Maya lives in the Kushinagar District of Uttar Pradesh one of the largest and most populated regions of India. It is home to the poorest people in India, most of whom rely on agriculture for a living. Maya has been associated with cbm New Zealand’s Inclusive Organic Farming Project since 2012.
This project brings together people with and without disabilities from rural communities to create sustainable livelihoods. In February 2017 this programme was recognised for innovation and inclusion by the Vienna-based Zero Project. The Zero Project provides a platform where the most innovative and effective solutions to challenges that persons with disabilities face around the globe are shared. Each year the Zero Award focuses on a particular theme from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In 2017, 213 nominations were received from almost 100 countries. This project was selected as the most innovative in its approach to employment and vocational training.
Maya, aged 26, is a single mother of four and the family’s only breadwinner. Twenty-one years ago, when Maya was 5, she was infected by the potentially deadly Polio virus, which left her permanently paralysed and unable to stand or walk on her own.
For a single woman with a disability, her story is inspiring. Maya lost her husband to tuberculosis so had assumed responsibility to raising her four children. She had no marketable skills, no money and only a primary school education. She felt that she did not have any options and was worried about how she would be able to afford to feed and educate her children. When Maya joined the project she was the first woman with a disability to join the group in the village and started working towards becoming independent and taking on the role normally reserved for the man of the house.
The project provided Maya with training on marketing and packaging organic spices, which she sells in her shop, along with vegetables and produce which she buys from other farmers in the area. The project also facilitated access to support from the government. Maya now has a customised wheelchair-styled tricycle that enables her to travel to her field on the outskirts of the village where she grows vegetables, using customised tools. Maya owns her own solid wooden shop, located conveniently outside her own home, which was financed through a group loan and her own savings. The Project enabled Maya to become financially independent and she now teaches the benefits of organic methods of farming and using chemical-free manure, as well as how to save money.
Maya now talks about her desire to upscale her operation of packaging organic produce that she sells both in the local market, and to the community in the village. Training in organic farming methods given under the cbm New Zealand supported project has helped her revive the productivity of her small family land. Benefits for Maya include food security and a steady income. This project provided financial security for Maya and her family establishing her as a strong voice in her community, transforming her life.
(Enrich+ supports the great work of cbm, and has gone to Indonesia twice to contribute to a disability employment project).