On International Day of Persons with Disabilities, disabled farmers across South Africa are raising their voices, urging for increased resources to empower them and transform their livelihoods.
Limpopo chairperson of Persons with Disabilities in Agriculture Thomas Kgapane said as a farmer who is disabled and leading a structure of disabled farmers, more needs to be done to ensure that these farmers are not left behind in decision-making and are integrated into reviving the economy.
Challenges unite disabled people
“As part of recognising the efforts played by the disabled farmers in Limpopo, we will be having a day where we reflect on the challenges we experience, the opportunities we can venture into, and plan.
“In Limpopo alone, we have 606 members in good standing and we want to reach our target of 1 200 members so that no one is left behind as we all have common challenges,” he said.
According to Kgapane, water rights and the ability to understand and comprehend documents for disabled farmers remain a great challenge as some are deaf, blind and have other sorts of disabilities. Many times it hinders them from accessing much-needed government and private sector assistance, he added.
“Access to land and the very same building that we need to get information at is a challenge for many farmers as most of those buildings are not disability friendly for our farmers to access.
“We need state-owned land so that we can use that land and form cooperatives so that it could be productive and we create jobs. It does not mean that when we are disabled we cannot hire people,” he said.
Access to services
Having lived with her disability for over 30 years, North West crop farmer Dolly Modisagaarekwe believes more needs to be done for rural disabled farmers to access funding and proper training.
Modisagaarekwe suggested that municipalities should be capacitated to ensure that the services farmers need can be accessed nearby.
“Lack of water and the scorching heat remain a challenge. Giving up is the last option in my mind. We will persist. Currently, I have planted beetroot and carrots, and the spinach died because of water and the heat as at times the temperatures are over 40 degrees.
“Now you can imagine how my spinach will survive with water challenges in our area. I’m still praying that a good Samaritan will come to my rescue with a JoJo tank,” she said.
‘We just want to work the land’
Kgapane explained that although they have met with the Limpopo MEC of agriculture and rural development Thabo Mokone, there were still outstanding issues that needed to be ironed out.
“All we need is a strong partnership with government and the private sector. We need land to work the land, we do not want handouts and we have made it categorically clear to the department that all we need are tools of the trade to work the land.
“Our message to fellow farmers is that we cannot work in silos and expect government to help us. We all need to come under one roof and speak in one voice so that our concerns and challenges can be heard with impact,” he said.
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