July 14, 2018
[00:00] Thrive Market Coconut Butter/Kion Flex
[09:02] About Christopher Shore
[15:11] How Christopher Got Into World Vision
[18:11] What is Generational Poverty?
[27:16] Protocol of World Vision in Farms
[37:42] Omax3 Omega-3/Organifi Products
[40:11] Importance of Taking Care of Soil
[51:45] Anticipating Emergency Situations
[54:58] What World Vision Does For Water
[1:04:07] Helping World Vision
[1:07:10] Impact of Financial Donations
[1:09:35] End of the Podcast
Ben: Hey, it's Ben Greenfield. I'm going to get a little bit serious and life changing with you today. I'm not going to talk about poop and enemas and stem cells and fringe injections or anything like that. I'm going to talk about bigger picture matters, see I have a purpose that I have very clearly outlined for my life, and that is to empower people, just like you, to live a more adventurous and joyful and fulfilling life. But even more importantly than that, I have a filter that I use to make important decisions in life, a filter that I filter everything through, and it's not just that core purpose that I just described to you to empower people to live a more adventurous and joyful and fulfilling life. But it is whether or not when I make a decision in life if it is satisfying, that particular purpose. But also, whether or not, it's loving others, whether or not, it's loving others. And I always choose the option that allows me to love others the most, that allows me to make a difference in the lives of others the most. So if I have the option to say empower you to live a more adventurous life by going out and doing let’s say some crazy adventure race versus me leading a group of people who want to learn how to do that adventure race on a quest there at the race itself to bring you through and help you, I'll choose the latter because I'm more meaningfully loves others.
Now I know this kind of a long intro for you, but when it comes to caring for others and when it comes to supporting others and when it comes to loving others, I am about to up level things, big time. Many of you are aware that I have launched a new company in the past year. It's called Kion, K-I-O-N, and the purpose of that company is to not only empower people to live a more adventurous and joyful and fulfilling life, but to teach you and supply you with the products and the supplements that I design and the content that I write to find wholesome balance of your mind, your body and your spirit. Well, what I've decided to do is to actually enable Kion to be able to donate to charities that really make a difference in the world, that really make a difference in the overall life and in the overall health of people who aren't likely to ever touch a Kion product. People who are more concerned about getting freaking one meal for that day or even that week, people who are concerned about drinking water that's not going to kill them but actual clean water that they'd otherwise normally never be able to find, people who need education, people who need a warm blanket, a roof over their head, clothing. I want to be able to help those people, and I want to be able to help those people via Kion. So even though Kion, we're totally bootstrap startup. I mean full disclosure, Kion was built with love and care and time and sweat and blood and a boatload of just my own money.
We're pouring all of our revenue into future growth, but we want to stick with our core values, and one of those core values is indeed love and loving others, and we also want to support charities that we believe in from the very beginning. Even if it means slower growth for Kion as a company, I'd rather change the world as I build Kion and provide for people who would normally not otherwise get things like water and food and clothing and education. So I've identified the very first charity that I support personally and have, and my boys and wife have adopted children virtually who we support personally, and this company is also one that I support personally. It is the international, non-profit company called World Vision, and Kion is now specifically a very proud supporter of something called the Thrive Economic Empowerment Program that World Vision has created. The Thrive Economic Empowerment Program, you're going to learn exactly what that is today, why it's so important and how you can be a big part of this.
Now before we actually do jump into today's show, I'm going to tell you a funny story. I was with one of my vegan friends at a retreat in Panama. It was the last day, we'd run out of food, but we wanted to have dinner, and so she had, of all things, in her refrigerator, a bag of carrots. All she had was those carrots, and she made this amazing meal of carrot mash and steamed carrots, sautéed carrots that tasted like carrot ambrosia, and the reason for that is because she also had a secret stash of coconut butter. I don't know if you ever had like a good, raw, vegan coconut butter, but it enhances the flavor of just about anything. Coconut butter, it's not coconut oil. It's the whole coconut meat, so it's got fiber and protein and vitamins and minerals. It takes any meal and completely up levels that meal, and it is just one of the several products, including coconut meat cereal that I order from Thrive Market, a sponsor of today's show.
So thrive is very cool because, first of all, 70% of the healthy things that you find there, you can't get on Amazon. Every single package box, insert that arrives at your house from Thrive is made from recycled paper, totally recyclable, 100% zero waste, and what they do is they find the best organic, non-GMO snacks, vitamins, supplements, personal care products, kitchen stables, eco-friendly cleaning supplies, non-toxic beauty supplies, you name it. They mark them down to 25 to 50% below traditional retail prices, and then you get them on one spot. You can even filter as you search for certain things that you want on whether it's vegan or kosher or primal or Paleo or whole thirty or whatever filter that you want to use. Super-duper slick and an easy-to-use website for ordering any organic grocery matter that you desire, that your heart desires, including coconut butter. May I mention, in case all you have in your own refrigerator is a bag of carrots, so you get $60 of free organic groceries plus free shipping and a thirty-day trial on Thrive. It's very, very simple. You just go to thrivemarket.com/ben. That's thrivemarket.com/ben. That will get you 60 bucks of free organic groceries. It'll give you free shipping, it'll get you a thirty-day trial. Check it out at thrivemarket.com/ben.
This podcast is also brought to you by Kion Flex. Kion Flex is the specific formulation I created at Kion, as like the shotgun formulation for joint help. It has what's called the flex pro-blend in it which is cherry juice, ginger, turmeric, white willow bark which has the same stuff in it that you'll find an aspirin, but it's the natural source of the salicylic acid. Hyaluronic acid which helps your joints to create their own synovial fluids, one of the main lubricating elements in your joints. Boswellia, it has a natural fatty acid in it called cetylmyristoleate, which promotes joint wellness, it's got a ton of clinical research behind it, particularly effective for knee pain interestingly enough. It has a mineral blend, it has an enzyme blend. You may have heard of proteolytic enzymes that you'll find in products like [8:13] ______, for example. Well this has that in there too, 'cause I just wanted everything on one. It also has glucosamine chondroitin. Glucosamine chondroitin from type-II collagen which is the type of collagen that provides the structural support for healthy joints. So its perfect post-workout, it's perfect when you're injured, when you're sore. I've had clients use this going into a surgery. Anyways, it's called Kion Flex. It's an all-in-one, joint support, soreness-reducing and workout recovery solution. Pairs well with any of the Kion products, but you get a 10% discount on it. Just go to getkion.com, getK-I-O-N.com and that'll automatically open you up for that discount. Getkion.com, and Kion Flex is the one that you want to grab.
