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* beans vs. raw meat

March 1, 2016

To be able to better understand and in turn do one’s work it pays to  have a philosophy tanambao meat marketof what you’re doing and how. In the community development work I was involved with in Madagascar we framed it as being somewhat similar to what  it takes to find protein at a local, open-air market. In terms of the “what” we were doing, then, both literally and figuratively, this became helping to provide additional protein in the lives of those we were working with.

Using the open-air market as a metaphor, there are two very different places to find protein. The first is the meat market section, which generally is given the nicest part of the market, under the best roofing, with lots of energy and excitement surrounding what goes on there. Big men, loud voices, lots of laughter. And flies. Sometimes so many one has to wave your hand over the meat just to be able to determine what kind of a cut it is?

A second very different place to find protein is from the piles of beans for sale. These are generally not found under the roof, but often out in the open sun. Little old ladies with big straw hats to keep the beating sun off them as they wait to make their sales. Also using an umbrella given the glaring sun if they had one. No roof, no big men, no excitement, no flies.

The way we would describe what we sought to do in our community development beansefforts was the latter, beans approach. While not nearly as exciting, it doesn’t attract nearly the flies, either. And in many ways, though less expensive, the protein is of a higher quality, more sustainable, less tempting if you will.

So how did this relate to our community development efforts? Our focus was on working with some of Madagascar’s poorest in ways that were low key, highly interactive, emphasizing Malagasy <<lasin’ asa>> (somewhat similar to the Amish barn-raising process). As such they weren’t high budget, with lots of paid staff, equipment, etc. But the process worked–and generally very well, too.

And it kept the flies away.

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