Lawrence Akena enters a shed to set his goats free to graze alongside two brown zebu cattle. The 32-year-old recently started farming in Iceme village, in northern Uganda’s Kamdini sub-county.
Mr. Akena was born with microcephaly, a neurological condition that refers to children with a small head or a head that stops growing after birth. It can result in epilepsy, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, hearing loss, and vision problems.
Because of this, he was excluded from school and other training programs. Mr. Akena’s exclusion from school meant that he survived on handouts and lived in extreme poverty.
Lil Iran is Mr. Akena’s mother. She says: “He would leave home early morning for Kamdini corner just to loiter in the township. At times, he would spend nights there until I picked him [up and brought him] back.”
But life has changed for Mr. Akena since he received agricultural training and financial support from several NGOs, including BRAC Uganda. He was chosen to participate in the Disability Inclusive Graduation project, a partnership between BRAC Uganda and two other organizations.
The project includes training and resources to help generate income, support for financial literacy and savings, social empowerment, and financial support to meet participants’ basic needs. Through the project, Mr. Akena received resources such as goats, cattle, pigs, and cash for petty trade. He also received training tailored to people with disabilities.
Mrs. Iran says that the project has helped her son, and her whole family, a lot.
She adds, “We didn’t have goats and chickens. Akena is [now] always at home looking after them.”
Derrick Baguma is a project assistant with BRAC. He describes how the project has impacted families like Mr. Akema’s: “This is not how their household was. And the way Akena appears now is not the same as he was. Do you see those shelters for goats and pigs? Lawrence Akena made over 80% of the contribution to ensure they are the way they are.”
Mr. Baguma himself lives with Down’s Syndrome. He says that extra support is needed for households that include persons with disabilities.
He explains: “When you are designing a project, you should include persons with disabilities. And it is possible. We shouldn’t look at the expenses … We should look at the end results. How impactful is it going to be? If you don’t bring in that perspective of disability, then you are not reaching every person.”
Denis Aboke is another person with a disability who has benefited from the Disability Inclusive Graduation project. He lives in a village near Mr. Akena, and has an artificial limb after losing his leg to cancer.
He says: “Amputation from cancer had … [mean that] I could not go into the garden. Now I can do some farming. I’m now able to support my family. The children are going to school.”
Mr. Aboke received a diesel-powered grain-milling machine and other resources as part of the project. He now earns extra income from fellow villagers by milling grain.
Mrs. Iran and her son are regular savers in their village savings and loan association. She says she is working hard to ensure that her son’s resources multiply to help her son’s future.
She adds, “I had always wished to do something for my son but I had no support. I plan to buy a piece [of land] and plant trees for his future from the savings in our village savings box.”
This story was originally written by Wambi Michael and published by Inter Press Service with the title, “Disability inclusion lifts rural Ugandans families from poverty.” To read the full story, go to: https://www.ipsnews.net/2022/06/disability-inclusion-brings-untold-wealth-rural-ugandan-family/ 
Photo: Lawrence Akena with his cattle. Credit: Wambi Michael for IPS.