Ben: Hey folks, this is Ben Greenfield, and I think it was about three years ago that I read these two, what I consider to be life-changing books. These books that I read, one was called “Unfinished” and the other one was called “Hole in the Gospel” and I’ll link to these in the show notes, which I'll give to you guys here briefly. These books are written by a man named a Rich Stearns, and Rich is the president of this company called World Vision, and World Vision is a global humanitarian organization that partners with kids and families and communities to tackle things like poverty and injustice. Within just a few weeks after reading those books, I changed a lot of things in my life. I started to work on creating the Gratitude Journal that I'm sure many of you are aware of by now, that I wrote to be able to help and serve others and write down who I was going to help and serve each day. My children and I, through World Vision, well my wife, can't leave her out, and we adopted a little girl from Ethiopia, meaning we send her little gifts and financial support each month and letters back and forth, so that we can connect with someone in another country who needs our help.
We began volunteering more in our local community, like now I deliver food to 50 kids at a local, poverty-stricken elementary school who would normally not be able to even eat a meal on the weekend, and I outlined a lot of this in an article that I wrote after I read Rich's book, like the importance of things like not just purpose and passion in life and not just love in relationships and not just belief in a higher power, which I personally have a strong belief in, but also the importance of giving to others and not just like exercising for the sake of exercising but kind of going above and beyond just caring about your own body and brain and spirit and helping to bring others to the next level, so to speak. That's why I'm incredibly stoked about getting the guy who worked with World Vision to design this initiative on the podcast today.
So his name is Chris Shore, and Chris is the Chief Development Officer of the entire Thrive Economic Empowerment Program. We're talking about today, you're going to learn a lot today about what happens in third-world countries when it comes to soil and farming and water and issues that really should be near and dear to your heart, considering that you live in a country that actually doesn't take very good care of its own soil and crops and so we're going delve into that a little bit, but Chris is basically in charge of this entire initiative. He works with and for World Vision, and I'm very, very excited to make the next move, so that you and I can help all of these hardworking families in other countries break the cycle of extreme poverty for good. So Chris, thanks for coming on the show, man.
Christopher: Absolutely, glad to be here, Ben.
Ben: Yeah, and I have heard through the grapevine you are a bit of a cyclist. Tell me a little bit about that.
Christopher: Well, I took up cycling when my knees kind of gave out on me from too much running, and so I'm a road biker here in Southern California. I'd like to get the wheels moving and like to try and get in some distances as well. I like to ride the occasional century ride, so yeah. I like the road bike. I've become a spectacularly crashing mountain biker too, the geometry is a little different, I've learned.
Ben: The geometry's way different dude, like one of the best things I did to my mountain bike was I installed one of those seats. It's almost a hydraulic seat where you've got a lever up on your handlebars, and you can press that and automatically make the seat go up and down, whether you descending or ascending, and that was the best investment I ever made in my mountain bike to address the whole geometry issue.
Christopher: I think that's a good idea, I think I'll keep you up on that one, Ben.
Ben: Yeah, check it out, and by the way when it comes to cycling, have you seen this new Netflix documentary, and I'm not a big documentary guy, but I watched it and blew my mind. It's called Icarus, it's about not just doping in cycling, but the entire Russian doping scandal of this guy busted wide open.
Christopher: Yeah, definitely not the kind of thing that we want to be encouraging, that's for sure.
Ben: Yeah, you get a check of this document, and for those of you listening in by the way, I'll link to that in the show notes for today's show, and you can access the show notes if you just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/worldvision. That's bengreenfieldfitness.com/worldvision, and of course, we're not here to talk about the Russian doping scandal today, Chris. We're here to talk about World Vision, what this whole economic empowerment program is and why I want to support it so, so badly. So before we jump into the actual program, how did you get involved with World Vision in the first place?
Christopher: Well it was a bit of a surprise, I hadn't actually planned on working in development. My background is in finance and in business, and many years ago now, when the Berlin Wall fell, found myself as a consultant looking for a different gig. The company I was working for had just entered bankruptcy, and that's when I got a call to get involved in something called economic development, and joined initially a group called the Mennonite Economic Development Associates that had started.
Ben: That's a mouthful.
Christopher: Yeah, META. It's smaller and cheaper and faster to call it META. So META was one of the pioneers in something called microfinance back in the seventies, making small loans to people to help them build their own small business, and they asked me to go to the Soviet Union, which quickly became the former Soviet Union and to help in that part of the world.
Ben: Interesting, see I knew this is all going to come back to Russia.
Christopher: Yeah, not just doping and got involved in economic development and helping people start small businesses and move themselves economically and then ran into World Vision, and they asked us to give them a hand, and so I joined World Vision 20 years ago now, and I've had the privilege of helping people all over the world improve their own lives through different economic development aspects.
Ben: Yeah, so I go hiking sometimes with a guy who comes through Spokane from World Vision, and I know one of your headquarters in Seattle. So Randy comes through every once in a while, he's like my contact at World Vision, and we go on hikes, and we're on this hike and he was telling me about this concept that just, for some reason, attracted me so much, probably because I'm into nutrition and I'm into soil and agriculture and organic farming and a lot of these things that help us to take care of God's good earth. He started to tell me about this concept of you guys teaching farmers how to farm and teaching people in third-world countries how to grow food, which for me was incredibly unique as all I'm familiar with, I send money and gifts and letters to a little girl in Ethiopia, and I help to support World Vision each month and typically would all designate. Give the money to whatever it's needed for most, right? But I hadn't been aware that you guys were actually starting to help people take care of themselves, and one of the things that I think he was telling me about that I'd love to hear you explain in greater detail, 'cause you could probably do a better job of it than me, is this concept of generational poverty that occurs in these other countries outside. You know a lot of our listeners are in Australia and the U.K. and the U.S. and Canada, but explain to me what's going on with generational poverty in a lot of these other countries.
