Africa Calling

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Don Larson thinks food processing can resurrect poverty-stricken regions, and he’s starting in Mozambique

Don Larson believes food processing can transform destitute African countries, starting in Mozambique. Larson went to Mozambique to prepare the groundwork: testing out the government, the financial incentives, logistics, infrastructure, supply of raw materials, utilities, water supply, waste treatment and air pollution control standards, whether he could get the right employees and technical expertise.

Larson saw many Africans make a nascent attempt to develop markets. It’s common to see dozens of women on the roadside selling produce, earning very little money each day. Not only is there no market buy they’re wasting their time on the little market. If you provide the market, you provide them the ability to do other things to educate, to take care of their families. Larson said “If I’m in country, I’m going to invest in country. I’m going to make sure that the supplier base is good, and I’m going to do whatever I can nurture the entire cashew industry and the production of cashews. And there’s nothing more effective than a company that nurtures its supply base because they adhere to higher standards, requirements, they get feedback supplier scorecards, the whole words”.

In Mozambique rather than upend his worker’s lifestyles, Larson figures out how to incorporate local culture into operations. The local populace already grows, cracks and consumes cashews, but in transferring that to a factory setting, absenteeism became a problem. The root cause is that Mozambicans must tend their farms, he said. And a culture derived from generations of subsistence farmers isn’t familiar with a 9-to-5 job. So Larson devised an absenteeism performance plan. Later on will come a performance plan. He admits he is learning as he goes much like coming into a factory laden with poor work systems, learning the culture and changing it bit by bit to eliminate waste, increase quality and improve production.

This has just been so much fun to learn all these new possibilities. Larson said “It’s not easy to do what I’m doing but it’s very rewarding, and we’re looking to see some real tangible results starting to happen.