Limpopo Department of Agriculture and Rural Development MEC, Basikopo Makamu says farmers with disabilities must actively participate in the economy.
He made the statement while addressing the departmental Casual Day at Matiko Disabled and Multi-Purpose Cooperative centre in Shawela, near Giyani, Limpopo.
Casual day is a project of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) launched in 1995 to raise awareness and fundraising campaign benefiting persons with disabilities in South Africa.
“To ensure that we are inclusive in our development approach towards improving participation in the economy, particularly by designated groups in our society, the department has introduced programmes that aim to create an enabling environment for their participation,” he said.
“One of the flagship programmes of the department is the recognition of the contribution made by farmers with disabilities in food production and job creation. This is in the form of an annual programme which creates a platform for farmers with disabilities to converge and dialogue on their involvement and participation in the agricultural sector,” Makamu said.
Tanani Matiko Disability Project was set up in 2007 by six women and one man with the aim of poverty alleviation and job creation. They plant winter and summer vegetables on a four-hectare piece of land.
Makamu hailed the participants of the Tanani Matiko project as exemplary.
“Tanani Matiko Farming Cooperative is a classic example of the capacity of People with Disabilities to look after themselves and society in general. We have gathered here from various sectors of society to observe first-hand what disabled people can do for themselves. They don’t need our sympathy, what they need is the support to make the most of their cooperative. And I can guarantee you that with the necessary support this cooperative can transform to a fully-fledged commercial agricultural enterprise,” said Makamu. The leader of the project, Rosina Mthombeni, who is blind, said they have endured hardships since the beginning of the project in 2007 as disabled women with people mocking them.
“They used to call us cripples. We are not cripples, we are just disabled and the government loves us. We started this project for the disabled people because we were struggling at home all day with nothing to do because people would wake up and go to work and children go to school and so for a blind person like me there was nothing to do at home,” she said
Makamu congratulated the school and encouraged them to continue with contributing to food security.
“Today we are with the cooperative to celebrate casual day and handover production inputs to enhance their work. I wish them well in their work and commit the Department’s support to grow the cooperative into a commercial enterprise fully capable to contribute to food security in the country,” he concluded.