The Swat Valley Guild is looking to support the Swat Valley access the global marketplace. We are looking to support this post conflict region recover. We are also looking to help the global consumer access top end produce from the region. This blog is about why this Guild matters.
We the co-founders of the Swat Valley Guild came together after 25 years. We were school mates at Aitchison College. We started boarding together when we were 7 years old. We sat in the same class for 11 years. We played competitive sport together. We made it through our exams together. We did pretty much everything you can expect teenagers without parental supervision would do. And then some more. We learnt how to haggle with rickshaw drivers. We discovered the nightlife of Lahore together. So when we met up on facebook - thanks Zuckerberg. It was a no-brainer that we should do something together.
Our First Annual House Photograph 1979.
Wali is a born and bred Swati. I grew up on his tales of how it is paradise on earth. Truth be told he wasn’t wrong either. I remember spending a winter holiday with him once. He woke me up at 2 am and literally pulled me out bed. I couldn’t figure out what was going on till I saw the landscape. The first layer of snow had just fallen. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. This was an age of when he was planning a local skiing resort. Given the Hindu Kush Mountains house peaks like K - 2 . It was only natural the adventurous tourists would be attracted to the region. Let’s not forget The Tibetan Book of the Dead originates from the Swat Valley 1,200 years ago as well. So the heritage and traditions there have deep routes.
The Afghan-Soviet War initially. Then the political instability that followed has caused serious social and economic instability. A valley that was seen as paradise on earth has been struggling to afford its inhabitants a living. To give you an idea. Over 120,000 families had to be relocated in the recent counterinsurgency initiative. This means that all the implicit know-how built up over centuries has been threatened. Given the tacit nature of the know-how it cannot be captured. Yet, it can be easily lost if the social dynamics change. This know-how passed down the generations is now under threat.
When we were catching up. I could feel the pain in his voice. There was hurt in the way he was trying to describe how things were in the Valley. We felt the need to do something now that some kind of stability was re-emerging. We did some research. We discovered mass industrialization would destroy the way of life of the region. So we decided to go to the pre-industrial age and look for solutions. We looked into the concept of the ‘Guild’. In its different forms the Guild has been used globally - From China and India to Europe. Guilds have traditionally collated know-how and maintained communities of workers. We felt the Guild best suited our needs - with a few modifications of course.
In our case, the purpose of the guild would be to preserve the heritage on the Swat Valley. This means as the economic gateway with China takes shape. The isolation of the region will be reduced. We would need to make an effort to preserve the local culture, customs and ways of life as never before. We also needed to focus on the post-conflict situation of the Valley. Rehabilitation of the locals, re generating economic activity and re building social networks are part of these concerns.
As an institution it will allow us to provide a collective voice to the political bodies. This will ensure the concerns of locals are accurately identified and dealt with. We also feel the Guild as an instrument would support us access the global markets. This means local produce finds a home in the global marketplace. It helps us lower the distance between the crafts people and the global consumer. For example, it ensures the products meet the ever-changing needs of the global consumer. Let’s not forget the distance may be thousands of miles.
In short, it allows the region plug into the global brotherhood in a way they do not feel lost and overwhelmed by it. It also builds a two way dialogue between different parts of the world. This helps to generate an understanding of humanity using trade.
In more precise terms. The Swat Valley Guild intends to focus on supporting its members to -
We are looking to work with existing products and find them global markets. This helps the entire supply chain enjoy the benefits of globalisation.
We have been working on this project for a just over a month now - 6 weeks to be exact. In this time my local MP and the International Development Secretary - Justine Greening - supported us gain direction. We have built an understanding with a UN agency - Business Call to Action . They will be helping us access some of the global retailing players. We have been accepted to join the UNICEF Fintech Jam hack weekend in April. We are approaching buyers of coloured gems in the EU. We are looking for more introductions to sectors we offer our products in. So if you know any anyone looking to break away from the low cost/ low value model just drop us a note.
Look forward to your support in making our dream support humanity.