Traditionally, people with special needs were seen almost same as street beggars. Though different approaches to end street begging have been adopted and implemented, yet the phenomenon seems to have persisted.
However, in recent times, a new approach to tackle the issue was introduced by Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) through Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE) where people with special needs were given training in agricultural practices using modern techniques and also assisting them with land, insecticides, farming among other farming inputs.
Sabi’u Halliru, is a 46-year-old man living in Bunkure Local Government Area of Kano State. He said he lost his arm in an accident some years back, and that ever since he has been living under the mercy of his family.
Sabi’u added that with the introduction of SAFE programme, he is now a farmer cultivating rice and soya bean.
“It is no longer an issue of begging to most of us that belong to the farmers group of people with special needs. Our members no longer go out to beg; we are now happy that this programme has seen the potentials in us and it is trying to make us explore them. This year, I harvested 13 bags of rice from my farm which clearly proves that disability isn’t inability,” said Sabi’u.
It was also revealed that such is the case in all the states that run the programme. A visit to some farmer groups of people with special disabilities in Kumo town in Akko Local Government of Gombe State revealed that the farmers with special needs are now fully engaged and those that go out to beg no longer see it appealing.
Waziri Malle of Kumo town is a 48-year-old man, who lost a leg and resorted to begging. He said, however, that with the SAFE intervention, they had formed a farmer group and are presently engaged in full time farming.
“We are now self-sufficient; we no longer leave our town for the cities to beg.
“With the assistance we received from Sasakawa, we are able to utilize our potentials to be fully engaged on the farm. What we need is more support from the programme in order to expand. It will interest you to know that this year, I have gotten 15 bags of maize and we are very much sure that with more support, we will do more,” said Waziri.
Shedding light on the initiative, SAA Country Director, Professor Sani Miko, stated that, under the programme, the association identified people with special needs and asked them to form social fund groups. He said the SAA then assists these farmers through the groups, by providing training and other farm inputs to them.
Addressing newsmen in Kano during a press conference to mark Sasakawa’s 30th year of existence in Africa held at the Sasakawa head office in Kano, Professor Miko added that the association figured out that people with special needs were excluded in virtually all development programmes on the belief that they were not productive. He added that the intervention has also shown that people with disability have potentials of being productive and that all they needed is a push and motivation.