Karambi Group of People with Disabilities
Transforming Lives and Communities with Regenerative Agriculture in Uganda
Based in Kases, Uganda, the Karambi Group of People with Disabilities (KGPD) was founded in 1995 in response to the discrimination, isolation, and exclusion faced by people with disabilities within society. Muhindo Josephat, Executive Director of Karambi Group of People with Disabilities, describes what inspired him to form the group:
“Some of the parents here lock children [with disabilities] in their houses, then go away and leave them there. So I advocated that every parent who had a child with disabilities should bring that child before people, so that every person knows that in this household, is our friend, this person with a disability.”
The members and leaders of the group, including Josephat, have disabilities themselves and use their insight and ingenuity to design accessible programs to fully involve others who have been marginalised, enabling them to use their diverse abilities to enrich their standards of living, their environment and communities.
In 2015, the Group identified the need to improve the environment on their organisational land which was suffering from soil erosion and undertook a tree planting and education program to regenerate the land and invigorate those using it.
Impact on Planet
The group applied for funding to the Sustainable Lush Fund, who accepted the project and linked them with Re-Alliance members in Kenya who visited to facilitate a permaculture design by the local people with disabilities who used the land.
The training enabled the group to give voice to the sustainable practices they already had in place which valued and maximised their precious human and natural resources:
“We realised we were doing permaculture unknowingly!”
Regeneration of the land began in 2016 when the Group planted over 2000 trees and 100 fruit bushes and nursery beds were established.
Image: Land before and after tree planting and vegetable gardens.
Impact on People
With a thriving environment to host activities, the site became a demonstration training ground for permaculture and conservation and in 2017, 50 people with disabilities were introduced to permaculture gardening and were given tools to start practicing skills at their homes.
Through creating kitchen gardens, people with disabilities were able to create environments that were fully accessible for them to work in and grow their own food for feeding themselves, their families and for sale at market.
The Group are fully engaged with the wider community and have partnered with eight schools and four community-based groups where they have empowered over 2142 young adults and 300 adults with food growing skills and permaculture principles. To support these projects they have installed seven irrigation systems in schools and 30 families have received water tanks. Working through schools has empowered disabled young people to become social transformational leaders, taking action at school, at home and in their community. The group’s aim is to see families grow organic food to feed their families and regenerate the environment. To date the group have planted over 30,000 trees which yield both fruits and wood.
“In my home, I’m now able to do permaculture gardening - planting bananas, planting cassava, planting coffee - those skills are all from the Karambi group. It has improved me economically, administratively, and for being famous around the community!”
“Karambi has given me the skills to produce food to feed the children and myself on a balanced diet, and I can sell some to get an income. I have a group that normally goes to the market to do business - selling eggplants, tomatoes, onions.”
(Fabis Sahan, a member of KGPD)
Combined Regenerative Impact
The discrimination and exclusion of people with disabilities means their innate energy and intentions cannot be used to positively engage and create in the world. Many systems in society are wasteful, the exclusion of people from meaningful activity and engagement in sustaining networks is perhaps one the most wasteful and dehumanising.
In contrast, the engagement of people with disabilities in self-sustaining, enriching and regenerating processes gives health and resources to the environment and the individuals involved and enables the wider community to see the strength of fully employing the diversity of human abilities. Funding groups made up of, and led by, people with disabilities breaks down prejudice in communities and ensures a meaningful understanding of accessibility in programme design and implementation.
As Muhindo Josephat, Executive Director of Karambi Group of People with Disabilities said:
“After people learned about us, they no longer laughed at us. Now they come to us to ask for advice and get information - it makes us feel proud.”
An estimated 1 billion people – 15 percent of the world's population – live with a disability, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and 80 per cent of these are in countries in the majority global south. Finding ways to enable these people to engage in regenerative practices has the potential to improve the health of the planet and people. Putting people with disabilities at the heart of programme design ensures insightful and locally achievable responses to promote accessibility. It also promotes leadership skills of individuals with disabilities, a key driver for societal change:
“I have developed skills in talking before a lot of people - a hundred people, or a thousand people - I talk with no fear.”
The 2018 Global Disability Summit Charter for Change stated to “Promote the leadership and diverse representation of all persons with disabilities to be front and centre of change; as leaders, partners and advocates. This includes the active involvement and close consultation of persons with disabilities of all ages.” The summit has prompted commitments from the global development sector, including DFID’s Strategy for Disability Inclusive Development 2018-23. We hope that with these commitments, new and emerging groups such as the Karambi Group of People with Disabilities will be funded and supported.
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