Many people know Bali for popular tourist destinations like Seminyak, Legian and Ubud. It is a place where you can go to ride elephants, drink cocktails on the beach and barter with street vendors.
But delve below the surface of this tropical oasis and you will discover the large population, many of whom live on less money a day than we might spend on a single coffee. Established with the aim of improving living standards in these vibrant, yet poor communities, East Bali Cashews is one of a number of social enterprises that support Balinese farmers, boost the economy in rural villages and improve living conditions for locals.
Aaron Fishman founded East Bali Cashews in 2012 to provide local cashew farmers with financial support, employment and education opportunities, while in turn sharing their delicious product with the world.
Initially travelling to east Bali as a healthcare and nutrition volunteer, Aaron was astonished to discover the breathtaking beauty of this lesser-travelled region and the vibrant communities living there. It wasn’t long before he realised that behind this natural beauty and intricate culture, east Bali was an incredibly poor region.
Many locals were cashew farmers who were selling their products to Vietnam and India for processing, before buying them back at a higher price. Here, Aaron saw an opportunity for a powerful social venture that would improve life in the region.
In 2012 Aaron established a small factory with the help of a few local partners and in 2013, a significant crowd-funding campaign saw the expansion of the factory, which now employs around 350 staff members (most of whom are women). The company is dedicated to economic and educational empowerment, particularly for women, and has a female employment rate of 85%. Before the factory was established, employment opportunities for women were almost non-existent with many women mainly working at home.
The company has also established an early learning centre for children aged two to six. Looking after the nutritional, physical and emotional health of the students is of utmost importance here, with students encouraged to continue their education as far as they like.
When it comes to the overall process, growing cashews is a very labour intensive. Cashew seeds are grown as an individual apple on a tree, before they are picked and separated. Next, the seeds are dried – sometimes in the sun – before being transported to a factory where they are graded, steamed and cooled. The cashews are then shelled, roasted, cooled and peeled. Think the process is finished? Not yet – after peeling, the cashews are sorted a second time based on quality and size.
At East Bali Cashews, every single nut is used in one of the ethical snacks on offer ensuring no hard work goes to waste. The team creates a selection of granolas, muesli, snack mixes, and roasted and flavoured cashews. What’s more, all flavourings are sourced from within Bali, including coconut, rosella, chilli and chocolate, capturing the intense flavours of the region.
The East Bali Cashew favourite is likely the chocolate-coated cashews, which are rolled in locally sourced, natural cacao powder. The cashews with artisan salted caramel popcorn are also a crowd pleaser.
Each of these products is grown, packaged and prepared for shipping at the one factory, keeping the entire process local. Giving back to the community is something that remains at the forefront of East Bali Cashews, even five years on.
One of the latest offerings at East Bali Cashews is an on-site education facility – East Bali Immersion. Hosted at an Eco Lodge on 12 hectares of land, overlooking rolling hills, the immersion allows visitors with the opportunity to engage with the cashew production process, meet locals and learn more about living conditions in the east Bali region.
With a focus on sustainability and supporting the local community, East Bali Cashews is a truly selfless organisation, helping local farmers while simultaneously providing a delicious product to the world.
Originally published on Smudge Eats as ‘East Bali Cashews’.