A few days ago we mentioned a recent project to make peanut butter in Bolivia, for distribution in food packets to flood-affected communities and also to sell to raise funding for Mano a Mano.

Mano a Mano's peanut grinder that we have modified with an electric motor, frame, and pulley system

Mano a Mano’s peanut grinder that we have modified with an electric motor, frame, and pulley system

The Mano a Mano Model in Action

As part of our internal back-and-forth communications, Mano a Mano co-founder Joan Velasquez wrote the following about the peanut butter project, which we think is important to share:

This particular story of Mano a Mano Peanut Butter reflects the essence of how Mano a Mano programs and projects have been created since its very beginning.

Why do I see this as more than just a good story? Because it follows the same development path that every Mano a Mano program has followed, one that illustrates the bi-cultural nature of our organization. The vision and the initial idea (grinding peanuts to make peanut butter for sale) came from here (the US), as did the notion that we should help support Mano a Mano through the sale of services/products in Bolivia.

Segundo continues reminding and re-planting the idea to Mano a Mano staff in Bolivia until they are presented with a challenge. The challenge is discussed and the idea emerges. But it has actually percolated until a community need arose.

The only project that I can think of that did not follow this pattern was the solar oven project and we all know what happened with that (editors note: the short overview – years ago another US nonprofit asked if we would help distribute their solar ovens in Bolivia; we agreed to help with distribution as well as training communities in how to use them, including recipes with locally available ingredients, but the solar ovens never took hold. This has been the only project Mano a Mano has taken part in over our 20 years that did not originate with a community request).

What a good lesson for us to remember – including the essential role that we play through introduction of creative possibilities that emerge only from thorough knowledge of the scene on the ground there.

We hope that the next idea to be accepted will be dehydrating mangoes. Segundo and I purchase dried mango strips prior to every trip and give them as gifts to people who live in mango heaven.

Mano a Mano peanut butter is finally here! Yeah for the CEA and for Darrold for gifting the grinder and hauling it there.

– Joan Velasquez

The Mano a Mano Book

The peanut butter story is one example of our model in action. Almost every story about our projects includes the project (WHAT) and the need (WHY), but it is very important to look at HOW these projects are implemented.

This is the focus of our upcoming book, Gaining Ground: A Blueprint for Community-Based International Development, written by Joan Velasquez. It details Mano a Mano’s history over our first 20 years and our community-based model which is essential to our success.