TITLE: ADDRESSING THE PLIGHT OR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES THROUGH AGRICULTURAL DIVERSIFICATION ACTIVITIES
Lusaka, the Capital City of Zambia, has relatively a dense population just like many African cities. Among the residents of this beautiful city, are persons with disabilities who cannot be missed at every corner of the streets. But one may ask what are these energetic persons with disabilities doing on the streets? Simple and obvious answer is begging for handouts from passersby, motorists and the general public. This touches the heart of the Country Director, Dr. Maureen Chileshe Shonga. In fact, this is the basis on which we would like to be understood as herself, she is also a wheelchair user but has declared that “DISABILITY IN NOT INABILITY.”
As evidenced by Zambian agents with persons with disabilities, we believe that this part of the city’s population, as well as those doted all over the country at large, have been at one farming input giving session or the other: or they do receive such items each and every season which they end up selling at giveaway prices thereby disregarding and frustrating governments efforts of wanting to empower them to becoming self- sufficient in leading normal sustainable lives.
From the above brief explanation, Zambia has witnessed a perpetual negative attitude exhibited by persons with disabilities of wanting to be independent. Having observed this lackadaisical attitude in society, Dr. M. C. Shonga started a project dubbed “HELP ONE AND REMOVE TWO FROM THE STREET”. This project seeks to impact positive influence on the persons with disabilities to believe in themselves and that they can do what everyone is doing. The other aim is to inculcate a sense of responsibility, to appreciate the benefits of agriculture so that these persons come to know that from agriculture they can sustain their lives both at house holds level and contribute to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
It is an undenied fact that the number of persons with disabilities in the agricultural sector is so negligible and so is their contribution to GDP. This is not because they are incapable, but simply a deliberately developed negative attitude of wanting to be helped always. A deeply dependency syndrome.
For instance, government has made a deliberate policy to empower person with disabilities under fertilizer and input support program (FISP) but it goes to waste year in year out. What Dr. Shonga and the team are doing is to harness the synergies, so that responsible organization for such persons like ZAPID, ZAFOD, see to it that what is given out to empower our people is put to good use and selling them cheaply; to carry out land audit amongst persons with disabilities. Help them relocate while their respective lands, is still there, start with them and get them settled. What is painful is when these people are given empowerment packages, no one bothers to monitor what happens to whatever is given to our people.
By helping to changing the attitude of our potential farmers forming the street begging, we believe we can create a better society. This requires a plea for deliberate massive agricultural investment by both local and international investors. It is our hope that potential investors may tread in these lines great rewarding potential. We have sampled on a small scale farming and proved that persons with disabilities, actually are not happy to be on the street but would like to live independently and sustainably.
Our vision, therefore, is to transform the lives of such a target grouping into responsible citizens and powerful productive farmers. We also aim to find sponsors for arable land is still largely available in Zambia.
Apart from that, through the ministry of agriculture he also want to establish a good working relationship with journalists who write and report about agricultural activities. If we find none, we endeavor to lobby government through the ministry broadcasting and other stake holders to come on board and train skilled agricultural journalists. Schools shall be co-opted and incorporated to test the students’ knowledge in agriculture, influence the students to take interest in all aspects of agriculture including policies. To raise agricultural consciousness and helps students to see agriculture as the only viable economic alternative for Zambia. Getting more young people to take keen interest in agriculture in order to reduce the current youth apathy in agriculture thereby increasing agricultural conversation in secondary school corridors.
Immediate problems or challenges
Our short-term plans are to sponsor identified persons with disabilities by empowering them with small packages of farming inputs and / or equipment before embarking on a countrywide campaign to remove persons with disabilities from the streets
and abject poverty created by their latent negative attitude.
- To create a healthy working relationship with all stakeholders, that is, the government and Non-governmental organizations dealing with persons with disabilities particularly in agriculture.
- Identify and employ a sizeable staff to carry out these activities which may come with a cost.