Mobile training approach: the alternative approach to serving rural blind people amidst COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth new challenges to nations, with drastic interventions including lockdowns altering the way of life. Human beings are now required to practice social distancing, use of sanitizer or hand washing with soap and water or wearing of masks, among others. Every nation is affected in one way or another. A lot of activities such as training workshops, sensitization seminars, public gatherings and all work deemed to put people at risk of infection with coronavirus remains blocked in many countries. Most organizations have come up with strategies such as virtual meetings through Zoom, Skype and WhatsApp to reach the people. Many online training programs are now widely encouraged.
All the new methods require internet, computers, and smart phones for one to participate. One also needs to have knowledge on the use of such products to participate. Yet, the rural blind people with whom HIVE Uganda works cannot access the technologies since they live in an area with limited network and electricity.
In this regard, HIVE Uganda came up with a new method-the mobile training of rural blind people in beekeeping. The method involves movement of beekeeping packages to the community and families where blind people are. Blind people then receive training on the basis of beekeeping; from knowing what a bee hive is, the different types of bee hives, to site selection for the bee farm, bee hive management and harvesting, and marketing of bee products like honey and wax. The new method involves the use of a van that carries teams of trainers and training materials to the field.
Special thanks to Kanthari Swiss foundation that supported HIVE Uganda by funding the mobile training program to make it a success. A team from HIVE Uganda is now moving to the field to identify 60 blind and partially sighted people, including both men and women, who will benefit from the program through training and get start up support of about five bee hives each to start their livelihood in beekeeping.
Bee champion to unearth the potential of blind people.
For a long time, people have held onto believe that blind people cannot be champions. But being a champion doesn’t require one to have won a gold medal, fighting in the ring or athletics. But you can prove to the people that you are not what they think you are. At HIVE Uganda, that is what we are showing to the community about the potential of blind persons. We are tapping into the talent of blind people that enable them keep bees, not as only source of their livelihood but also as a way for them to contribute to protection of the environment.
With support from KSBS, together with Bartimeus Fund, through a project titled: “Bee Champion for Rural Blind People in Northern Uganda,” 30 blind and partially sighted men and women are showing that they can be champions in their local community. Each one is using beekeeping to protect the environment by putting their bee hives under big natural trees that would have been cut by loggers, who selling timber or logs. HIVE Uganda is a champion because when trees are safe, then we can get rain, we can protect the environment and also we get honey.
Thanks to KSBS and Bartimeus Fund for allowing this to happen with HIVE Uganda. We hope to continue with such in future.
Five for five in Lakwana Sub=county.
Lakwana Sub-county is one of the sub-counties in Omoro district. Many blind people in this area stay at home with limited source of livelihood. HIVE Uganda, through the Advocacy Project, a US based organization, is implementing a pilot project titled, “Addressing LACK of opportunity for people with visual impairment in northern Uganda through beekeeping,” identified five blind people- a male and four women. They were trained on the basis of bee keeping for five weeks, provided start up support of five bamboo bee hives each. They started their own bee farms at home. The five will continues for five months as they reach the market with their bee products.
You can contribute to the five, become the five, support the five and reach out to the five. Thanks for advocacy project for supporting the five approach. Please keep following our work.
Beekeeping is uplifting the life of people with visual impairment in northern Uganda.
The story on power of Connection through Kanthari Alumni written Ben Karthik G
Ojok Simon and I come from two continents, and we first met at kanthari nearly a decade ago. Since then, we have been working on the realisation of our dream projects.
Ojok comes from Gulu, a city in the Northern part of Uganda. As a young child, he grew up in war torn country. When he was only 9 years old, rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army tried to kidnap him so he could be used as a child soldier. The rebels slapped him with the back of a rifle on both sides of his temple, so hard that it caused internal injury. Due to lack of proper and timely medical attention, Ojok gradually lost his sight.
I come from Pondicherry, where I grew up in an orphanage alongside intellectually and physically disabled children. After studying psychology and witnessing how disabled people in India are denied opportunities for growth, education, employment, independence, and respect, I knew that I needed to do something. I founded Sristi Village whose mission is to provide the disabled with education and opportunities and ensure that they are treated with dignity and respect. Now, Sristi Village includes eco-friendly housing for all residents, a school for disabled children, a vocational training centre and a self-sustaining organic farm. But something was still missing. Beehives!
Well, here is where Ojok comes into the picture. Following his passion, Ojok founded HIVE Uganda, an organisation that trains people who are visually impaired in the art of beekeeping. Till date, he has empowered 150 blind and visually impaired people in Gulu and another 95 will be trained soon. This has already resulted in a mindset shift of the society who used to look down upon the disabled and the blind. Now, being beekeepers, and therewith having become breadwinners in the family they are treated with respect.
When we graduated at kanthari, we shared a wish to meet each other again one day, and now in September 2021, when Ojok came to visit us here at Sristi Village, this wish finally became a reality.
Immediately we started sharing crazy memories of the time we spent at kanthari, and it felt like it all happened yesterday. And we shared tons of experiences that we gained from all corners of life in the years that followed.
Ojok visited Sristi Community to get a taste of community living, to study the eco-system and the life of honeybees in our area.
