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Empowering people with disability in rural farming areas through creative capacity building

Project Partner who provides engineering, design process and evaluation expertise.

Photo of Andrew Drain

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

Firstly, the target community of people with disability (PwD) are heavily reliant on subsistence farming of rice. They currently use a seeding process called broadcasting (throwing seeds onto the field then removing and transplanting excess saplings). This process is difficult if you have low vision or mobility impairments. Furthermore, there is additional work involved in transplanting the excess saplings to a second or third field. This process results in the community needing to plant 4 times as many seeds as they expect to yield. Poverty is a serious issue in rural Cambodia, and one that keeps people burdened / chained to barely subsistence levels.

Secondly, the target community faces many challenges similar to the one mentioned above. It is ineffective for western designers to aim to solve each of these for under-served communities. Instead, we believe communities would like to learn about how they can identify, brainstorm, prototype and implement their own low-cost solutions.

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

PwD in Cambodia struggle to be included into many aspects of everyday life. The agricultural value chain is one of these aspects. PwD may well have land but find it increasingly difficult to effectively utilize this land due to increasing prices of seeds and equipment, lack of young labor (due to young people migrating to factory work) and lack of support from local experts/ self-help groups. These farmers are often indebted due to unscrupulous money lending systems.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

The rice seeder immediately reduces labor input required for rice farming (or any farming utilizing a direct seeding process). It is a tool, which is inexpensive and simple to understand (as it does not have a complex mechanism or power). Given its simple design, the tool as the potential to scale quickly and impact a large number of communities. Furthermore, creatively empowered communities will have a far-reaching effect as they are confident to problem solve and innovate independently.

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

Aside from the rice seeder, we expect that involved communities will show improved creativity and motivation to continue to refine the rice seeder and create new solutions to different challenges. From previous projects in Cambodia, it is clear that CCB has a positive impact on understanding the design process, defining problems and motivation to undertaken projects. These changes can occur as step-changes after the CCB workshops or as slower changes over the duration of future projects.

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

Through feedback, we have decided that the programme needs to be less formal and more succinct and flexible to ensure participants are not missing out of income-generating opportunities in the community. To ensure this, the training itself will only last for 2 days. This is enough time to complete 6 2-hour sessions, which introduce problem-solving concepts, and practice these using a range of activities (including the rice seeder). After this, 9 informal sessions will be arranged in which participants are able to attend and receive help developing ideas they may have. These sessions will run each fortnightly for 6 weeks and then monthly for 6 months. If a participant is too busy to attend a session, that is completely fine, and they will have the opportunity to attend the next session.

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

This fund would support the refinement of the rice seeder (engineering design, testing, design-for-manufacture and validation), CCB content development and the initial 12 months of the programme. Along with this, the fund would support staff time during the above-mentioned stages and flights for one MU academic to be present for M&E.

The partner organizations would cover all other costs associated with long-term community support for new projects, overheads and additional design requirements.

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

1. Do you know of any effect ways of evaluating creativity or problem solving skills in low-resource contexts?
2. Do you agree that the programme should be designed to be flexible and allow participants to miss a workshop if their everyday life needs to take priority?
3. Do you think it is important to focus on building a relationship with government in Cambodia, and with local cooperatives? Or is our current network strong enough for effective programme delivery?
4. How feasible do you think supporting three separate communities at the same time will be (during the 6 months of informal workshops)? Would it be better to focus in on one community only?

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

The three factors of reliance on subsistence agriculture, high-levels of disability and youth-exodus from rural farming areas create a complex challenge in rural Cambodia. 79% of Cambodia’s 15 million people live in rural areas, with most engaging in subsistence farming. Cambodia is also home to a large number of people with disability (PwD) due to landmine injuries, age, road traffic crashes, congenital conditions and malnutrition in the Khmer Rouge era. This complex range of impairments is made more challenging due to the Buddhist beliefs that disability is a cause of bad karma. Finally, large numbers of youth are opting out of agricultural work in favour of factory work near larger townships. This has created a labour shortage in rural areas, and has resulted in elderly community members, with age-related impairments, having to perform labour-intensive tasks later in life. This combination represents a complex challenge that sits on the overlap of planet and prosperity.
It is clear that assistive technology can play a role in helping people to engage in farming. However, technology alone will never meaningfully address this challenge. Two major outcomes need to be addressed, technology development and the building of community resilience.
We propose the development of a community resilience programme, centered around building creative capacity and problem solving skills. This programme would focus on empowering elderly PwD in rural Cambodia to identify and work towards solving their own challenges. The programme will also involve designing building a drum seeder product (used to sow various seeds onto a prepared field in the required spacing). This product will help to illustrate the problem solving process while also supplying each participant with a useful tool to reduce labor requirements in their farm.
This approach has been developed from similar projects run across 2017 and 2018.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are PwD in rural areas of Pursat Province of Cambodia, a province severely effected by the legacy of landmines. These PwD self-identify as having one or more and have aspirations to continue to engage with agricultural practices. These individuals have built up strong agricultural knowledge and ability over their lives, but now find it challenging to continue to engage in labor-intensive farming.

