These are actual experiences in the development work and how these might re-shape our understanding of what development may be for the community and people we worked for.
Reviewing What Fits the Community
I was on my way to a meeting when , a friend of mine who works at the Vice-Governor’s Office in our province, quickly called my attention and asked me about some projects that may be implemented next year, 2010. The project shall benefit the out-of-school youth of the province.
I paused and think for a while. Few minutes later, while she was enumerating some projects on her list, I could not think of particular project she might like. What I thought was the necessity that for whatever project/s that or those might be, it will be important that the beneficiaries will be trained on managing and handling the project.
Then just lately, I came across this line from a book on culture and development. A teacher in a village in Burkina Faso told the Director General of UNESCO in one of his visits in the area: “Mr. Director General, you people in the UN agencies when you came here instead of asking our experiences, our skills or our dreams; you give us lessons and advice? Why do you not come here to listen first then give us advice based on what you heard.”
Often, development workers (and aspiring ones like me) tend to forget this rule in the development work. Community sensing should always be practiced not because it is mandated and for the sake of complying it. Workers should see this one not as a required blueprint but rather a way of seeing to it that projects given in the community reflect their own needs and cognizant with cultural implications.
The Development of “Kang-kong”
Following the development of peacebuilding initiatives in Mindanao, I happened to have documented few of the events for the ACT for Peace Programme in South Central Mindanao. Among these, that caught my attention, was a workshop for community enterprise development project beneficiaries last February 2009. The participants came from some post conflict or conflict affected areas in Mindanao.
During a dinner break, I had the chance of dining with group of men from Sultan Kudarat. The dinner was field with good food and of course with good food and humorous conversations. After two days of brain draining workshops, the team gathered in a night field with laughters. Most of the discussion concentrated in the theme, “the comfort the hotel gave.”
While everybody seemed to be enjoying the dinner, a participant noticed the deep-fried and egg-coated green leafy vegetable. He said, “Wow! What this is made of? Maybe, this is an imported vegetable because we are in a hotel.” Then everyone stared at him. “True, it’s delicious,” commented the other one.
Then our facilitator talked. “It’s made of kangkong leaf, coated with egg and deep-fried.”
Then everyone seemed to be surprise. A participant said that the Municipality of Lebak and perhaps neighboring places has lots of kang-kong. Yet not anyone of them perhaps thought of making this vegetable to a delicacy that can be served by hotels in the city by simply deep-frying it.
The incident above is indicative of another dimension in development work. Should we use to maintain the indigenous way or to re-package some of our locally produced products. The effects of enterprising and marketing are only appreciated and practiced at the urban areas. Rural areas are still starving for ways to develop their own local product and make it marketable.
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