From street begging to example setting – Changing the narrative to eradicate hunger despite his disabilities.
Alfred Andima abandoned street begging and overcame the stereotype that comes with being disabled. As a successful farmer today, he is changing the narrative as far as food and nutrition security goes in his village. Vice Versa Global caught up with him and below is his story of resilience, hope and inspiration.
With a hoe slung over his shoulder, a dark-skinned young man approaches us. The man is barefoot and wearing worn-out old clothes, indicating he is just from the garden. Upon approaching us, a wooden bench is brought and placed under a huge tamarind tree for us.
Andima, 38 years old and a resident of Erenzea Village, Uriama Sub County in Terego district is a farmer. Disabled with visual impairment, he is an exemplary example of the adage disability is not inability.
After the pleasantries, I acknowledge his handsome looks and ask if he knows this. He responds mischievously while giggling; “Yes, but I am more handsome when I am clean and smartly dressed.” He then introduces us to his wife. Seated in the shade of their grass-thatched house, she peels cassava recently harvested from their garden. As soon as he settles and puts his hoe down, he tells the story of his life.
He recalls that his father, who died before he was born, served in the UPDF army. At a very young age, his mother left him in his grandmother’s care. He does not have fond memories of his school days when he was nicknamed mulema (the lame one) because of his physical disability; mockery he countered with humour.
Upon completing secondary school, he began experiencing eye problems which led to vision loss. Unable to continue with school, he found a partner with whom he lived for two years and had a child. He was later diagnosed with Glaucoma, an incurable eye disease that left him blind. Devasted by the loss of his eyesight, he lost hope and resorted to begging in the village centre to provide for his family. This brought him no money and soon after his partner left him taking their son with her. A few years later he met and married Gloria.
We are Able
The turning point in his life came about when he was approached by Godwin Azale, Hub Manager for the West Nile region, We are Able (WaA) project and Vivian Chandiru from ZOA with a training proposition.
WaA is a ZOA-supported project that aims to empower people with disabilities and other marginalised groups to increase access to food, basic services and land rights for food production.
“They (Azale and Chandiru) told me about the Integrated Farm Plan (PIP) a community awareness approach under the WaA project. With it, farmer households become actors of change. They are empowered to believe in their capacities and make decisions related to food and income security,” Andima explains.
Before the approach, he farmed on a very small scale and his harvests could not support his family. He engaged in part-time street begging, an activity he gave up once he started practising the approach.
“We met Andima during a community awareness campaign where he participated. Community members selected him as a role model for farmers. We trained him in the PIP approach and supported him through mentorship sessions until his family generated a household plan. He developed a positive mindset and quickly progressed from begging to working,” Azale reveals.
After this meeting, an impressed Andima returned home realising he was wasting time as a beggar. He talked to his wife about training, and she encouraged him to try it. Luckily Andima owned land, an inheritance from his father. He immediately prepared it and planted cassava, sesame seeds, beans, sorghum and eggplants.
“We no longer buy food from the market; we eat from our garden. We also sell some and store the rest for the future. We have some animals now,” he says proudly. WaA training imparts farming knowledge and also empowers PWDs so they stop depicting themselves as disabled but rather as abled. They are further encouraged to set up savings schemes.
After training, participants must create a group of ten people to train and track their progress. The groups meet every other day and help each other cultivate their farms. “This makes the work easier and faster especially since the majority of members are widows,” Andima says. To date, he has trained approximately sixty people, whom he has divided into groups of ten. Each will create their group.
“I train them in agriculture, so they can change their lifestyle. I have also trained them in irrigation. The only thing that motivates them is when they reap what they sowed during harvest,” he says.
But challenges still exist. He has dealt with issues of land theft and encroachment, limited capital, theft of his produce, droughts and heavy rains as a result of climate change.
“One of my neighbours encroached on my land thinking I would not find out because I am blind. When I confronted her, she attacked me so I gave up on it,” he states. He was advised to plant peas to demarcate his land.
Today Andima is no longer a street beggar but a role model highly respected in his village. He has planted more than three acres of cassava and plans to cultivate more land and build a granary. For now, he is focusing on crops which he hopes to sell and make enough profits to use as capital to buy animals.
He uses the Inclusive Saving Scheme (ISAVE). It is an integrated approach designed to address barriers leading to PWDs exclusion from accessing development services (formal and informal financial services), business development and livelihood programs. When his crops are ready for harvest, he divides them into two: one half for selling and the other half for home consumption. Andima and his wife save about UgShs 20,000 (approximately $5) per week.
He still gets guidance and assistance from WaA and plans to venture into iron sheet selling and brick making. He is confident that in a few years, he will be one of the richest men in his village. He hopes to have bought a car by then. “I am very positive that this village will develop. But only if all unemployed youths work hard instead of depending on others,” he asserts.