They call it way of life in Karni, a remote village far off the Upper West Regional capital, Wa, it may seem idyllic, but to many, it’s the end of the rocky road.
Joy News’ Komla Adom visited the village which has no health care facility where the disabled, unfit and desperate for treatment drift to. For them, this is the only place they can stay they can call home.
They are visually-impaired, but active vegetable farmers.
A 50-year-old farmer Peter, who is visually-impaired has been farming for nearly 10 years with his condition. has become so used to the situation that he is able to travel to the farm and work all by himself.
He said “I use my stick and walk my way slowly to this place. It is my farm, so I know it, I don’t require much assistance to get here.”
Asked how he is able to identify the weeds from the vegetable seedlings, he mentioned, “It’s something I’ve been doing for years. So I use my hand to feel the plants, once I touch and it’s not a crop, I know, so I remove it.”
Peter shares the farm with some other 50 visually impaired persons. One of them is Abdullah, 40. The father of off six lost his sight many years ago.
Unlike Peter, Abdullah needs assistance in order to get to the farm, however, once he gets there, he is able to do everything by himself.
He told Komla I’m able to manage my way because I’ve a mental picture of the location of my vegetable beds, aided by small pegs I’ve used as markings,” Abdullah reveals amidst a spurt of giggles.
Abdullah’s wife, helps out on the farm when she can. Her frail looks tell of an individual who’s been through the tatters and back, but refuses to give up.
On the left side of the farm belonging to the visually-impaired farmers, is an equally vast land where villagers with various forms of disability grow food crops and vegetables.
Munira, 45, clad in a faded textile knee-length dress, crawls across her vegetable bed, with a hoe in hand, softening the hardened earth, in preparation for replanting onion seedlings.
She’s been tricycle-ridden for nearly 15 years. With her moving aid parked at the entrance of the farm, she crawls to the farm with no assistance.
While these persons grow vegetables, those who are also physically-challenged, but are unable to engage in any form of strenuous farming activity in the farms, engage in contract peanut shelling for a fee.
Gardening blues; inhibiting factors
From about 200 meters away from the farm, sits a dam, which appears to be drying up by the day. It is intended to serve the irrigation needs of these farmers, but the water canals that link the gardens to the dam are in a poor state.
Broken, choked canals is making water flow to the farm difficult, especially during dry seasons. These physically-challenged farmers have to trek to get water from the dam, to nourish their seedlings.
Assembly member for the Karni Central constituency, Kabiri Luanga said an irrigation redevelopment plan proposed for the district, remains beautifully artworked and mapped onto a signpost.
“And that’s how far it’s gone,” the distraught Assembly Member said.
On the far end of the farm, shoulder-level fencing around the farm have caved in, making room for rampaging animals who destroy the vegetable crops of these farmers, who are already helpless.
Lardy, an evangelist who’s been engaging in charity work with some underprivileged communities at Jirapa, some miles away from Karni. She’s been advocating for better conditions for persons living with disability in the region.
“One of the key challenges for us here is the issue of the fencing. You see the far end, animals break into the farm, especially when the crops are almost reaching fruition stage,” she lamented.
As if that’s not enough, “the canals as you have noticed, are in bad shape. We are appealing for immediate aid for these people, reaching out to anyone touched by the plight of our people,” she added.
Even though other ‘fully-fit’ inhabitants here are generally receptive to their fellows who happen to have one physical challenge or the other, the traces of the stigma and isolation is latent. The vegetables sold by these physically-challenged inhabitants are roundly cheaper on the market.
NGO comes into contact with Karni
In the first quarter of 2016, an NGO, Macedonia Jerusalem mission, a charity arm of the Solution ground of Mount Moriah Church, discovered the Karni community and provided assistance to the scores of physically-challenged persons here by providing gardening equipment like watering cans, rakes, Wellington boots and clothes.
Through an outreach by the NGO that year, they encountered a group of students from the University for Development Studies, who themselves were en routeto the village for an outreach. The plight of the inhabitants touched the very core of the NGO’s passion – prompting a decision to mobilize funds and other materials to lend a hand of support to the group.
The NGO who looks to adopt the community in order to mobilize resources from Accra to donate to them to complement their hard work, says it is constrained but will continue the project because it’s a divine calling.
Pastor Peter Afolabi – executive director of the NGO indicated his outfit’s vision is premised on three pillars, which it looks to ride on to better the lives of the less-privileged around the country.
“We serve as a voice for the voiceless, serve as a vessel through which resources could be channeled from society to those we deem less-privileged, and also promote entrepreneural development among these persons.”
“By that we look to establish vocational training programmes for some of these less-privileged persons, to equip them with some skills, they can leverage on, aside farming and menial jobs, to fend for themselves,” Mr. Afolabi elaborated.
During its first visit to Karni in the first quarter of the year 2016, it distributed used clothing, bicycles, farming equipment among others, to the physiucally-challenged and visually-impaired community in the area.
The Macedonai Jerusalem Mission decided to reach out once again to these deprived people here last Christmas by mobilizing used clothing, raincoats, gardening equipment from Accra.
Efforts and Appeals
As of 2010, it was estimated that about 1.8 million Ghanaians — about 5 per cent of the total population — were in some fashion disabled, with problems of sight, hearing and speaking in the lead, according to the Africa renewal website.
In 2006 however, Ghana’s law-making body (parliament) passed the National Disability Act, intended to ensure that people living with disabilities enjoy the same rights as their able-bodied counterparts.
The act offers a legal framework to protect the rights of physically and mentally disabled persons in all areas of life, from education, training and employment to physical access and health care.
It also was intended to promote the creation of an environment that will advance the economic well-being of disabled people and enable them to function better.
But the lack of political will by some of the leaders since the passage of the act, leaves much to be desired.
A renewed sense of political will is urgently required, despite the existence of international conventions, the proclamation of an annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities (on 3 December) and other like programmes.
While we await that to be done, people with disabilities still face discrimination and receive little support across much of their families, homes, communities and country ..
Clothing. Farming implements. Crop seedlings. Gardening tools. School uniforms. Footwear. Classroom furniture. Teaching and Learning materials. Irrigation systems (disability-friendly systems). Medical outreach and eye-screening programs. Eye clinic.
These are but a few of the needs of people at Karni, where life is throwing the physically-challenged persons all sorts of lemons.
For them, hope remains hope. But for their contact with the Macedonia Jerusalem Mission last year, an already bad condition could have worsened. The NGO is however calling for donations from well-meaning Ghanaian citizens and groups to be able to bless the lives of the scores of hard working physically-challenged persons here.