Christopher: Okay, well let me explain poverty just in general a little bit. The world has been trying to get rid of poverty now for quite some time. It was part of a big effort that the United Nations led called the Millennium Development Goals, and the world has been really, really successful actually in reducing and even eliminating extreme poverty. We've gone from about 35% of the world's population living in extreme poverty in 1990 to under 10% today. So 35% to 10% in the last, what is that, 35 years or so? Huge improvement, huge improvement, but the people who are still living in poverty right now are largely smallholder farmers, people who farm small amounts of land, and for generations these people have only known extreme poverty. They've never grown their farming business, if you will, from being anything more than a way to feed themselves, and they've always been right at the edge of, if there was any kind of shock, like somebody got sick or it didn't rain or rain too much, that they would lose basically everything and have to start all over again.
Ben: So are these farmers who are just like growing food for themselves, or are these farmers who are growing food for other people in their community or their tribe or their country?
Christopher: Most of the time, Ben, they're growing food mostly for themselves. So it's what we would call a subsistence farmer, they're growing enough to subsistence but not enough to make it what we would call a commercial operation. They would barter some of it in order to get enough to buy clothing, for example, and fuel, but largely just enough to survive and to give themselves an income that keeps them locked in poverty. But it's not just the economics that keep them in poverty, it's also a mindset, a world view that has said you know, here in Africa, I cannot move myself out of poverty because the spirits are keeping me in poverty, or if I begin to move myself out of extreme poverty, then somebody is going to bewitch me, and the witch doctors will cast a spell on me, and I'm going to be cursed.
Ben: That's crazy.
Christopher: Yeah it's an amazing situation that's in today's world.
Ben: What countries are we talking about this happening? What's an example of a country or a farming community where you've seen this kind of stuff happening?
Christopher: Oh Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda, just keep going, Mozambique. All across Africa, frankly.
Ben: Have you ever been into these farms?
Christopher: Oh yes, many times. I've spent a lot of time in Africa and have talked to people about this and we began to really see this as a problem when we would have what we knew were the types of things that people could do if they just did it. They would move out of poverty when we saw people hesitating to do that, and when we probe deeper, we found out there's a big world view issue that we have to start at if we want people to really move forward economically, at least in those places in Africa.
Ben: So basically you've got this world view that's rooted in powerlessness and self-worth and your lack of self-worth, I guess it would be, and that's like a vicious cycle, so their kids grow up that way, and their kids' kids grow up that way, and you just continue to have these people who any flood, any market fluctuation, any emergency just cripples their business. They can't open a bank account, they can't get a loan, so they just continue to live in extreme poverty with their farm, just on the threat of getting ruined.
Christopher: Absolutely, that's exactly right. It's the two things together, it's the actual farm or business of farming that is keeping them at a subsistence level but it's the mindset, it's that worldview that traps them there and then traps their children in the same place and the like 'cause they themselves are not the first generation to be in that situation. This is a multi-generational problem.
Ben: How often do you go to Africa?
Christopher: I was just there. I'm there probably three, four times a year, and that's a real slowdown. I was usually there eight to ten times a year.
Ben: Oh wow! So do you yourself struggle when you're over there with things like sickness or I guess what they call Montezuma's revenge when you go to Mexico or a lot of these issues people get when they go to Africa? I mean it seems like, I don't want to paint with too broad a brush, but I'm know a lot of these third world countries, I mean there's a lot of disease. How you take care of yourself?
Christopher: Oh you know, an experienced traveler learns to wash your hands frequently. Some of these things we learn in kindergarten actually make sense. Wash your hands frequently, don't eat at places where you don't know how the food's been cooked. If there are water-borne diseases around, then don't eat salads and other things that have got a lot of water.
Ben: I learned that lesson in Jamaica, don't eat the tomatoes in Jamaica.
Christopher: Absolutely, absolutely.
Ben: So have you actually been to, like spent time on any of these farms? I'm just curious what it's like.
Christopher: I have a lot of times, Ben. They're small, I mean the average size of them is one to two acres, so relatively small, very poor most of the houses before people start working with us are made out of mud and sticks for the walls with a thatch roof. There's usually no lighting, there's a lot of indoor smoke from cooking fires. The children may or may not be going to school in Africa, in many parts of the world while education is technically free. If you don't have a uniform or if you haven't paid the special fees for books and materials, you can't go. So often on the farm, the kids aren't going to school. Dietary diversity, the variety of foods that people would be eating is usually pretty bad. Usually eating one to two meals a day, not much more, not more. So you know, it's poor, it's really poor. Often having to walk for water long distances, often having to walk long distances to try and get fuel wood and the like. It's a tough life, it's a really hard life. It's not pleasant, this is not idyllic, that's for sure.
Ben: So when you show up on one of these farms, I know that the economic empowerment program, in general, it's all under THRIVE, is that correct? Like World Vision has Thrive and Thrive runs the economic empowerment program?
Christopher: That's correct, and we like the word THRIVE, and it stands for Transforming Household Resilience in Vulnerable Environments, but we call it THRIVE.
Ben: Transforming Household Resilience in Vulnerable Environments?
Christopher: Yeah, that's it.
Ben: So you're basically trying to make these households more resilient in a vulnerable environment?
Christopher: Yeah absolutely, and what we've learned is there are two things that we want to do. These people are really, really poor. They're living in extreme poverty, they're right at the edges, frankly, of survival, and so we want their incomes to go up massively. We really want them out of extreme poverty, and we want that to happen in a way, so that it's not that they get out, that they have a really good year, one year and the next year they're back, crashing back down. We want it to be an improvement that lasts.
Ben: Right, you're trying to get rid of the generational issue.
