Hunza: A Model Enterprise Valley

Written By: Areej Hashmi

Undoubtedly, Hunza is a major tourist attraction for Pakistan, with its beautiful fruit orchards, mountain peaks, meadows and magnificent scenic beauty. But it is equally interesting to explore how Hunza has rapidly developed over the years through the educational programs, small-scale industries that have empowered t
he local community there and set an example for other areas.

The forces that have brought about changes to this frontier include the growing interest of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) along with the development of infrastructure, such as the opening of the Karakoram Highway which paved way for people in this area to do border business with China, hence flourishing trade. Moreover, the collaboration of The Aga Khan Network with the Government of Pakistan made the process of development easier.

Hunza’s rich cultural heritage is reflected in its traditional practices. One of the great skills possessed by the women of Hunza is handicrafts. The Karakoram Area Development Organization (KADO), a non-profit community-based organization took the initiative of forming women-owned companies to promote handicrafts and provide income and employment to rural women and artisans. These women-owned businesses are now independent and successful in managing their own business.

Hunza’s small-scale craft industry produces a variety of good quality items; such as embroidery, carpets, traditional goat/yak hair rugs (Sharma), wood carvings, musical instruments and fabrics. The unique design and motifs have opened a global market for such local craft items, therefore, generating work and income possibilities for around 2000 women manufacturers. The earnings from these are used to sustain the industry and promote the skills of the people.

Despite the rugged topography and the relatively scarce resources in Hunza, the literacy rate is around 80%. The first primary school came into being in 1913 by the British and then later in 1946 more schools were built which included community schools that placed more emphasis on the quality of education. Later Karakoram University was also established which created jobs for the local population. These schools created many success stories as there are many individuals from Hunza who have successfully received education from top universities such as Harvard, Oxford, and many others.

The development and transition of the educational sector occurred due to the collaborative efforts of the Aga Khan organizations, the local community and foreign funding agencies.

Advancements have also been made in Information Technology. The first computer institute named Mountain Institute for Computer Science (MICS) was established in 2003 in order to provide computer knowledge and skills to students and professionals with the assistance of Allign Technologies Inc. USA. Based on the success of the institution, e-shopping was also introduced for the handicrafts products through mail order system.

To deal with the problem of solid waste disposal and create awareness regarding the environmental issues in Hunza and its adjoining areas, an environmental committee was established. In addition, special campaigns are also carried out against wall-chalking, drugs and other issues. This is implemented by the close coordination of the private sector, local administration/government, local NGOs and local voluntarism.

It is because of the collaborative approach that Hunza has been successful in its endeavors. Its success story is a lesson for the other cities of Pakistan and the example of Hunza illustrates that if there is political will and people are involved in the planning and implementation, then the difficulties and challenges can be overcome.

1 Response to "Hunza: A Model Enterprise Valley"

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