When “The Poor” Have The Solutions

“Don’t look at poor people as alms-seekers or bystanders to their own lives…. Always set out by purposefully listening to understand thoroughly the specific context of their lives — their needs, their wants, their fears, their aspirations.” (The Business Solution To Poverty : Paul Polak & Mal Warwick)

I experienced the resourceful ingenuity in Malians, in West Africa.

A guy bought a cost effective foot powered treadle pump to water his vegetable plot. They are being promoted to subsistance farmers and vegetable growers. A great cost effective pump that can seriously increase productivity of a family field or garden.

The only problem is that it takes two people to operate it: one to pedal the pump, another to water with the hose.

What was this lone man’s solution? He places a two hundred liter steel barrel on a one and a half meter high platform. Pedals the treadle pump himself to fill the barrel.  Then uses the gravity feed pressure to hand water his garden with a hose attached to the barrel. 
It works!

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” (George S. Patton)

I’ve seen dozens of examples of these ingenious and simple local solutions.

“Ingenuity, plus courage, plus work, equals miracles.” (Bob Richards)

The incredibly resourceful people of Mali. I learn so much from them.

How would local people beneficially adapt, modify, or alter our project, plan, or program, if we would simply stop and listen more often?

I’ve got to go back with not only new eyes, but with new ears also.

“You have to, in some ways, trust in the human spirit and in human ingenuity.” (Ariel Garten)

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