Christopher: Absolutely right, we want them out of extreme poverty for good.
Ben: So return to this idea of teaching somebody how a fish rather than giving them a fish, what I want to dive into are some of the things that you specifically do, like boots on the ground when you show up at a farm or when somebody from World Vision shows up at a farm to help these people, what are the main things that you're doing? Especially from a farming standpoint, as far as teaching them how to get out of this vicious cycle.
Christopher: Okay, well we go at it by addressing four big things. One, we've learned and we're talking about it, we have to address the mindset or the world view. So that's something that we explicitly address. A second is realizing that the farm is a business. It is not self-actualization or anything like that. This is a way to make money, and so we have to think of the farm as a business. A second thing, however, is that while we're working on all those business issues, we also have to think about the farm as an ecosystem that sits inside of a bigger one. So it's a mini-ecosystem, it's got dirt or soil, I should say. It uses water, it's got plants and animals on it. How does that work and how do you make that resilient? How do you make that farm produce all the time? And the third thing is that the farmer is not just running a business and not just managing an ecosystem, but they're actually needing to manage risk in investment. Their farm is their biggest investment, so how do they do that? How do they get the information they need to manage that? So I would start, Ben, by saying one of the things that we do is we realize that it's kind of a three-dimensional look at the farm and realizing that we have to begin all of this with what we call in an empowered world view.
Ben: Okay, so when you talk about an empowered world view, rather than first coming in and telling people how to farm, how to take care of their soil, which I want to get into how you guys are doing that, you're actually first saying okay, you got to have more of like a spirit of abundance or you got to break the cycle of poverty and have a world view that allows you to do that?
Christopher: Yeah, we actually take people through about a five-day seminar, and we work with local faith leaders. They could be Christian ministers or pastors, could be Islamic imams or the like, but we work with the community to understand that you are, you as an individual, have got capacity. You are creative, you are productive, you are responsible, and you can do these things.
Ben: So they just like show up in a classroom, and you guys teach them these concepts, almost sounds like a mini-Tony Robbins seminar in Africa.
Christopher: Yeah, but the thing that we've learned is the action learning as the critical piece. So it's not just those things, it's okay, well then if you are capable and responsible and the like, let's think about your community a little bit, and often, you know no matter how poor people are, there are always people in their community that are even poorer. So one of the actual learnings is hey, if there are some orphans in your community and they're not going to school, how about you start something that can help them get their school fees, so they can go back to school? And so people will think about the little things that they can do like hey, if you grow five chickens, I'll grow five chickens, and we'll put the eggs together and we'll sell them, and that'll produce enough money for us to get these kids back to school.
And so people start learning that they can do things, they start taking these action steps, and the biggest action step that we've learned ties right into the economics of the farm, so the biggest thing that we do is we encourage absolutely everybody to get involved in what we call a savings group where they learn how to save money together.
Ben: Interesting, so basically are you starting an actual bank, or are they just putting all this money into like a central collection storage?
Christopher: It's like their own little bank, and what they do, and this is a real, well-scripted, standardized methodology. Not only World Vision uses it but all kinds of other big organizations are using it and then work together on it. So a group of people will get together, and they'll be somebody that will help train them and lay out all the different responsibilities 'cause you have to have a treasurer, you have to have kind of a person who's going to lead the meeting. You've got somebody that's doing all the recording, you've got three people who each have a key, and without all three of them, they can't open up the cash box and they can open up the records for the group, but the heart of it is real simple. They all save money every week. They agree how much money they're going to save every week, they save that money. At the end of their a little saving time, you've got a pile of money sitting in the box and then individuals from that group are going to then lend that money, and they're going to lend that money to other members of the group.
So I'll put in a couple of dollars, and then I'll say, by the way, I need a five dollar loan because I want to buy a cow, maybe not a cow for five dollars. I want to buy a couple of chickens, and so I borrow money from the group, and so as a group member, I am saving money. I may be borrowing, but if somebody else borrows, they're going to pay the group interests, and so at the end of the year, I've got all that money I've been saving, plus all the interest that we've made by charging each other interest, and we're all learning three big things.
Ben: Sorry to interrupt, for a second, but why don't they do this already, like you would think that someone would have thought of the concept of like group storage or group bank before you guys came in and taught them this.
Christopher: You know what? Sometimes good ideas aren't well-known, and then you think afterwards well why didn't we do this before? How many times have we done that, right? You know I never thought of that, it was a good idea. So it is something that is in most societies, Ben, but in this really well-structured approach, we're finding that this really, really works well. And the reason it works really well, one is they're obviously saving money, so they're creating what we call financial capital. They're also getting what we call human capital 'cause they're learning how does finance work, how does interest work, how does a loan work because they're going to need that if they're going to want to improve their farm.
The third thing is they're learning to trust each other and work as a group on economic issues, and so it's those three things together, as they're part of the savings group, that really makes it really powerful, and so that's the action learning. So the empowered world view leads directly into action, and that action of getting in the savings group is the core DNA of everything that we do in this THRIVE program.
Ben: Okay gotcha, so the first thing you do is you empower people to actually realize that they can have the spirit of abundance and break the cycle of poverty, and then you move straight into brass tax, like here's how we actually create a central financial institution, basically in a bank more or less, where you guys can all work together. You organize them to work together, and in terms of, I noticed one word thrown on your website was the agricultural value chain, so not just ensuring they have access to financial services and supporting them in market access, but what's that mean to improve their agricultural value chain?
Christopher: Okay, so let me take you to a real life example. A lot of time, some of the people that we're working with are going to grow like corn. They call it maize, but it’s corn. Not sweet corn like we would have, fresh right off the cob. It’s corn that they would grow and then dry, and they grind it up and make, well we would call it polenta, I think. Maize meal, and it’s staple crop, but you know what? If you farm that, you probably are not using good quality seeds. In fact I've met a lot of people in Africa who thought it makes a lot of sense to use the same seeds my grandfather used.
