Monday, 16 February 2015

How inclusive is the agricultural sector in Kenya?

Photo Credit: Flickr
Ever wondered how persons with hearing impairment make it through most of the church sessions which mostly are speech dominated?Well,these thoughts had never crossed my mind until a few weeks ago when i happened to attend a Mid morning Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Adams  I was taken aback by the presence of interpreters serving a congregation of close to 50 persons who had hearing impairment. 
Truth be told, this was the first time it hit me so hard of how many of the activities we do on daily basis that aren’t inclusive with the overall assumption that everyone is like us; that they can hear, they can see, they can walk and they can access most of the public facilities. until something distorts your thinking. 

The Persons With Disabilities Disparity
 According to Wikipedia, Disability refers to " the consequence of an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental, or some combination of these. A disability may be present from birth, or occur during a person's lifetime." The 2009 census indicated that there were  1,330,312 persons with disabilities in Kenya. But the big question is, how inclusive have we been in mainstreaming PWDs in our day to day activities? Take for instance,the recently released  Public Service Appointments Evaluation Report 2014, by Public Service Commission which revealed that only 1 percent of the persons with disability were employed against the 5% threshold the Kenyan Constitution mandates under Article 54  .In terms of figures, the 1% would translate to 1,082 in a population of 106, 724 employees. 

Article 54  Persons with disabilities
(1) A person with any disability is entitled
(a) to be treated with dignity and respect and to be addressed and referred to in a manner that is not demeaning;
(b) to access educational institutions and facilities for persons with disabilities that are integrated into society to the extent compatible with the interests of the person;
(c) to reasonable access to all places, public transport and information;
(d) to use Sign language, Braille or other appropriate means of communication; and
(e) to access materials and devices to overcome constraints arising from the person's disability.
(2) The State ensures the progressive implementation of the principle that at least five percent of the members of the public in elective and appointive bodies are persons with disabilities.

Given that the PWDs makes 3.5% of the total population in Kenya, this in essence indicates that there is a considerable number of PWDs in the agricultural arena leading to the questioning on how inclusive in the Agricultural sector?

The State of Inclusiveness in Agriculture
I have been involved in a lot of agricultural field activities but never did it occur that we should be inclusive. As i look back now, i realize more of the activities were geared towards the abled persons with no inclusion for the PWDs and overtime, i have started questioning myself on the status of inclusion in agricultural activities. For instance have a look at your offices. Which floor are they in? How steep are the staircases? Do you have a ramp? Can your door allow for access to someone with a wheelchair? If not on the ground floor, do you have a lift to help access it in case you hold meetings? Do you have in place temporary measures to ensure if the situation arises you can cope well with it?

 On packaging and dissemination of agricultural information,how inclusive is your dispatch of information materials? Is it mindful for they who are visually impaired? For the agricultural television programmes, do you have interpreters for you shows to ensure that they with hearing impairment can access the same information? 

On vacancy announcements in the local dailies and job searching sites, how inclusive are they? When designing these adverts, do we keep in mind persons with visual impairments and how they might access the same?

 ICTs and agri-tech seems to be the new like. When designing new technologies, do we keep in mind the how the same technology might be  to people with disabilities for ease in their adoption or do we just assume they will be applicable in a whole stretch of persons? 

On extension services delivery, do we factor in PWDs or just go on with the demand driven approach to offering extension services? Do we provide the provision of the same in our policy documents? Its interesting to see even the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy document hasn’t incorporated any of the same. 

The Way Forward
Not all is lost as some initiatives like National Farmers Awards Scheme are warming up to the inclusion and integration of persons with disabilities. 

Do you know of any other projects/ initiative that are promoting inclusion in the agricultural sector? Share their details in the comment section below.

 See a  video by Sean Progue filmed at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish on mission Sunday 2011.

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