The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has facilitated a two-day intensive training on backyard gardening for people with disability, following a request from the Vanuatu Society for People with Disability.

Around 30 VSPD patrons and parents of children with disability attended the training, which is a first of its kind.

Including people with disability in agriculture or inclusive agriculture is one of the important activities of VSPD.

The backyard garden training is part of VSPD programmes and it includes topics varying from: vegetable husbandry; cropping system; seed preservation techniques; pest and disease control as well as practical sessions.

The Vanuatu Agriculture Sector Policy provides for this initiative of inclusive agriculture as stated in chapter 2.1.7 to ‘Increase the participation through the conduction of gender-based trainings for women, youths and vulnerable groups’.

Chapter 13.1.1 of the policy clearly stipulates, ‘Encourage and engage participation of women, youths and vulnerable groups in all agriculture practices.’

The VSPD is dedicated to work with children (zero to six years of age) with disability under its early intervention programme, life skills programme with a focus on children above seven years of age, and community-based rehabilitation programme which focuses on adults with disability.

“When monitoring and evaluating these programmes, one of the feedbacks that we receive is the challenge of survival,” said Judith Yanhambath, VSPD Programme Manager.

“Most people with disability face many difficulties in their life.

“Most of them have the ability to involve in backyard garden, poultry, fish farming and other activities to improve their livelihood but lack information on how to start them.

“A lot of people with disability have shown interest in implementing these activities, therefore dialogue between VSPD and DARD concluded in organising the two-day training on backyard garden,” the VSPD Program Manager said.

Mrs Yanhambath said that most of their clients are at home daily and are not involved in other activities because of the barrier of being disabled

“Their involvement in backyard garden and other activities like fish farming and poultry, will provide them and their families with local food and protein.

“The VSPD has registered people with different types of disabilities like physical, hearing, vision and intellectual.”

The VSPD Programme Manager said VSPD’s current approach is the establishment of groupings in areas where they have been visiting and implementing their programme.

“Interested communities have established what we call Community Disability Associations,” she added.

“Most of the participants that attended the training were members of these associations.

“This is a great opportunity for them to engage in trainings and services provided by a government department like DARD.

“I appeal to other government departments to also include people with disability in their trainings.”

One of the participants of the training, Evelyn Ukai Kalua, who resides at Erakor, said it was a privilege for her to attend such a training.

“This is one of the best training I have attended and also a first of its kind on agriculture,” she said.

“The training has opened up new ideas and information that I didn’t know of before.

“I also do backyard garden. I plant mostly vegetables around my house.

“I have learned new farming techniques, how I can preserve my own seeds for the next planting season and how to control pests and diseases.

“I am more interested in how to preserve seeds.

“Most times, I spend money in purchasing seeds to plant but through this training, I believe it will reduce my expenses on seeds.

“Many women are already doing backyard gardening but they need to acquire new ideas and new farming techniques to assist them improve on what they are already doing.”

Dunstan Rihai, one of the male participants says; “This is my first time to attend such training on backyard garden.

“I appreciate all presentations because the language (Bislama) used is understandable by all participants.

“I have come to learn that we can make use of all the resources that we have around us, keeping our environment clean and at the same time ensure we have fresh vegetables on our plates.

“Things we consider as rubbish like empty containers, can be useful when doing home gardens and is accessible to all.

“I have come to know that there are two different types of seeds; wet and dry seeds and the process of preserving seeds.

“After this training, I will try my best to implement some of the new ideas I have gained.”

The Executive Officer for VSPD, Ellison Bovu, acknowledged the participants that attended the training.

“This is an opportunity for you all to attend the training on behalf of others who are not fortunate to come,” he said. “I believe that after this training, you will practise what you have learned.

“Agriculture sector is one of the key areas that most of us are involved in to cultivate our soil to produce food crops or subsistence farming.

“Let the people see your ability and not your disability.”

SHEFA Provincial Agriculture Officer, Willie Iau, said, “Regardless of who you are, agriculture is always at the frontline, meaning that we all need food on our table every day.

“It is important that you have some knowledge on agriculture and especially vegetable backyard gardening as vegetables are short term crops.

“The Department of Agriculture has a programme on backyard garden training around Port Vila to assist residents to make good use of their backyard by planting vegetables.

“I want to see you seeking assistance from DARD officers, especially the Vegetable Officer to assist you with your backyard garden in the future.

“I have witnessed people with disability investing in agriculture and other activities. I believe you all can do the same.

“The Department of Agriculture is always willing to assist you in the future if you need help in your backyard gardens.”