4, 16, 256: Exponential Change & Choices
People without many choices are often the most resourceful people. I was talking about cassava with a college class and the many choices it gives to the people who grow it. For those of you who don't know cassava, it is a tuber bearing plant with green leaves that turns woodier as it grow taller, often several feet tall. (Here is a Wikipedia link for those of you who are curious about all things cassava. You were going to look it up anyway.) Among the notable items regarding cassava is that it yields tapioca, the tubers contain various levels of arsenic and it produces more energy per acre than many cultivated grains such as corn and rice. Cassava leaves can be eaten and have good nutritional value. The value of the tuber is mainly as a source of calories.
Many subsistence farmers grow cassava and have some important choices to make. First, while eating the leaves may be beneficial, allowing the plant to make tubers is very important. In Ghana, most families need the tubers to provide energy through the dry season. Thus cassava is highly valued more for the tuber and less for the nutritional leaves. Secondly, the expansion of breweries in Africa have made cassava a cash crop. So families now face the decision of how many tubers to keep for themselves and how much to sell for cash.
A lack of material wealth often limits the choices one may have and makes the consequences of a bad choice or series of bad choices more costly —and potentially devastating.
Selling too many tubers can make one cash rich, but starve a family during the dry season. Not selling tubers can keep one fed, but limit education, healthcare and other needs of the family. Eating the leaves when they are tender and nutritious is a very good idea for a few weeks, but will stunt the tuber's growth and limit the amount of income and or calories. Choices, choices.
Materially poor people have fewer resources with which to make their choices and decisions.
An increase in wealth allows people to make choices not just about cassava, but many other areas that are usually measured to determine material well being. More money allows a mother to buy uniforms and school supplies for her children. Additional income gives a father the freedom to purchase or build better housing for his family. Wealthier families can choose how quickly they go to the doctor for illness and if they will use a midwife for the birth of their children.
Loans from Mission Resource do not dictate how an individual or family utilize the wealth they gain from their business. Our privilege is to offer people a loan allowing them to have better choices as they successfully grow their business. We have seen entrepreneurs make generational changes by providing an education for a brother, niece and their own children. Healthier kids are a result of nutritional choices parents are able to make because of extra income. All of us would rather have a set of choices about improving our lives and our families over a set of choices about surviving.
Enjoy the blessings of your choices and make them count for today and generations to come.