Native HawaiiansDeadly wildfires have ravaged Maui since August 8, 2023, resulting in the highest death toll in U.S. history, with 114 confirmed casualties. These devastating events are expected to significantly impact impoverished native Hawaiians, given Maui’s poverty rate of approximately 11%. Fortunately, numerous resources are available to aid the affected citizens of Maui during this crisis.


Hawaii Foodbank is a nonprofit organization that provides food assistance to residents of Hawaii. Its work includes partnering with “Feeding America,” launching pop-up food distributions for COVID-19 support and offering a yearly Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. In light of the devastating wildfires, Hawaii Foodbank is working with the Maui Foodbank to assist communities impacted by the wildfires. There is an option on its official website to electronically donate money to help provide food assistance. All the donations go to the Maui Food Bank. The Maui Food Bank has been providing food relief to the citizens of Maui County through community partnerships.

“Of those served, 40% are children and youth,” according to the nonprofit’s website. “Working with more than 100 distribution partners and programs, the Food Bank distributes safe and nutritious food to individuals, families, kids, the working poor, seniors on fixed incomes, the homeless and anyone who is at risk of going hungry. This includes people in need living in the rural communities of Hana, Molokai and Lanai.”

Business Relief Fund

Not only did the wildfires destroy countless homes, it also destroyed businesses. Hawaii is a state that relies heavily on tourism for profit. Due to the recent wildfires, however, tourism in the state has dropped. CBS News reports that some business owners on the island fear that the decline of tourists will slow down the island’s recovery process. 

A study done by Gibson Nene, Ph.D., and Melaku Abegaz, Ph.D., revealed that in rural areas, small businesses can improve poverty rates. According to an article by the University of Minnesota, “Entrepreneurial activity by “micro-enterprises” with fewer than 20 workers was associated with lower poverty rates across rural counties. The benefits of these businesses come in several forms, including new job opportunities and sources of income for residents of the community, as well as creating “social capital” that could end up attracting people from outside the community to move to the area and spur further economic growth.”

This information shows that impoverished native Hawaiians benefit from the local businesses on the island. Due to the wildfires, however, these businesses cannot operate as usual. To assist with this, The Hawaii Chamber of Commerce Foundation/Chamber of Commerce Hawaii has created a GoFundMe to raise money to help impacted businesses.

Celebrity Donors

Since news about the wildfires broke, many celebrities and public figures have been donating to different organizations. These donations will help the island get back on its feet and hopefully assist impoverished native Hawaiians affected by the wildfires.

Oprah Winfrey, who has lived on the island for around 15 years, has been visiting local shelters to assist with getting victims the necessities they needed. She also stated that she would make a major donation once a plan to rebuild has been created.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who has purchased property on the island, and Lauren Sanchez are creating a Maui Fund and dedicating $100 million to assist in the rebuilding process.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have donated an undisclosed amount to the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund. The couple also own a home in Kauai.

– Brianna Leonard
Photo: Flickr

Silk InvestSilk Invest is a private equity firm founded in 2008 that invests in emerging markets that demonstrate the potential for long-term economic growth. The largest private equity fund managed by the firm is called The Silk Africa Food Fund. Investments made from this fund target companies involved in food processing and distribution throughout Africa.

The Silk Africa Food Fund

The fund was started in June 2012 and focuses primarily on businesses that distribute food to African consumers. Countries that attract investment the most are those which are institutionally and politically stable enough to support long-term economic growth. Silk Invest is distinct from many other foreign investment funds that support the effort to reduce hunger in Africa in that it does not target agriculture but rather the distribution of food to consumers.

The three largest investments the fund is involved with are Nigeria’s Sundry Foods Limited, Ethiopia’s Nas Foods Plc and Egypt’s El Rashidy El Asly. Of these three, Nigeria’s Sundry has seen the most significant success and expansion following its partnership with Silk Invest.

The Success of Sundry Foods Limited

The company runs the popular restaurant chain, Kilimanjaro, as well as bakery and food catering services throughout the country. When Silk Invest first gave funds to Sundry in 2012, the company had seven restaurants open and a revenue base of around $3.4 million. In 2020, just eight years later, Sundry has 40 restaurants and a revenue base of around $34 million. The entrepreneurial effort of the company’s founder, Ebele Enunwa, has been instrumental in this progress.

Sundry is a company firmly rooted in supporting its fellow local businesses. Instead of setting up in the more commercial capital of Lagos, Enunwa established headquarters in Port Harcourt where he is a local entrepreneur. Its management team consists of local hires and its supply chain uses locally sourced raw materials, including chicken and rice from rural areas.

Sundry’s Impact and Potential

Sundry Foods Limited represents an example of the enormous potential which exists for businesses in developing nations when the proper investment is made. By providing capital to Sundry, Silk Invest gave the company the tools it needed to expand its operation. By doing so, Sundry has not only offered an improved service to consumers throughout Nigeria but has also stimulated its broader community’s own economy by maintaining a steady and even increasing demand for local products.

The impact made by Sundry’s growth is palpable. Over the last 10 years, the company has created over 2,000 jobs. Silk Invest’s Africa Food Fund is hugely impactful in the effort to reduce poverty in developing nations not only because of the direct benefit the invested capital provides to individual businesses but also because of the economic growth created in broader communities as an indirect result.

The Importance of Investing in Africa

This impressive progress was all stimulated by a $2.4 million investment. The high return for Silk Invest demonstrates that funding businesses in developing countries is not only beneficial to the growth and development of those businesses but is also a practical and sound investment for the firms offering the capital.

Investing in the effort to reduce world hunger presents impactful and beneficial opportunities for all parties involved. By establishing the Africa Food Fund, Silk Invest has committed itself to this effort while simultaneously supporting developing economies.

– Haroun Siddiqui
Photo: Flickr