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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.

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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

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