinance Group Pitches in to Help Pakistani Women

Hashoo Foundation executive director Cristal Montañéz Baylor, center, was a special guest at a recent Microfinance Initiative meeting to accept a donation raised by students for the Honey Bee Farming Project.

A group of students from the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of  Business is making life a bit sweeter for two families across the globe.

The Microfinance Initiative (MFi) a graduate student organization at UH Bauer, recently presented a donation to Hashoo Foundation, a non-profit group that implements economic development, educational and capacity building programs in Pakistan.

The partnership between MFi and Hashoo Foundation will benefit the Honey Bee Farming Project, an initiative that provides microfinance loans to Pakistani women to work as beekeepers to produce honey that is sold above market price to 5-star hotels in the area, provided that the women send their children to quality schools, have regular healthy check-ups and improve the quality of nutrition at home.

Launched at the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative’s Annual Meeting, the Honey Bee Farming Project’s original goal was the reach 50 women, but in the first two years, Hashoo Foundation was able to train 312 women in honey bee production and benefit more than 1,200 people in the Pakistan region.

“It’s a simple business project that allows for growth,” said Cristal Montañéz Baylor, Hashoo Foundation executive director, who was on hand at a special presentation in Melcher Hall to receive the MFi donation.

“These women are some of the most incredible, hardworking, humble, fantastic people,” she added. “And this economic development brings security, education, stability and togetherness of family to their culture.”

Launched in 2009, MFi was formed by graduate students who took a UH Bauer course on microfinance — providing small loans to low-income clients that allow them to start entrepreneurial ventures and become self-reliant — and wanted to stay involved in the movement.

“We have spent the past year revitalizing the organization, concentrating on fundraising with all of our new officers and members,” said Asal Shokati (’10), the group’s immediate past president who graduated in May from UH Bauer with a master of science in finance.

The group made the donation to Hashoo Foundation its primary objective for its first year of operation, holding several bake sales in Melcher Hall and partnering with The Community Cloth and Scarlet Threads, local groups that sell handcrafted clothing, jewelry and accessories made by refugee women. MFi also received donations from individuals, which helped the group to reach its fundraising goal for the Honey Bee Farming Project.

By Jessica Navarro