Hello and good day!
A couple days ago, I had a very interesting conversation with my brother Brian. I asked him what he thought about the poverty he saw out on cacao farms when he first moved out to campo to buy and process cacao.
He said that it was definitely rough out there. Almost nobody had indoor plumbing. All farms had outhouses for using the restroom and washed dishes using buckets of water. Public water was only available for a few hours a day and during that time folks filled up buckets so they'd have water to use later on.
The electricity was spotty and frequently went down for days at a time with no warning. Nobody had phone lines. The dirt roads washed out easily in the rain. There was very little access to medical care.
The women cooked over wood stoves and breathed in the smoke for several hours a day, every day, which was terrible for their health. Much of this still holds true today, some fifteen years later.
Thankfully, the extra income from our project has made a solid dent in a lot of these hardships.
Indoor plumbing. More money for medicine. More time to make a trip to the doctor. Motorcycles. Cars. Propane stoves. Paved floors in houses. These are some of the simple but important improvements to the quality of life that our business and our wonderful customers have been able to bring about.
Brian mentioned a couple of additional things that I'd never thought about.
First, even though all cacao farmers out in campo would suppose that Americans are inherently rich, we weren't. When Brian moved out to the jungle, our company had been two years without any income.
We were living off savings from the mining business we had exited two years prior, and we were spending money buying cacao for experimentation purposes and building a facility out in the jungle.
As Americans, we grew up accustomed to a higher standard of living, but as individuals, we weren't all that much richer than those cacao farmers. We were essentially just scraping by, spending money on faith that we'd be able to find customers for the cacao we were buying and processing.
Being close to broke ourselves definitely helped Brian avoid putting on airs out on cacao farms. We needed these families as much as they needed us.
The second thing Brian pointed out is that cacao farmers are just like anybody else, with the same strengths and weaknesses that you would see in any community of people.
They are a microcosm of humanity. Here is what I mean by that.
Some are industrious.
Some are lazy.
Some are ambitious.
Some are content.
Some are very well organized and clean.
Others are sloppy.
Some are meticulous in the pruning and trimming of their trees and the trees are highly productive as a result.
Others not so much.
Some are jovial and funny and playful.
Others are very serious and reserved and shy.
Some have excellent, shrewd business minds.
Others are more artistic and prefer to play the guitar and sing rather than run the numbers.
You can't make a blanket statement about economic conditions, because they are variable. The folks who work hard and focus on their business are quite prosperous within the context of their environment. And when you are on the farms of the more successful farmers, you can see and feel the prosperity.
This is quite interesting because there is no old money out in campo. The original settlers just showed up in the 1960s. When they showed up, the whole region was raw, virgin jungle.
Everybody started from ground zero. Effort, industriousness, focus, intent, and seriousness in achieving goals makes a difference no matter where you are Nihilism never seems to produce a good outcome.
Throwing one's hands up in despair and refusing to wade into the battle of life leads to visibly inferior results, be it here in the United States or in the jungle of northern Peru.
Fortunately for us, some 15 years later our financial situation is a bit more predictable, and thanks to the support of our wonderful customers, about 500 cacao farm families have economically benefited from doing business with us.
Hopefully the years and the number of families will keep going up!
I hope at you have a truly blessed day!