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World Dev. 2009 Jul;37(7):1182-1196.

'Teach a Man to Fish': The Doctrine of Sustainability and Its Effects on Three Strata of Malawian Society.

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Department of Sociology MC 1980, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-1980, Tel: (510) 644-0858 [work and home], FAX: (510) 644-0614,


This paper analyzes the social impacts of the commitment to "sustainability" in donor-funded AIDS programs. Using survey, interview, and ethnographic data from rural Malawi, we examine how efforts to mobilize and empower local communities affect three strata of Malawian society: the villagers these programs are meant to help, the insecure local elites whose efforts directly link programs to their intended beneficiaries, and, more briefly, national elites who implement AIDS policies and programs. We describe indirect effects of sustainability on the experiences, identities, and aspirations of Malawians-effects that are much broader and deeper than the direct impacts of funding.

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