Spreading the sweetness of Hunza honey
Nausheen Barkat has a mission in life: to take organic products from her hometown in Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan to the world.
Her dream began while she was still a student at the Aga Khan Higher Secondary School, Hunza. Now as an alumna she has already taken an important first step.
It was Nausheen’s love of honey which laid the foundations for a small mother-daughter honey extraction enterprise which is now expanding to reach all of Pakistan. To satisfy her children’s love of eating honey at breakfast, Nausheen’s mother, Shamsul Mulook, started bee farming and honey extraction at her home in Danyore, Gilgit. This way, she could ensure that what her children ate was 100% pure.
Wanting to do it the proper way, Shams undertook training from the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, and started with just two beehives. When that proved successful, she trained other women in the area, who all joined her in the honey extraction venture while Nausheen took on the responsibility of marketing the produce online. They settled on the name Asqurr for their honey, which fittingly means flower in Burushaski, one of the languages spoken in Gilgit-Baltistan. Today, a team of six women work on bee farming and honey extraction while Nausheen takes care of the retail side of the business.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Nausheen is planning to enrol in honey extraction training herself, so she can join her mother mother’s “honey extraction squad” as well she continues to expand the marketing and sales sides of the operation. Moreover, she wants to market other products from Gilgit-Baltistan, such as dry fruits as well as almond, walnut and apricot kernel oils, to a wide range of people. “Dry-fruit production is an essential part of the landscape of Gilgit-Baltistan, with many houses boasting a small orchard,” Nausheen says. “The fruits and their oils are a key part of our cuisine and my dream is for people to associate the region with top quality fruits and oils.”
In the past few months, Nausheen has been invited to talk about Asqurr on national television and to display Asqurr honey at an exhibition hosted by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Karachi. She has also attended a SAARC Women Entrepreneurs Portal Training to build her capacity in online marketing. It looks like Nausheen is well on her way to achieving her dream.
Captions (top to bottom):
Nausheen and the retail side of the business
Nausheen Barkat and her mother, Shamsul Mulook