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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
16 11

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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 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 or 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 has the potential to scale quickly and affect 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 develop 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 new projects. These changes can occur as step-changes after the 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 their community. To ensure this, the training itself will only last for two days. This is enough time to complete six 2-hour sessions, which introduce problem-solving concepts, and practice these using a range of activities (including the drum seeder). After this, nine 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 six weeks and then monthly for six 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. The programme will now also include a focus on business planning to ensure the potential for scaling new ideas that come from the programme.

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), creative capacity building (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.

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?

Final Updates (*Please do not complete until we reach the Improve Phase*): 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)

Based on Beneficiary Feedback, we have modified the structure of the programme to be more flexible to ensure the attendance of each workshop does not have a negative effect on the participants. For example, a participant may need to tend to a family matter, or may have an income-generating activity available to them on that day. The new flexible structure means a participant can miss a workshop if required, as long as they are present for the two formal capacity-building days. Based on Expert Feedback, we have modified the content of the programme to support potential business developments by participants during the programme. This will allow for new ideas to be explored not only in terms of local applicability (positive impact on the individuals life) but also the potential for the participant to scale and sell the solution (positively impact other individuals while also generating income).

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

Please feel free to review the following supporting information: 1. Project Summary from a similar project we ran in 2017 2. Participatory Design Handbook we developed for our currently project in 2018 3. Academic publication we published on the development of Creative Capacity Building in Cambodia

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 belief that disability is a cause of bad karma. Finally, large numbers of youth are opting out of agricultural work in favor of factory work near larger townships. This has created a labor shortage in rural areas, and has resulted in elderly community members, with age-related impairments, having to perform labor-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 on problem solving and creative capacity building (CCB). This programme would focus on empowering PwD in rural Cambodia to identify and work towards solving their own challenges. The programme will involve learning about problem solving through designing and 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.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are PwD in rural areas of Pursat, Cambodia, a province severely affected by the legacy of landmines. These PwD self-identify as having one or more impairment and have aspirations 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 effective problem solving and creativity skills, as well as constructing their own solutions that make agricultural work less labor intensive. The drum seeder product is one of the prototypes that has been developed in an earlier design project with a partner community, based on their own list of priorities. Its 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 PwD. We have aimed to address this through both providing appropriate technologies and developing community’s ability 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 rural disabilities organizations 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.

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 PwD in Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia. During this project, we worked with a woman 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 PwD 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. Empowering these PwD through the creation of more efficient farming practices has the potential to break this cycle. Planet – Currently utilization of land by PwD is difficult due to technical barriers (such as high levels of labor input and the need for clear eyesight during sowing and planting). This has resulted in the land owned by PwD being under-utilized and 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 PwD 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 (MU). 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. MU 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 PwD 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 PwD in Pursat have several key strengths. Firstly, there is already a local Disabled Persons Organization, DDSP, with strong ties to the community and a proven record of accomplishment 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 programme will be implemented with three separate community groups. The three groups will complete the training, build the drum seeder and then be supported to identify and solve their own challenges over a six-month period.

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

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Marnie Glazier

This is a part of the world that has been so profoundly and systemically disadvantaged for so long. I really appreciate your project and love the opening visuals describing your process!

Photo of Andrew Drain

Thank you Marnie. You are right, Cambodia has been disadvantaged in so many ways over the past 50 years. There is an amazing group of NGO's working to support local capacity building and development in Cambodia. I'm lucky to be a part of this, and passionate to see real change.


Photo of Marnie Glazier

Andrew, keep up the excellent work and best to you in the challenge!

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