Aaron is an explorer, constantly seeking new experiences to expand and share his knowledge. His adventures have taken him to an island off the coast of Japan teaching French baking techniques, the frigid waters of Newfoundland learning how to roll a sea kayak, and the kitchen of a Oaxaca grandmother for a private lesson on the stewing of black beans. Aaron’s traveling motto is show up, start talking to people, and see which paths reveal themselves. He rarely makes reservations and has been known to drive hours in the opposite direction for an opportunity suggested by someone intriguing.
Aaron’s journey to Indonesia followed in the same vein. When he and his wife’s plans to join the Peace Corps in Botswana went awry, they cashed in all their frequent flier miles to “anywhere warm and interesting” and found themselves volunteering with an NGO in Bali. Their arrival coincided with cashew season, and while Aaron taught the public health staff about wound care and nutrition, they taught him about cashews.
When Aaron learned that this impoverished region ships their cashews to India and Vietnam for processing, he saw an opportunity to provide jobs, training, and produce uniquely “local” cashew — processed where it’s grown. Within a few months he garnered the support of 4 local investors and launched East Bali Cashews.
In the first year, the company produced 180 tons of cashews, providing 130 new jobs and employing a 90% female workforce.
Aaron believes that community development is best achieved and sustained through empowering people, especially women. As guardians of health and education within the family, women of East Bali Cashews not only earn money to invest in their children, but are encouraged to develop management skills. Goals for 2014 include building the region’s first preschool adjacent to the factory and doubling cashew production.
Cashews help lower cholesterol, improve heart health, add fibre and protein, and help control blood-sugar levels and reduce the risk of diabetes. This wondrous fruit has antioxidants and is high in minerals and vitamins.
Cashew trees are fast-growing and drought-tolerant, producing for up to 50 years. The cashew comes from a fruit, the cashew apple. Inside is a seed in a hard coating.
Roasting, shelling and cleaning of the kernels is a laborious process and the shells are highly corrosive.
Cashew fruit falls to the ground, where it is collected and the nut is separated from the fruit. The nuts are then dried, steamed, dried again, opened, extracted from the shell, and peeled. At this point the cashews are ready to eat raw, or if you like yours roasted or flavoured, they enter their tenth and final process. Think of that the next time you eat a cashew!
Throughout the world, the poorest people are often relegated to areas with the poorest soil, and Desa Ban is no exception. With an average income of $2 per day, balanced diets and school uniforms are often unaffordable. East Bali Cashews hopes to improve the lives of the Desa Ban community by providing an additional source of income, empowering women through employment and education, and teaching farmers to improve their soil and maximize their production.
Study after study shows that in developing countries, when women earn money they are more likely to spend it on education and health than men. In North Eastern Bali, there are almost no employment opportunities for women. This is a region with rampant alcoholism, gambling, poor school attendance and numerous poverty-related health problems. We hope to change this trend by providing jobs for women and opportunities for success
In two years of operating, we have created over 200 desperately needed jobs, employing and empowering an almost entirely female workforce. In fact, 95% of East Bali Cashews’ employees ARE WOMEN.
Head to eastbalicashews.com to read more about the region, the company and the incredible cashews they produce.