Having 15-year of experience working with honeybees around the world, Ojok found that many honey-bees have made the green Sristi community their home. He said that it would be an ideal place to add some beehives with the goal to harvest honey and bee-wax.
Ojok’s advice in the process of handcrafting seven new beehives which was done by our team and with the support of a donor, as well was as identifying the right location to put the hives, was crucial.
The honey that the bees will produce will directly benefit all Sristi Community Members. Furthermore, we can make Sristi Village a hotspot for learning beekeeping.
The few days that we were together were extremely fruitful and it shows the power of alliance with communities around us. Earth keeps journeying in the cosmos, so does our friendship.
If kantharis club their ideas, the result can be found in impactful social transformation. Thank you Ojok and thank you kanthari.
From Beekeeping to crop farming; blind people are doing it.
Just close your eyes for a minute and think about how you would farm and keep bees if you cannot see! You probably think that this is impossible… However, it works!
Digging the soil, getting dirty, practicing crop husbandry, and keeping bees are all activities that can be done by using touch, taste, and smell. And it makes up an excellent combination since agriculture and bees need each other. Beekeepers need crops with flowers for nectar to feed bees to eventually harvest honey, while flowers need pollinators, and that’s what bees do best.
In Uganda, agriculture forms the major source of employment for about 75-80% of the population.
So, you might be curious to know how blind people can keep bees?
HIVE Uganda is an organization that trains blind people in the rural community of Northern Uganda in beekeeping. They learn the basics of beekeeping, honey harvesting as well as the marketing of bees’ products. They are then given start up support to start their own bee farm at home. By selling bee products, the rural blind beekeepers get a chance to generate their own income so they can support their families.
HIVE Uganda’s vision is to see blind and partially sighted people in rural community of East Africa becoming successful entrepreneurs. The training is used as a tool to achieve this vision.
Once a beehive has been set up, and the bees are getting busy, the beekeepers have some time on their hands. This can easily be utilized to grow crops like beans, peas, bananas among others. Let me share the story of Okello Patrick Owiyo with you. Everyone in Nwoya district knows him as Owiyo the blind beekeeper.
Six years ago, he was trained by HIVE Uganda and has since managed ten common traditional Ugandan beehives. Over the years he received some more training and with gained experience he was able to run his bee farm well. He has good mobility and orientation skills and has the courage to move about without his white cane snapping his fingers using sound as his guide while moving along narrow foot pathways leading to his garden.
Walking to the field of his bee farm, Owiyo realized that there is plenty of agricultural fertile land that his family was not utilizing. With his bee hive being close by he decided to use part of the land for crop production. Each year he has grown maize, beans, peas, and groundnuts on a total are of 3 to 4 acres of land. Currently, Owiyo is harvesting his groundnuts. An important part of the training is to feel leaves of the different plants so every blind farmer can detect which plant is part of the crop and which is part of weeds that need to be removed.
In Uganda, like in many other countries, disabled and blind people are seen as a burden for society. The blind face stigmatization and discrimination. However, combining beekeeping with crop growing, Owiyo has been able to increase income from earning less than $200 per year to $1200+ per year. There is sufficient food for his family, and he can meet other basic needs like buying clothes, medical care, and shelter.
Over the years, Owiyo’s self-confidence has grown significantly, but not only that, the main success lies in a mindset change of the public, who now shows respect to Owiyo and other blind entrepreneurs.
There are many blind people in Uganda who did not have a chance like Owiyo had, so therefore HIVE Uganda continues its mission!
Beekeeping, a livelihood for blind women in northern Uganda.
Being blind in northern Uganda you often face a number of challenges. From negative attitudes, stigma, isolation and lack of gainful economic activities in agriculture. If you are a woman who is blind, the condition will even be worse because you might be sexually exploited and end up being single mothers left with responsibility of raising up the children alone. Sometime you will be left with health challenges like having STDs and HIV/AIDS.
HIVE Uganda is working towards promoting economic empowerment of blind women through training in agricultural livelihood of beekeeping. We identify blind women from the community, includes them on our beekeeping training and ensure that they start beekeeping enterprises. More than 70 blind women were able to benefits in our activities since 2013. About 60% of them have proven positive progress. Among them is Jenifer.
Jenifer is a woman with visual impairment who was identified and trained by HIVE Uganda in beekeeping. At first we found Jenifer was alone and being isolated from the community because of her visual impairment. She was taking care of her children alone. In 2013, Jenifer was trained on the basic of beekeeping and given start up support of five bee hive.
After starting her beekeeping, we provided more capacity building on beekeeping to Jenifer. From beekeeping to honey and wax processing. And today Jenifer is able to supply her honey to the super market around Gulu through cooperative model of blind beekeepers under HIVE Uganda.
Jenifer is now among the six master trainers training other blind people in beekeeping under HIVE Uganda. Her bee farm is one of the learning center for blind people to get practical training on beekeeping.
Thanks for Braille Without Border-Germany who supported the start of HIVE Uganda in 2013 after seven months training Ojok Simon Founder of HIVE Uganda in kanthari (www.kanthari.org)
Jenifer selling her honey at home during lockdown
Some of the pictures showing our previous work
A visually impaired beekeeper protecting beekeeping to protect trees
Bee farm of a visual impairment protecting forest
A Visually impaire women receive five bamboo bee hives