The beneficiaries will benefit through developing more effective problem solving and creativity skills, as well as constructing their own solutions that make agricultural work less labour intensive. The drum seeder product is one of the prototypes that has been developed in earlier design cycles with and by the communities based on their own list of priorities. The direct purpose is to make the process of seeding more efficient and accessible for persons with different types of disabilities.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

There are few programmes in South East Asia that aim to produce positive impact through both technology creation and capacity building. We believe this unique combination allows for both immediate and long-term positive change in the community.
There has been a clearly identified need for building resilience in communities of people with disabilities. We have aimed to address this through both providing appropriate assistive technologies and developing the individuals abilities to identify and solve challenges in their own lives. Light For The World (LFTW) are uniquely positioned to champion this approach as we have a strong Global network of communities and practitioners that are striving to generate positive change. In Cambodia, LFTW has a well-developed network with multiple current programmes in advocacy, education and inclusion. We work closely with a rural disabilities organization and therefore are well linked to the rural communities we aim to support.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Light for the World is promoting the inclusion of people with a disability in education, in the labour market and in all other aspects of society, with a focus on developing countries. http://lab.light-for-the-world.org/

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

In 2017 we worked with a community of elderly people with disability in Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia. During this project we worked with a lady with a deformed foot, resulting in a mobility impairment. She was incredibly innovative, creating lizard traps and woven baskets; however she had never been given support to think about creating technology that addressed larger challenges in her life.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Prosperity – Currently inclusion of people with disability into traditional rural livelihoods is difficult due to socio-cultural and technical barriers. This creates a damaging cycle of poverty and social exclusion that in turn exacerbates the challenges of these individuals.
Planet – Currently utilization of land, by people with disability, is difficult due to technical barriers (such as high levels of labor input and the need for clear eye-sight during sowing and planting). This has resulted in the land owned by people with disability being under-utilized and therefore producing less produce than possible. This lack of produce creates problems as there is less subsistence crop to feed their families, and less produce to sell at the market. These factors contribute to the wider challenges of people with disability in Cambodia.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

The primary organization focusing on this project will be Light For The World Cambodia. Supporting this project will be the project partners Engineers Without Borders Australia (EWB) and Massey University New Zealand. LFTW will provide disability empowerment expertise, community mobilization, logistics and workshop facilitation. EWB will provide technical expertise for the refinement of the product, planning and facilitation support and evaluation of programme effectiveness. Massey University will support refinement of the product, development of content for creative capacity building workshop and support during the evaluation and analysis stage.
The project will work with the local organization DDSP in Pursat, Cambodia. DDSP provide a range of services for people with disability in Cambodia, such as education, advocacy and financial support. They have a strong link to the province and strong relationships with the various communities.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The wider community of elderly people with disability in Pursat have several key strengths. Firstly, there is already a local Disabled peoples organisation with strong ties to the community and a proven track record of implementing successful programmes. Secondly, The community has the time to engage in the proposed programme, aspiration to engage in farming and a lifetime full of experience to leverage during creative capacity building workshops.

Geographic Focus

The pilot programme will focus on the specific province of Pursat, Cambodia.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

The proposed project will require 18 months to develop, run and evaluate the programme. During this time the drum seeder product will need to be refined (3 months), the workshop content will need to be developed (3 months) and the workshop will be implemented with 3 separate participant groups. The 3 groups will priorities problems (other than the problem that the rice seeder addresses) and work on frugal solutions to these problems.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

10 comments

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Photo of Christina Schwanke
Team

Andrew Drain ,

It makes my heart heavy to see similar problems throughout the world when it comes to agriculture and them mass exodus of youth from the industry. While I have no regionally helpful thoughts I am thankful you are attempting to address the problem.

A couple that I consider family owns a ranch in the town I grew up in. The husband is in his 70's and has MS and is still works physically harder than most people I know. Unfortunately this creates a environment that it is easier for him to get sick or hurt and with the decline of population the access for healthcare is getting worse. Thankfully they have resources like tractors and quads that ease some of the physical demands.

I hope that you can make it easier for farmers with disabilities!

Best,
Christina

Photo of Andrew Drain
Team

Thank you for the comment Christina. We agree that this is a global challenge, and one not well addressed in most places. The US has a well-developed programme called Agrability, for Veterans with Disabilities. This seems to be the most inclusive agricultural programme I have found.
We are working towards similar inclusion-focused outcomes in Cambodia.
Thanks
Andrew

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