Our story began in 2011 when we went to Gambia to research a thesis on how aid could be optimised from a local perspective.
Instead of checking in at a hotel we checked in with a family in the Gambian countryside. And rather than burying ourselves in theory we spent time getting to know our hosts and learn what receiving aid really meant to them.
BACK TO THE BEGINNING
We sat down to have dinner with them and stayed as guests in their cottage. They told us aid wasn’t working for them from a sustainable point of view, and that rather than aid it was long term employment they really needed. They felt they wanted to give something back to the the world rather than just receiving aid and that this was their only real chance of getting out of poverty.
WORKING IN THE FIELDS
OK, SO WHY CASHEWS?
In Gambia cashews grow everywhere. In fact most of the cashews we eat in Europe are grown in western Africa. However almost none of the nuts are processed there.
SO WHAT HAPPENS WITH ALL THE NUTS?
We realised that buyers from India and southeast Asia came out to the villages to buy unprocessed cashews and ship them back to processing plants in their own countries. And being such a competitive buyer’s market meant the farmers usually didn’t get a very good deal.
The cashews are often processed in India or Vietnam, usually under terrible working conditions (read what The Guardian newspaper wrote about the problem here).The cashews are then sold back and distributed throughout Europe.
THIS IS NOT OK!
Was it possible to cutout this wasteful detour? Could we have the processing jobs stay in origin country and have fair conditions for farmers and workers throughout the value chain?
Yes, we could! We sat down and made a plan, then we booked a meeting with Sweden's biggest convince chain and asked if they would prefer to sell Smiling cashews instead of blood cashews?
"Of course we do," they said. We walked out of the meeting, a little bit surprised (did they actually say yes?) and a little bit afraid (are we actually doing this?). We then collected all the money we got, borrowed as much as we could and sent down Oscar to buy cashews for everything. In that very first purchase we bought 20 tons of cashews and gave jobs to hundreds of local Gambians.
Since that first trip we been able to launch a wide range of products which are now sold in over 4000 stores across Sweden. And that’s all down to you making a conscientious choice to buy Smiling products and help make the world just a little bit fairer for everyone.