Well an agriculturalist will tell you no, you know what? You want fresh seeds because after time, after many, many cycles of using that seed, it's going to get cross-pollinated with other varieties of corn that aren't very good, and so if you want to be more productive, you probably want to be using high quality seeds, and it's going to take time to improve, and we'll talk about this in a second, that the soil… so one of the things that you're going to need to do before you get your soil quality up using natural organic methods, you're probably going to need a little shot of fertilizer to help that corn grow really well. So the agricultural value chain analysis takes you into thinking about every crop that the farmers are growing or might grow, and what's the problem or opportunity in that in a set of activities, and what do we need to do differently, what do we need to fix so that the farmer can make a lot more money in farming? So that, it's a real simple idea, we use fancy language to describe it.
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Ben: And you touched on soil, you know I’ve interviewed this guy, a guy in the U.S. actually who I really like. His name's Joel Salatin, he wrote a great book called “The Pigness of Pigs” where he talks about how it annoys him so much, then I'll go to like you know church potlucks, and people are eating like twinkies and GMO corn from the bag and all these things that kind of like strip our planet of resources, but then he also really gets into this idea of soil that is void of nutrients and minerals and vitamins and how soil turnover in the U.S. because of all these I think he calls them just basically annual crops that we grow, along with CAFO farming and all the other horrible farming and agricultural practices that happen in the U.S., basically deplete our soil. Lead to poor soil, and we aren't able to grow crops quite as well, or they're not as rich in nutrients, etcetera. And there really isn't much natural resource management going on, even in the U.S., with a lot of farmers over here.
Now what really kind of like made me and my ears perk up when I was talking with Randy was he mentioned how another thing you guys teach, in addition to just like this awareness of the spirit of abundance and then also the financial savvy to be able to create like local community banks, is this idea of natural resource management. Like treating the farm as an ecosystem that sits within a broader ecosystem, can you touch on what you're actually teaching these farmers and give me examples of how you've changed, how they manage their soil or their vegetation or their water?
Christopher: Yeah absolutely, Ben. Well you know, if you're going to be a farmer and grow crops, grow plants, you've got to think of your soil as that's your engine of growth, and if you don't take care of your soil, you will wear it out. Soil is something you need to invest in. A lot of people that do gardening here in the States or in Canada or in Australia will know that you should probably create some compost to enrich your soil.
Ben: Oh yeah, we're always hoeing poo around here. We've got goats and chickens, we even built up our barn in a way that, and actually speaking of Joel Salatin, and by the way for those of you listening in, go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/worldvision, 'cause I'll link to a lot of these resources in the show notes, but we actually built our little barn here for the goats and chickens to collect the poop from the animals in a very efficient way that allows us to then move the compost out into the garden. We have these eight raised garden beds right next to the poop. So you know there's a composting bin in between the barn and the garden, and you know my wife does a lot more of it than I do because I'm more in a keyboard than I am with my hands buried in poop, but she makes this compost. You know over just three years, the garden has transformed in almost like a jungle.
Chistopher: Yeah, yeah that's exactly right. So what you're doing is exactly what farmers everywhere really need to do with their soil. You need to invest in it, so one of the things that unfortunately happens in Africa is, for example, after the harvest, the farmers let the animals come in and eat everything that had been like the stocks from the corn and everything else. If you want to manage your soil, what you want to do is you want to get nutrients back in the soil, and you want to keep water in your soil. And so it's a practice that we call conservation agriculture that says okay, if you want to build your soil quality, you should really try to do three things.
One, keep your soil covered all the time, so if you just harvested or between your planting cycles, keep your stocks and your leaf litter and organic matter on top of the soil so that it's covered, if you haven't got a cover crop. So keep it cool, keep it covered, and that's going to do two things. One it's going to allow the bacteria and the nutrients to grow in the soil, and it's going to keep the water in your soil. The second thing that you're going to want to try and do is don't till the soil very much. In fact, go to no-till or a very low till approach because when you break up your soil, you're letting a lot of the nutrients out, and you don't want to do that. You want to disturb your soil as little as you can, and the third thing you want to do is rotate your crops. So if you're growing corn all the time anybody that grows corn a lot knows it's really tough on the soil. It takes a lot of nutrients to grow corn, so rotate that and put like beans or legumes and rotate those through your cropping cycle because they fix nitrogen out of the atmosphere into the soil and it's nitrogen that's the natural fertilizer. Most fertilizer includes a lot of nitrogen, so there are lots of natural ways to manage your soil.
Ben: Yeah, and that's a good point. Growing the same crop in the same place for a lot of years in a row, there's actually a name for that. It's called monoculture, and it depletes the soil of a lot of nutrients, and you're right. When you rotate crops, whether you're in your own garden or a small farm or whatever, it not only mitigates the buildup of all these pathogens and pest that happen when one species gets continuously cropped, but you get a ton more soil fertility and soil structure because, and this was really interesting… I forget the name of the book that I read about this, but when you introduce all these different root structures because every crop has a different root structure into the soil, you get all this different bio mass underneath the soil. And so when you just grow the same crop over and over again, like I drive from my house here in Spokane down to Moscow through the rolling wheat fields of the Palouse, and I do that. Usually about once a month 'cause Grandma lives down in Moscow, Idaho on both sides when we bring the family down there, and I see the same crop grown over and over and over. I mean literally, I've been making I drive for like 15 years, and I just wonder like how much more poor each year is the wheat that comes off of that particular field 'cause it's just wheat. The next year wheat, the next year wheat. There's absolutely no crop rotation at all.
Chistopher: Yeah exactly, you want to, whenever you can, use the types of practices that are going to build soil fertility and soil moisture. You just have to do that, so the conservation agriculture practices I was describing, the thing that you're seeing about monoculture. Yeah you have to you have to change that, you have to break that, and in fact one of the things we do and promote, Ben, in certain parts of Africa is farming with trees, and so going to kind of an evergreen agriculture approach. Because there are certain trees in Africa, like one called faidherbia albida, and its leaves are very high in nitrogen, so that's like fertilizer, and they drop their leaves during the growing season. So it'll be like here or in Spokane, when in spring time, it drops its leaves. No that's when trees grow their leaves. Well or this is called a reverse phonology tree, it drops its leaves in the spring, puts them out in the fall, and it allows you to grow and keep more moisture in the soil because it's a little bit cooler, 'cause it's under the trees and get all the benefits of the nitrogen fixing roots plus the nitrogen in the leaves. So there are all kinds of things that we're trying to do to work with nature.
