Fariel Salahuddin: Goats, blockchain and the future of money

Recorded atDecember 01, 2021
EventTEDWomen 2021
Duration (min:sec)09:09
Video TypeTED Stage Talk
Words per minute102.73 very slow
Readability (FK)49.87 difficult
SpeakerFariel Salahuddin

Official TED page for this talk


What if smallholder farmers could use their produce and livestock to pay for goods and services? TED Fellow and alternative currency enthusiast Fariel Salahuddin is working to make this a reality in places including rural Pakistan, where basic necessities like water and electricity are often expensive or inaccessible. She explores how the way we exchange value has evolved over time -- from bartering to blockchain -- and shares a new perspective on currency that promotes self-reliance for farmers and creates a more inclusive economy.

Text Highlight (experimental)
100:04 Hi, my name is Fariel, but back home, I am also called the goat lady.
200:12 And today I will be sharing the story of how that came to be about.
300:20 In 2015, I visited a small, remote village in Pakistan called Pathan Goth.
400:29 The residents of Pathan Goth were living without access to basic facilities such as water and electricity.
500:41 The community was bussing water two hours from Karachi.
600:47 This made their water so expensive that their livestock went without water every other day.
700:58 Bathing and laundry was a luxury.
801:03 The solution was simple: a solar water pump.
901:08 But that would cost $10,000.
1001:11 And for a community where the average household earned just about $70 a month, this was beyond their affordability.
1101:26 As I sat there thinking about this issue, the solution literally walked in front of me.
1201:35 A herd of more than 100 goats crossed my path.
1301:41 And I thought to myself, that is a lot of goats.
1401:45 (Laughter)
1501:48 I took a chance and asked the village elder: Would they consider paying me for their pump in goats?
1601:58 He agreed, and that is how Pathan Goth got its pump and I became the proud owner of 40 goats.
1702:10 (Applause)
1802:14 A few months down the line, the Muslim festival of Eid came around.
1902:19 During Eid, livestock is offered to honor Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac.
2002:29 And much like shopping before Christmas, the demand for goats goes up, and the price skyrockets.
2102:38 I remembered my goats and decided to put up a post on Facebook asking my friends and family to buy their Eid goat from me that year.
2202:52 Within a week I sold all my goats.
2302:55 And even after paying for a team to do transport and manage them, I more than recovered the cost of the pump.
2403:06 This experience made me question the idea of money and how it has changed and evolved for us.
2503:17 I found that in 2500 BC, Mesopotamia, Sumerians used measured quantity of barley as money.
2603:29 But as the trading circle grew beyond one village, money's key characteristics changed and evolved.
2703:40 Money not only needed to reliably store value but also be easy to convert and easy to transport.
2803:53 That is when we -- civilization -- moved towards coin and paper money.
2904:00 But coin and paper money get value only when they’re validated by an external authority, such as God, crown or the central bank.
3004:19 Technology today enables us to bypass the need for this central authority.
3104:27 Today, the value of any asset can be transferred from one person to another using blockchain.
3204:37 Any asset can now be tokenized, digitized and traded.
3304:44 So technology is not only disrupting the need for a financial intermediary in mainstream economy but also has the potential to disrupt and democratize economic power in more rural economies.
3405:06 By removing the need for inefficient and expensive intermediaries, small farmers can derive greater value from what they grow and raise.
3505:19 Livestock is very abundant in these communities.
3605:27 Farmers literally use their goats and cows as ATM machines and as saving instruments.
3705:37 They will sell an animal when they need cash, such as to buy fodder for the rest of the herd, to buy groceries for their home or for weddings and health emergencies.
3805:52 But these communities have never been able to use their goats and cows for larger, more productive assets ... until now.
3906:05 Our farmers are able to convert 15 goats into a solar water pump.
4006:13 Previously, these communities would rely on or wait for an NGO, a charity or the government to take notice and give them what they needed.
4106:28 Now they are using their own resources to fulfill their own needs when they need it.
4206:39 This is self-reliance.
4306:42 (Applause and cheers)
4406:50 So how have we enabled the use of goats as a reliable form of currency?
4506:58 Right now, we we work with farmers through physical barter.
4607:05 At the time of the solar installation, we take possession of the goats.
4707:12 We then sell these goats as meat to grocery chains and through our own retail brand.
4807:21 Every goat that we receive is then recorded, as its unique ID -- its key characteristics such as its sex, its age, its weight and even its number of teeth are taken into account.
4907:41 And then using these, we assign each goat a dollar or a rupee value, essentially tokenizing a goat.
5007:53 We have already worked with 45 communities, enabling more than 6,000 farmers to convert their goats into water and electricity.
5108:08 (Applause)
5208:15 We are now planning to add smartphones, tractors and other equipment.
5308:23 My hope is that we can create a more inclusive economic system where any person or any community can use what they grow and raise as money.
5408:39 Where a farmer, a small farmer can use, wherever he is, whether it’s Pakistan, Nepal, Somalia, can use a digitized goat to pay for her kid’s school fees, a tractor or a smartphone.
5508:56 This future isn't quite here yet, but I hope using goats as money gets us closer.
5609:04 Thank you.
5709:05 (Applause and cheers)