Culvating skills in PwDs

Alternate farming techniques can empower persons with disabilities (PwDs) in the primary sector. Elkin Rynniaw, a boarder of Bethany Society, is trying his best to uplift the community by teaching them inclusive farming.
Raised bed farming, also termed as square foot gardening, is not a new concept but many people are not aware that this method can help PwDs take up agriculture as an alternate source of livelihood.
Rynniaw, who is completely blind in one eye and has 40 per cent vision in the other, says for the visually challenged, farming without a boundary is difficult and “a special method” is required to help them become independent farmers.
In raised bed farming, a square structure of one foot height is built with each side having a width of one meter. At the bottom, small branches and twigs are spread above which the biomass is put. It is then covered with topsoil followed by a layer of 2-3 inches consisting of compost.
“The last step is to sprinkle microorganisms and lactic acid bacteria and cover the whole thing for four days. The saplings are planted after that,” explains Rynniaw. He and his team had gone to Allahabad (Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences) in 2014 for training.
This method of preparing the soil and enhancing its fertility is called Bokasi technique and can be practised even in wasteland.
There are several raised bed plantations inside the Society where different kinds of vegetables and mushrooms are grown.
Rynniaw is the main trainer and conducts workshops with PwDs. He has been doing this for the past nine years and has travelled to other parts of the North East, like
Dimapur, Dispur and Karbi Anglong. For every session, he earns a meagre Rs 5,000 and puts half of the earning into training more people.
There are four more trainers in his group. The 21-day training has two parts – theory that covers 25 per cent of the training time and the remaining part is practical.
Rynniaw says his duty does not end with the training. “Following up the cases is an important part of my programme as my aim is to ensure economic independence for PwDs,” he explains.

Apart from the visually challenged, people with motor disability can also practise raised bed farming with some improvisations. The technique is then called key-hole gardening. A key-hole-like gap of half-foot diameter is made in the raised bed so that a person can maneouvre his or her way and nurture the garden.
Rynniaw has already trained over 200 persons with disabilities and is targeting to impart the skill in 3,500 enthusiasts.
Teilangbok Mawblei, a visually challenged boarder of Bethany Society, says he came to know about the training from a friend. “I have learnt a lot from this training. I am currently cultivating mushroom,” says Mawblei.
Kelvin Suting, another trainee, says he is already earning by selling mushrooms which he grows using the raised bed technique.
“One can grow all kinds of
vegetables using the Bokasi technique. It is easy and methodical but one has to be persuasive,” says Rynnaiw as he shows the raised bed plantations on the premises of Bethany Society.

~ NM

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