Hamid Farhad, Priscilla Chan Visionary of the Year Scholarship Award Winner Announced

"Before you plan to build anything, you need to create some sort of agreement so that both countries get the adequate amount of water.” Hamid Farhad, WATERisLIFE

Hamid Farhid, Global MBA Over three years ago, the School of Economics and Business Administration at Saint Mary's College of California founded the Visionary of the Year Award in partnership with the San Francisco Chronicle. Nearly two dozen local leaders have been recognized who embody our School’s mission of global thinking and responsible leadership. In 2017, along with the San Francisco Chronicle, we awarded the third annual Visionary of the Year award to Priscilla Chan for her work as founder and CEO of The Primary School, and co-founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

As part of the Visionary of the Year campaign, SEBA offers a scholarship to an incoming graduate student who exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit of the Visionary of the Year Award and its winner.  This year’s scholarship award goes to Hamid Farhad, who began his Global Executive MBA program in January 2018. Farhid currently works as a consultant at the nonprofit, WATERisLIFE, launched back in 2007.

Farhid chose the Global Executive MBA program because he believes it will help him better utilize and perfect his skills in marketing, communications and other areas for his work. He recently completed his first class “Global Management Communication” which enables students to develop a set of key competencies for leadership in today’s global context, such as communicating and presenting in a global context.

With a background in water diplomacy and conflict management as an advisor to the ambassador of Afghanistan, Farhad has traveled to India, Pakistan, Thailand and Afghanistan for water projects. Not only did he travel to the latter, he worked there as an advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the title of Protocol Officer for the Embassy of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Farhid’s journey began with a trip to Africa, where his partner, Ken Surritte, was traveling to help dig wells. As Surritte was taking a shower, he asked himself why the water was going down the drain in such a wasteful manner when there was such an overall scarcity of water around him. He decided to create WATERisLIFE. When Farhad heard the idea, he fell in love with it.

The two create dialogues between countries, cities, or states to see if they share any type of water source, such as rivers, in order to avoid conflict over water resources.

Farhid’s background focusing on avoiding conflict lends well to his role with WATERisLIFE . “I am in love with a quote by Ismail Serageldin,” said Farhad. In August 1995, Serageldin warned, “If the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water—unless we change our approach to managing this precious and vital resource.”

“Unfortunately, no one’s addressing this issue, because it’s political, but it’s still a reality,” said Farhad, “But sooner or later, we have to do it. Even in California, there are over a million people who don’t have access to clean water.”

According to Farhad, 170 million people in America are drinking water that has radioactive material in it, said Farhid. His past work involved advising the government ministries—the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Energy and Water—on the importance of opening up a dialogue with neighboring countries, such as Iran and Pakistan.

He still does consulting work with Afghanistan, a country that has several rivers running through it. “What I was doing was trying to create a dialogue between the two countries, where we can come to an open forum to discuss the importance of water diplomacy so that we can prevent conflict,” said Farhad.

“As of right now, Afghanistan is planning on building several dams on the borders of these countries. If that happens, the neighboring countries' water supply will be cut off, or decreased tremendously. This will cause conflict. The point that I'm trying to make is before you plan to build anything, you need to create some sort of agreement so that both countries get the adequate amount of water.”

“WATERisLIFE works with personal water filters the size of a pen that can filter any type of drinking water, except for salt water. It filters about 99 percent, lowering contaminant levels to American standards. So the mercury, the lead, the barium and whatever contaminants that might be in the water, it gets lowered to US standards,” said Farhad.

WATERisLIFE is working on a few projects at the moment, including a roll-out with Which Wich sandwiches, which will be carrying their bottled water throughout the western part of the United States. Ranked in the top 10 nonprofits to focus on in the world, the company is at number five right now. “We want to make it to number two or three within the next year or two, with a couple ideas we are brainstorming,” said Farhad.

Farhad plans to complete his Global Executive MBA program in 2019. “I have never received any type of scholarship in my life,” said Farhad, “when I heard the news I was shocked.”