By Byron Mutingwende
Secondary disability, particularly for children born able-bodied can be a pain to parents who might find it difficult to cope with the new development. Such was the testimony of one Shame Soda, the parent of a child who lost speech at a later stage despite having been born with the capability to talk. Soda’s world seemed to have collapsed on him until his participation in the Leonard Cheshire fish farming and organic farming projects.
When the unforeseen happened, Soda approached Leonard Cheshire Disability Zimbabwe , LCDZ (registered as a Private Voluntary Organisation (36/80)) which was established to complement government efforts in improving the plight of persons with disabilities, to enrol his child.
According to Godfrey Sibanda, the LCDZ Chairman, his organisation has taken up farming as a way of pioneering and demonstrating effective models of disability inclusion and empowerment.
“Through our programmes, we engage communities to ensure that every child with disability can learn in his/her local school, access health services at the local health centre, is economically empowered to afford basic necessities such as a decent meal and have their needs met and addressed appropriately within their own communities and families. This is the essence of our departure towards Community Based Rehabilitation, winding up our residential facilities and investing more on independent community living. In the coming years we aim to wind up work in institutions only maintaining a light presence and retaining only those that serve a unique transitory function,” Sibanda said.
Soda said he became personally involved in the farming projects at LCDZ when he heard they were meant to economically empower people with diabilities (PWDs) through sel-help skills.
“These projects are quite beneficial. Our request to government is to release more land to parents of children with disabilities so that we can work to sustain ourselves. Gone is the era of depending on the benevolence of non-governmental organisations,” Soda said.
Desmond Moyo, an agronomist with LCDZ says that through the greenhouse organic tomato project, they sell 200kg of tomatoes every week to reputable supermarkets like Food Lovers Market and Spar. High-grade tomatoes sell at $1 per kilogramme at wholesale prices. The major buyers of tomatoes are Spar Mufakose, Red Cross School in Kambuzuma and the vendors. Yellow and red pepper are sold at $3, 50 per kilogramme. The major buyer is Food Lovers Market. LCDZ has a total of 17, 000 fish in its fish ponds. Initially, at its peak, a female fish lays 200 eggs although the number decreases as it grows older. The advantage is that reproduction in fish starts from 9 to 12 months.
Sibanda said the fish farming project wass availing support to 40 children and youths with disabilities from the surrounding communities to start replicable small scale fish production that would address their income, employment and nutritional needs and also provide a crucial source of livelihoods by creating opportunities for participants and their families for self-employment.
“Likewise, the Urban Organic farming project is availing support to 500 children and youth with disabilities affiliated to eight LCDZ partner organisations to start small scale and replicable vegetable farming that provides a crucial source of livelihood for this group. The uniqueness of these two projects lies in the fact that they target children and youth with various forms of disabilities including those with mental/intellectual disabilities who are deemed incapable of earning such skills or have low prospects of becoming independent in life.”
The LCDZ strives for equalisation of opportunities for persons with disabilities in Zimbabwe through leveraging financial resources and technical skills to support projects aimed at achieving sustainable employment creation for persons with disabilities. It intends to impart technical skills to other similar minded entities including the private sector to ensure disability inclusion in their work, programmess or policies.
“It is our hope that such partnerships will translate into improvement in the wellbeing and brings change in societal attitudes towards people with disabilities. If we join hands in that regard, our young people with disabilities will be able to generate adequate incomes to support themselves and their families, reducing the chances of being discriminated within society as they can participate in activities on an equal footing with their able bodied peers,” Sibanda said.
Greaterman Chivandire, the LCDZ Executive Director alluded to a number of projects that are meant ot improve the lives of people with disabilities. On one hand is the Child Empowerment programme which is ongoing and funded by the Liliane Fonds. This ongoing national programme is being implemented by 32 partner organisations and provides children and youth with disabilities and their families with quality rights rehabilitation supports and services in seven provinces of the country.
We provide customised assistance to children with disabilities in the form of educational support, health related assistance (corrective surgeries, therapies and assistive devices), livelihoods support and social interaction and participation. We support adaptations in schools and homesteads in the form of construction of ramps, rails, pathways and toilet(s) adjustments for easy access by wheelchair users. We support these children to attend Danhiko Paralympics and partner organisations with outreach programme vehicles and capacity development of their staff,” Chivandire said.
The Access to Justice for Girls and Women with Disabilities is a national programme that provides practical assistance to girls and women with disabilities in contact with the law as victims, alleged offender or witness in both criminal and civil matters to ameliorate access barriers such as costs and communication. The practical assistance provided includes disability expert support like sign language interpretation as well as logistical support (meeting traveling costs for children with disabilities and their caregivers).
In 2017, LCDZ is providing logistical support in line with accessing justice and related services; training Victim Friendly Unit (VFU) Police Officers, Nurses and Social workers in sign language; and supporting the review or development of gender and child protection policies and anti-gender based violence efforts within communities.
The Young Voices and the Child Rights Advocacy Projects: Advocacy and Campaign builds the leadership and advocacy capacity of children and young people with disabilities to become active participants in mainstream socio, economic, political and cultural life.
LCDZ supported young people to work with the government towards the ratification of the UNCRPD as well as domestication and implementation of the CRPD provisions and trains young people with disabilities to become active leaders and role models as mentors in society and their families with a sense of initiative.
The Access to Livelihoods for youth with intellectual disability project works with youth with intellectual disabilities to prepare them through trainings, coaching and mentorship to start livelihoods projects and preparing them to join the world of work.
The four schools participating in this Access to Livelihood Projects are implementing various income generating projects in Harare that range from poultry production, sewing, detergent making and peanut butter making. Each project has had a worthwhile investment to the tune of $600 dollars.
LCDZ is carrying out inclusive education on behalf of Save the Children. The programme is covering Gokwenorth and south, Binga, Hwange, Matobo, Beitbridge, Mbire and Rushinga. The programme is adapting model schools, training teachers and supporting the enrolment of children with disabilities in partnership with District Councils.
Under the Children Rehabilitation Centre, 12 children are resident in the Kambuzuma centre where they receive daily physio, and occupational therapy sessions to give them skills for daily living. The 12 children came from rural areas particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, with some receiving support to undergo corrective surgeries and provision of prosthesis. Additionally, the Centre supports children to attend secondary education within their communities after completing their rehabilitation.
The approach taken by LCDZ is in support of government efforts to elevate persons with disabilities, whilst shunning discrimination and exclusion. This is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which Zimbabwe is a signatory.