Disabled woman’s farming venture is a true eye opener

2013-08-30 00:00

A DISABILITY is a physical condition that should not deter you from becoming a successful person.

People with disabilities should not look down on themselves but should stand up and realise that their disability does not mean they are nothing.

That’s the message from 43-year-old Nobuhle Mthembu, a blind Cato Ridge farmer, who was recently honoured by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and the national Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries as the best farmer in the disabled category.

She is one of the leaders of the Bukanisibonelo disabled women co-operative that is behind the farming initiative. The group has 18 members with various disabilities, the elderly and the youth. They grow vegetables that they sell and also donate to those in need.

Speaking to The Witness this week, she said winning the award recognised the work they did and gave her and her group the impetus to work harder and grow their business.

Mthembu said she and other disabled people had formed the co-operative after realising they should not let their disability compromise their financial independence and that they should not be dependent on government grants for survival.

“The money that the government gives us helps, but once it is used for the necessary household items, there is nothing left. You have to wait for the end of the month again,” she said.

Mthembu said their foray into farming was littered with challenges. “When we formed our co-operative, we started off by knitting and we saw that it was not giving us any money and we decided to move to farming.”

She said they initially struggled to find land that could give them the kind of produce they wanted. “We eventually found the land that had been used by the grannies in our area. Some of them had passed on and others were too tired to work the land so they gave it to us,” she said.

Now, they farm different kinds of vegetables on 100 hectares of land all year round.

Besides the challenge of being disabled and entering such a labour intensive industry, her family was also not very enthusiastic about her venturing into farming.

“They were not supportive because they thought I was just there to waste time, but now they see that it is a serious business,” Mthembu said.

She said her disability did not prove to be a hindrance.

“I am disabled in a sense that I cannot see, but I can do everything else with my hands, everyone in our group is disabled in a different way, they do everything and even better than the able-bodied person,” she said. “With the award, we will soar to greater heights.”

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