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* my kind of royalty

January 10, 2016

One time in Madagascar, while visiting Manambaro, a small town about
25 km west of Fort Dauphin, I was walking with my colleagues down the main highway just outsideimg174
of town, looking at a project request that turned out to be way beyond our capabilities.

As we walked along, we saw a whole lot of m
en coming down the road at a run, singing as they ran, which ended up looking more like a dance as they grew closer. We could see several were carrying big baskets on poles over their shoulders Manambaro rice fields(one basket per man). As they came alongside us we were able to look into the baskets and saw several with rice, newly harvested and just threshed. They were carrying their <<vokatra>> (“harvest”) home to be dried and eventually sold and/or eaten. On the other hand, there were a lot of men and not nearly a8462905-mds many baskets of rice. There had been a drought that year and so the men were singing at least in part because they were happy to have gotten any harvest at all.

And there, right in the middle of it all, was a good friend of my family, a man who was now a retired school administrator, having been a teacher before this. Though by this time no longer a young rice farmerman, he was running along with these men, his friends, accompanying them on their way home. He stopped briefly to greet us.

It had been a very dry year in that part of Anosy, so we told him we were actually surprised to see any rice at all from this year’s harvest! He laughed and said indeed the <<vokatra>> had been very poor, that there had only been enough water for one of his rice fields to have any crop. That he was coming back from transplanting ricehaving divided up the little harvest he’d gotten with the men and their sons who had helped repair the irrigation ditches and prepare his fields several months earlier (in that part of Madagascar this is done by chasing cattle back and forth through the mud of the flooded fields–exhausting work) and threshing, their wives and daughters having helped with transplanting the rice seedlings, harvesting and transporting it to the threshing site (all done by hand).

So now, having divided the the <<vokatra>> up with those who’d helped him get it, he admitted he’d probably not have much crop at all left for himself once it had all been divided out. While carrrying ricethis didn’t mean hunger for him and his family (by this time he was the oldest living royalty of his clan so he had other resources), it did mean none of what was theoretically his crop was heading home to  his house.

And then, with a big smile, he said he had to catch up with the other men and ran off to rejoin them.

My kind of royalty! And quite a legacy!

That continues to live on, now long after his death.

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