Ben: When you talk, you have a whole page and whole video that goes into this, and again for those you listening, I'll link to that bengreenfieldfitness.com/worldvision, but that when you talk about rehabilitating forests, is that what you're referring to, actually building up the forest around the farm?
Christopher: Well that's a second one that is also very important, so you can build. You can get more trees into the farm itself, but also you know, if you cut down all the trees in your neighborhood, the water is just going to hit the soil and keep going. It's going to not stick around. You want trees in your neighborhood, you want trees on the hills because the trees are going to slow the rain down when it comes, allow the rain to trickle down into the ground, recharge the aquifer, recharge wells, recharge your springs, and all of a sudden you've got a place for birds that are going to eat your bugs. You've got a place for bees that are going to pollinate your crops, and you've got a way to manage your watershed, your hills for water 'cause all agriculture needs water. And so you want water at the root system of the plants which is why we use conservation agriculture, it keeps water in the soil, and we want water coming through the streams and everything else, and so we have to manage the hills for trees, we have to rehabilitate the forests, we have to manage the grasslands for exactly those reasons.
Ben: What about, and I know this is all about farming and agriculture, but when you're building up the forest like that, I'm personally a bow hunter. We haven't talked much about this, but I hunt White Tail and turkey. I've even now got a to-do this week to look into whether or not all of these squirrels and the chipmunks that I'm seeing around our property are indeed edible 'cause I'm actually a fan of the whole hunting part of things, too. When you build up a force like this around a farm, are many of these folks doing any hunting or collecting of animals? Are they primarily sticking with agriculture?
Christopher: Well their ancestors used to do a lot of hunting, many of them were hunter gatherers. Some of them do and some of them will, and in fact, what you're getting to is an interesting point I think, Ben, is that as you rehabilitate the forests, the animals start coming back, and we've seen that. In fact we have a number of communities in Ethiopia where that was one of the things that they're starting to see is there are so many animals that have come back that people are coming to see the animals in their community. They've got a lot more monkeys, they've got a leopard or two in the community, and this is because they've been rehabilitating the forest which gives a place for the animals to live. So yeah, they're people that use the forest to collect food for themselves and do some hunting as well.
Ben: Amazing, very cool. Okay, so we've got the empowerment, in terms of just like getting the psyche, right? We've got the financial part of things, we've got the natural resource management, and then from what I understand, you guys also do a lot of like you mention, at the drop of a hat, these folks these farm can get knocked out by emergencies that happen around them or animal or plant disease or whatever. So how are you developing more emergency and situational awareness?
Christopher: Well, it's something that is critical for anybody that's managing an investment, you know? If you've got an investment in the stock market, probably you're going to pay attention and find out what is the stock market doing. You don't need to go to New York City or Chicago to find out, you can actually use the radio or the internet or the newspapers to get information. Farmers do the same thing, they've got big investments, and what they do and many people here in the U.S. or in Canada or in Australia, if you're in a farming community, we'll turn the radio on in the morning and get something like the farm report, and the farm reports going to tell you is it going to rain? If not, when is it going to rain? What's the longer term forecast? We're going to find out what the price of their crop is, what's the price of milk, what's the price of soybeans on the Chicago Board of Trade, what's going on with animal or plant diseases? And look at it from the radio, now a lot of people can get a lot of that information from the Internet as well, but in many parts of the world where we work, that information just doesn't exist. So we work with the communities to, first of all help them understand what are all the things that can change? Like well obviously if it doesn't rain, that's a problem. What are the other things that can happen that you need to be aware of, like animal or plant diseases? And we help them first understand what are the risks that they face as farmers? And then we work with them and governments and other people to begin getting that information to them in a way that they can use it.
A lot of them do not have a smartphones, some of them have the old you know flip phones or feature phones. We'd send them text messages, but we're also going back to using radio a lot because well not everybody yet has a smartphone. Everybody's got access to radio, and we're beginning to use radio a lot to get them that kind of information, so that they can know, “hey, should I harvest today or is it going to rain? Is going to be too windy are we going to have enough wind if I want wind when I'm harvesting?” And the like, so that's what we do. We get them the information they need to manage their farm, to manage the risks, to manage what's coming at them. Like you mentioned, animal or plant diseases, they have to worry about them.
Ben: Interesting, so at this point, they know how to turn over their soil, build up their forests, emergency of situational awareness. What about water, by the way? Do you guys do any work on building watersheds or figuring out, and by the way, for those listening in, a watershed is just an area of land where all the water that falls in and drains off goes to like a common outlet that can be used for watering crops, for example, but what are you guys doing as far as water is concerned?
Christopher: Well a couple things, like I mentioned, water is actually at the heart of everything we're doing on the natural resource management. It's either water in the soil or water coming off the hills, but we also work on irrigation issues, and so we've helped a number of places, community that may have a year round stream to be able to create a little dam that can then channel that water into irrigation canals so that they can use that for irrigation. We're helping people in dry communities dig farm ponds, or sometimes we call them water pans, so that they can capture the water and use it. Channel the water is going past their farm into these ponds, and then use it in the dry season to grow high value crops like tomatoes or onions when nobody else has got water 'cause it's not raining. We work with others to use simple pumps to move water two or three yards or two or three meters up. From shallow wells and on to their farms, there are a whole bunch of things that we're doing in that regard, Ben. So not only the management of the water in the soil or the management of the water in the hills, in the watersheds, but also how to use running water when you've it available, either in a pond or in a stream or a canal or when you need to go find it some other way.
Ben: I love it, so what's happening as a result of this? Like what have you actually seen occurring in the community, give me examples or are things you personally witness when you've been over there?
