from Don Larson:
My son and I just spent nearly a week in the cyclone ravaged area of Beira, Mozambique. We drove 2 days on treacherous roads to deliver medicines. We have friends who live there and do medical work, and with the cyclone their inventories were depleted and the need was great.
The disaster was catastrophic. There appeared to not be a single home that wasn’t damaged in the storm. The loss of life is significant – much greater than what is being reported. Disease will continue to escalate due to the conditions. Relief teams from around the world are there. Malaria and cholera cases are rising but with time and money, they will be brought under control. It is just a matter of time and money. We delivered mostly malaria medication and test kits along with provisions for treating cholera. The international response was heartwarming – government, faith-based, NGOs, and many companies like our Sunshine Nut Company all responded to the call during crisis.
But what happens after the crisis? I couldn’t help thinking about the life of these Mozambican people. What really made my eyes tear was the destruction to the businesses in the area. The jobs that businesses create are the lifeblood of transformation. But that lifeblood of business is so inadequate – even more so now with the damage inflicted by the cyclone. Jobs create wealth and the ability to prosper. The destruction I observed was mostly because of poor home construction brought about by poverty. Most cement homes were still intact and will recover quickly. The houses made of mud, stick, and straw were annihilated leaving possibly hundreds of thousands homeless. They are without hope.
My hope is for the international community to invest outside of times of crisis to bring employment. My wife and I moved our family to Mozambique 8 years ago to build the Sunshine Nut Company. The primary reason for our move was to create jobs – because a job solves many fundamental issues such as hunger, shelter, sickness, but mostly it stops stagnation.
The cashew company we opened provides jobs for 50 people. These 50 jobs that roast, season, and package cashews create the need for 1,000 jobs in the rural communities at a factory which shells the cashews. Surrounding that shelling factory are 50,000 smallholder farming families that provide their entire annual cashew crop to the shelling factory for just Sunshine Nut Company’s needs. All these lives are positively affected by just one business. Think about how prosperity multiplies with new businesses like this being created.
When I became the Director of Cocoa Operations back in 2004, the Hershey Company sent me to Africa to survey the cocoa crops. What I saw on the ground had a lasting impact on me. I saw a people group who had the ability to thrive, but they did not have the resources, the knowledge, and the access to markets to take advantage of the opportunity. My family sold everything we owned in 2011 and moved to Mozambique, Africa. We started up Sunshine Nut Company with the intent of making a premium roasted cashew to be sold in the world’s finest retailers. We create markets for smallholder farmers; we emphasize native employment; we operate at the peak of excellence; and we give 90% of the company’s shareholder distributions back to the poor, widowed, and orphaned where we live. We don’t create dependence and entitlement with hand-outs – we create hope, opportunity, and transformation with employment.
There are many reasons why we give back 90% of shareholder distributions. The primary reason is that it takes the emphasis away from maximizing shareholder profits and shifts that emphasis to stakeholder profits. We can concentrate on what is right and just in our mission to bring about lasting economic transformation. Whatever ends up as profit we spend mostly on transformative projects through our philanthropic arm – the Sunshine Approach Foundation. It also helps throughout the value chain when people know we are not there to capitalize on people groups that have been taken advantage of for generations but to help them. Our relationship with the government is improving as trust is being built. We are there as a force for good – allowing the Mozambican people to flourish.
There was no flourishing in Beira the past two weeks, there was only survival. The international community camped in Beira is responding with medical and food aid to allow people to survive. But there comes a point where supplying aid goes from being beneficial to becoming detrimental. We have seen the results these past 8 years with the continuous free ‘aid’ that comes from more developed parts of the world. Whether it’s food, medicine, supplies, used clothing and shoes – it many times builds a barrier to progress. These hand-outs build dependency, entitlement, and a feeling of worthlessness. We try to counter these things with our creation of jobs resulting in independence, the dignity to earn, and the satisfaction of self-transformation.
I spent the first half of my life transforming myself – acquiring education, wealth, and position. I had a spiritual awakening at my mid-point that shifted my focus to living for others. The internal feeling of satisfaction that you are contributing in some small way to make the world a better place is far better than any material possession or status you may acquire. Sadly, most spend their lives in pursuit of the former to never gain the wisdom to realize the latter.
There are catastrophic Beiras all around the world – some much closer to where each of us live than we realize. Getting involved in those communities to create opportunities for others to thrive and flourish is the secret to lasting transformation, but it is also the true secret to an abundant life for ourselves.
We pride ourselves with a slogan on the front of each cashew package that says: “Hope Never Tasted So Good”. If more people shifted their focus from self to others, their contributions would bring hope in the form of not just taste, but sight, sound, smell, and touch as well. There is no limit to what a human being can accomplish when properly motivated. My hope is that those who have realized human flourishment will turn to help others be given the opportunity to flourish themselves. I’ve had the fortune of learning helping others is the best motivation around.