Authors: Elvis Agyei‐Okyere, William Nketsia, Maxwell Peprah Opoku, Eric Lawer Torgbenu, Beatrice Atim Alupo, Lois Odame
Type of publication: Research article
Date of publication: 2007
Unemployment and the corollary of poverty among persons with disabilities have been well explored in the literature. As part of its global efforts to eradicate poverty, the United Nations, through its sustainable development goals, has urged countries to create economic opportunities for all persons to participate in income‐generating activities. In Ghana, agriculture has been described as the backbone of the economy and the main source of employment and livelihood for many. However, it appears that policymakers are yet to explore how agriculture could create sustainable employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. This study makes a major contribution to research on the eradication of poverty among persons with disabilities by exploring their participation and experiences in agriculture‐related activities.
Persons with disabilities and their participation in agriculture
In this study, agriculture refers to the cultivation of soil and the rearing of farm animals for domestic consumption and commercial purposes.
Although agriculture has been found to be an important source of employment and income generation, the participation of persons with disabilities in the sector has been unreported. Elsewhere, some studies have reported improvements in the social and psychological well‐being of persons with disabilities when they participate in agriculture.
Given the importance of job creation and the poverty alleviation potential of agriculture, this study could be relevant to policymakers in Ghana and other low‐income contexts that seek ways to create employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. The authors believe that persons with disabilities are capable of participating in agriculture when provided with the appropriate support. There is, therefore, the need to understand the perception of persons with disabilities in terms of their participation in agriculture.
Perceptions about farming
Many participants lamented that there were limited job opportunities for persons with disabilities, which made it difficult for them to make a living. Moreover, disability was used as a basis for assessing their competence to perform a particular activity. As some were living in mining communities where multinational companies were involved in the exploration of gold, they bemoaned that they were not considered for employment in the mines, and neither were they in receipt of social benefit.
At times, it becomes very difficult for us. It is very difficult to find a job. There are certain job opportunities that you believe you can perform, but the people will tell you that you are disabled, and for that matter, you can’t do it
Lack of land
Almost all the participants spoke of land scarcity as a barrier faced by persons with disabilities. Some said that mining had denied them accessible farm land. They recounted that they used to farm; however, their lands were appropriated by the mining company, leaving them landless. A few recounted that they were not sufficiently compensated, a situation which has made it difficult for them to cater for themselves.
… Land here has become hot cake because of the mining. I lost the land that I used to farm on. Because a larger portion of the land I was farming was taken away …
Lack of funds
Among the participants, both the farmers and nonfarmers agreed that access to funds was a barrier to farming for persons with disabilities. Some participants said that they were prepared to engage in farming but lacked the start‐up capital. It emerged that both the government and society were reluctant to support them with the funds needed to participate in farming. However, a few participants said that their disability would not allow them to engage in farming. They reasoned that if they had access to funds, they would be able to hire people to work for them. Moreover, the farm land is far away, and there is a need to hire people who would cultivate and take care of the farms for them.
Lack of access to tools for farming
Although the nonfarmers claimed that they did not have funds to purchase tools for farming, the farmers indicated that they struggled to get tools for farming. Interestingly, the farmers mentioned that people in the community would not lend them their tools for use on their farms. For instance, because of negative perceptions about persons with disabilities, people did not want to share their farming tools with them. Others recounted that people mocked them when they begged for tools. Society doubts the capacity of persons with disabilities and wondered how they would use the tools at their farms.
Most participants shared that they need financial support to participate in farming. They recounted that they had not been working and did not have funds to engage in farming. According to them, they would need funds to buy their own lands to be able to farm. Some shared that family or community lands could be taken away from them because of negative attitudes society has towards them. However, once they have the money to purchase it, nobody will take it away from them.
Everyone is competing to have properties in this community … if we don’t have money, we won’t be able to engage in farm
IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICYMAKING
Access to employment is a fundamental human right, and policymakers must explore avenues to promote the participation of person with disabilities in income‐generating activities. The implementation of inclusive policies can counteract the exclusion and inequality faced by persons with disabilities.
Although participants were willing to participate in agriculture, the barriers they cited may discourage them from engaging in agricultural activities. These findings have important implications for developing conscious policies to assist persons with disabilities to secure land, tools, and funds to engage in farming activities. Specifically, the government should engage persons with disabilities to ascertain which types of agricultural production they can engage in and provide them with requisite tools and training.
For instance, the current 3% disability fund that are given to persons with disability as cash grants could be redirected to equip persons with disabilities with farm equipment, skills, quality seeds, fertilizers, and extension services to motivate them to engage in farming activities.
In addition, the government could adopt the “buddy approach” where persons with disabilities who are farmers could be trained to educate colleagues with disabilities to partake in agriculture. Also, the government can also encourage financial institutions and corporate bodies to provide persons with disabilities with modified equipment, farm machinery, and assistive technology services at subsidized levels.
Furthermore, the government can provide incentives to encourage commercial farm owners to adopt the concept of sheltered farms by combining their agricultural production with the provision of social care, occupational therapy, and development of occupational skills for persons with disabilities. The sheltered farms could be starting point for persons with disabilities to be away from hostile environment while working to attain greater independence and social status.
We recommend that future studies utilize quantitative methods to examine the participation of persons with disabilities in agriculture. This would provide a holistic understanding of how persons with disabilities perceive their involvement in farming in Ghana. Also, the study participants were all members of disabled people’s organizations, and we recommend a larger scale study to compare the experiences of different disability groups.
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