Christopher: I can tell you Ben when people start moving forward and embracing the THRIVE program, we see incomes absolutely exploding. We see people going from living on less than a dollar a day to five or ten dollars a day income. We see them feeding their kids more and better food and women and children's health getting better. We see kids going to school, we see people tearing down those mud and stick houses with the fat roof and building brick houses with metal roofs where there's not nearly as much disease. We see them buying solar lanterns and having a light all the time, we see them buying better stoves, improved stoves so they can cook better. We see them embracing life. We see all kinds of transformation happen, it's really, really exciting to see.
Ben: Amazing, so when you're going into these farms, after you've made all these differences and they're able to build their houses that are made of brick with a metal roof instead of mud and sticks and straw and reinvest in their business and cover bills for health care. When you're going into the community are there other things that this economic empowerment program does? Like are you guys doing anything on work with, for example, health care or education or any other aspects that go beyond farming?
Christopher: Oh that's when the Rest of World Vision comes to play, too. So World Vision does all kinds of work, and so I have got colleagues on health issues, and World Vision then is able to really accelerate the improvements in health. One of the biggest drivers of poor health is often nutrition, but it's not the only one. And so with more income in the family and with more income in the community, they're very easily able to make big strides on health care, and that's where World Vision's health and nutrition focus, which is largely focused on maternal and child health. We focus on the first thousand days of life because that's the most critical time for children, it's that first thousand days, including the nine months when they’re in their mother's body. It's up until the age of about two, two-and-a-half. That's the most critical phase. If they get enough food, they won't be stunted. If they don't get enough food, their bodies and their minds are stunted. If their moms don't get the right nutrition then, that's a critical issue. So that's one.
Another big thing that we work on as well is access to clean water. Most people don't know this, World Vision's actually the biggest NGO in the world providing clean water. We get clean water to somebody every ten seconds, it's grown that big and we're actively working to end the world's water crisis. On education, the big focus is on how to make sure that once kids are in school, that the schooling is delivering high quality results. So these are all things that World Vision does in the rest of its programming, and so THRIVE becomes one of these enablers for the rest of the transformation to go on. We worry mostly about the economic transformation and the mindset transformation that needs to take place, and then all of these other things can accelerate the development in the communities and help them move definitively out of, not only the economics of poverty, but into what we would call the fullness of life
Ben: Wow, you guys are doing so much. I like that it's coming this comprehensive approach. I mean, like I mentioned, I have been basically contributing to World Vision for the past several years since I read Rich's books, and supporting this little girl, Mehadinit, leave how you pronounce her name although I always struggle with it, in Ethiopia and then also contributing to the water in the food you guys sent around the world, but I love this concept. And again, like for me, I'm not a big fan of handouts. I'm that guy when I pull up next to the stop light and the person with the cardboard sign is asking for money for food or money for who knows what else, beer? I would rather teach them how to get a job, right? I would rather ask them if they want to come over to my house and help out in the garden. I remember when I was growing up there was this guy. We called him Bill-Bill that my parents had hired him. He was just like this homeless guy that came and ask for money as they put him to work around the house and just taught him how to start a job. And then the neighbors hired him, and soon he became like the handyman of the local community and had like a full-time job and was able to buy a house and an apartment, and that's the kind of approach that I like is not just giving somebody a handout but actually teaching them how to take care of themselves, and I really like you guys are doing this from a full-on generational standpoint. I mean not just teaching the farmers but then taking care of the children, so then children are able to farm. I mean it's such a cool model.
So that’s one of the reasons that I really wanted to not only get you on the show, Chris, but also tell those you listening in that this is something that I want to do more than just support myself. I want to give you the ability to support it as well, by basically taking part of the proceeds of sales like when you come to my company for fitness gear or supplements or any of the other things you can find on our new website at getkion.com, basically rather than taking all that money and putting it into employees' bank accounts and into my bank account or into reinvesting in the business, I want to freaking make the world a better place, and so this Thrive Economic Empowerment Program that you just learned about, and then I'll put a whole bunch more information about in the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/worldvision is a great way to do that.
Chris I wanted to also ask you. Let's say people want to go above and beyond just taking up a portion of the proceeds of things they buy from my company, going to support this program, and instead they want to give more you know. People want to have some kind of a charitable donation or they've got a check they want to write to help with the program. What's the best way to get involved, I guess?
Christopher: Well, Ben, get involved on. We can go to the website. If somebody wants to send a check to World Vision, they could make it out to World Vision, and then in that memo line, write “Thrive”, but I'd encourage them to support what you're doing. I think it's great and, Ben, I want to get you to Africa to come see the work, too.
Ben: How would that work? Not just for me, but like if anybody else listening in wanted to go to Africa to see it?
Christopher: You know, Ben, I think you and I could organize a special trip that would take fitness fanatics and go to Africa to see the work, maybe do a little biking or some hiking around Kilimanjaro. They would do a climb of Kilimanjaro and something like that.
Ben: Dude, I would love to put something like that together, and actually you know what, if you're listening 'cause Chris and I haven't talked about this much, but I'm totally game. You know we're recording this particular episode in 2017, Chris, and often people listened to things ten years after they come out, so this may have already occurred if you're listening to this recording long after it's come out, but nonetheless, leave a comment bengreenfieldfitness.com/worldvision if you would be interested in doing something like that, and Chris, what I'm thinking is maybe like fall or winter of 2018, when's a good time of year to go over there or does it matter?
Christopher: Well you can if you don't mind climbing in the snow, any time works.
Ben: We've got a bunch of people who follow this guy named Wim Hof who climbs Mount Kilimanjaro barefoot, so I bet a lot of them could handle it just fine. Barefoot in shorts, with no shirt.
Christopher: Okay, well I'll take my shirt.
Ben: Well what I'll do is I'll talk to you after we finish our recording today and everything. I would love to put something like that together. Frankly, I'd love to take my little boys, you know they'd be ten years old at that time because I think this is something that'll be amazing for a child to get involved with or at least a young man or young woman to get involved with to be able to kind of see the impact they could make in a community. I wish my parents had done that with me, frankly, granted they did do a good job having me do Meals on Wheels delivery on the weekends and volunteer at the at the fair to push people around the wheelchair and help out this homeless guy that I talked about, but I also love the idea of seeing the international scene and how things happen on the international scene, and now I would love to make it over there. So let's plan on putting something together, and again for those you listening in, if you want to be a part of this, as soon as this podcast comes out, go leave a comment at bengreenfieldfitness.com/worldvision. Say heck yeah, Ben, I'd been to join up with a fitness group going over to Africa to help and to see a bit more of a boots-on-the-ground way, what's going on and how this Thrive Economic Empowerment Program is actually working.
I want to highlight for you how financial donations can make a huge impact. Like you now know, my company Kion donates to this Thrive Economic Empowerment Program, and I would encourage you to also donate to the Thrive Economic Empowerment Program because I truly, truly believe that while interacting with your local community is really important, volunteering in your local community is really important, I think that if each one of us were able to make a small dent in the worldwide scene as well, in the global scene that we're able to make an even bigger change even faster in the world, and let's face it. You're listening to a podcast, you do better living through science, you've got access to resources, you live a pretty amazing life most likely, if you're listening in, and sometimes it's really nice to just step outside of taking care of your own body and brain, like I mentioned earlier, and think about giving back a little bit to others. So, Chris, thanks for coming on the show and sharing all this stuff with us, man. I just love what you're doing, and I'm so glad I was able to hook up with World Vision.
Christopher: Absolutely, Ben, it's been a pleasure. I look forward to buying some of the stuff off the website and look forward to getting you to Africa and showing it to you personally.
Ben: And the only thing I would recommend, dude, is start hanging out a lot outside in your in your bare feet and your board shorts because we're in go climb Mount Kilimanjaro half-naked. I'm going to hold you it, I'm pretty sure you'd really do it. Alright, cool. Folks again, all the resources for today's show are at bengreenfieldfitness.com/worldvision. Now if you want a couple of good books to go along with today's show, the two that you need to read, must-read books, my children are even reading these books right now. One is called “Hole in the Gospel”. The other one's called “Unfinished Business”, so read “Hole in the Gospel”, read “Unfinished Business”. Add those to your reading list for sure because they will really amp up your understanding of and your awareness of the importance of us being there for people in the world who need love that they're not getting and who need the care and the support and the empowerment you're going to learn about in today's show. So thanks for listening in, and have an amazing week.
Three years ago, I read two life-changing books that completely transformed the way that I think about my own purpose and meaning in life, and whether I'm truly making a difference in the world or whether I'm simply engaged in a relentless pursuit of “fitnessing” without actually making an impact in anyone's life.
The books – titled “Unfinished” and “Hole In The Gospel” – were written by author Rich Stearns, the president of a company called World Vision – a global Christian humanitarian organization that partners with children, families, and their communities to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.
Within just a few weeks of reading the books, my children and I had “adopted” a little girl from Ethiopia, who we send gifts and financial support to each month. We'd also begun volunteering more in our local community and doing a better job teaching others about the importance of purpose and passion in life, love and relationships, and belief in a higher power. These are all values I highlight in my article: “Five Quotes I Live By, Three Keys To Happiness, Two Questions To Ask Yourself & One Must-Do Thought Experiment.”
Now, when it comes to helping care for and support others and equipping others on this planet to experience a more fulfilling life, I'm about to take things to the next level.
By supporting World Vision's bold initiative called the “THRIVE” Economic Empowerment program.
THRIVE is based on the fact that millions of people in the most impoverished parts of the world are smallholder farmers who lack access to the knowledge, capital, markets, technology, and information they need to build thriving businesses. World Vision’s fully integrated, proven approach to economic empowerment is designed to equip these hardworking men and women to move from surviving to – you guessed it – thriving. Ultimately, this helps hardworking families break the cycle of extreme poverty for good.
My guest on today's podcast, Christopher Shore, is the Chief Development Officer of this entire “THRIVE” Economic Empowerment program. Now in his 20th year with World Vision, Chris works on issues which contribute to the work of THRIVE – specifically building improved and resilient livelihoods for smallholder farmers. Chris began partnering with World Vision on microfinance issues while working for the Mennonite Economic Development Associates. He joined World Vision as National Director in Romania in 1997. He moved to California to lead World Vision’s microfinance and economic development work starting in 2001 and was largely focused on microfinance.
Chris founded VisionFund International in 2003 and handed leadership to Scott Brown in 2006. That same year Chris turned his attention to the non-microfinance aspects of economic development and began World Vision’s Natural Environment and Climate Issues group, which he led full-time starting in 2008. In 2011 Chris became one of the architects of Securing Africa’s Future in Tanzania – now THRIVE.
In 2013 he led that work for East and West Africa, and in 2015 moved to World Vision USA. Chris is Canadian, lives in Southern California, is married to Dr. Susan Shore, and is the father of Andrew and Katrina. He enjoys cycling, gardening, and woodworking.
During our discussion, you'll discover:
-The shocking concept of generational poverty and how a vicious cycle persists from generation to generation in many countries in Africa, from Tanzania to Rwanda and beyond…18:15
-How THRIVE shifts mindsets to an understanding that every person has great value, and possesses the power and responsibility to move from dependency to dignity…27:30
-The “bank” that THRIVE then helps each farmer to create in their local community to create end-to-end business of farming…31:45
-The importance of natural resource management and how THRIVE helps farmers manage their on-farm soil, vegetation, and water management, and to manage and rehabilitate forests, watersheds, and grasslands…41:40
-How THRIVE teaches emergency and situational awareness and teaches the farmers how to manage investments and risks and needs information to deal with shocks, emergencies, and change around them…52:00
-The way that hardworking farmers finally have the ability to consistently feed their children nutritious food; send them to school; cover bills for basic healthcare; build a house made of brick with a metal roof instead of mud, sticks, and straw; and reinvest in their businesses…57:00
-How you can support this entire program and even visit Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and see the THRIVE initiative in action…1:04:30
-And much more!
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Resources from this episode:
-Book: Hole in the Gospel