Jamaica: Empowering women with disabilities and improving food security with sustainable farming project


Woman in a farming

For people living with disabilities, food security, transportation, and day-to-day living can be a challenge. Job placement can also be an issue for people in the special needs community.

Daveisha, 25, wanted to learn farming skills to improve her condition, but diagnosed with an intellectual disability and being HIV positive, she knew the opportunities were limited.

She had a difficult childhood. Her mother was in and out of the hospital with HIV and Daveisha grew up in a group home starting at 3 years old. She said she struggled to see her beauty or love herself.

This changed when she was introduced to Cuso International partner the Abilities Foundation’s Women with Disabilities Pathway to Food Security Project. The community-based organization introduces women with disabilities to new skills and opportunities, focusing on sustainment through agriculture.

In the project’s second phase, eight women with disabilities received training in sustainable farming. Participants had access to two hydroponic systems gardens, two elevated container gardens, three container gardens, and traditional gardens.

“It changes and impacts the lives of persons with disabilities. It allows us to engage the vulnerable population, provide opportunities for them and to advocate on their behalf,” said Susan Hamilton, managing director, Abilities Foundation.

“Most of our beneficiaries would not have hope, alternatives, and opportunities afforded to them. Abilities Foundation bridges the gap for many persons with disabilities to become trained, employable, and independent.”

Daveisha said the program gave her knowledge, opportunity, and hope. The positive experience has taught her a lot about farming, both theory and hands-on. Now, Daveisha is teaching other residents how to grow their crops.

Woman sewing in a farm“I am more confident in my skills. I always liked farming but didn’t know what to do. Now I know how and what to do. I feel empowered and I am excited about life,” she said.

Daveisha is proud to have successfully finished the program and started her own backyard garden, which she wants to expand into a growing business in the future. She hopes to train and employ more people with disabilities.

She wants to show people that you can achieve anything you put your mind to and to never give up.

“Even when you feel like the situation is going down it is not the end of the road. For persons with disabilities: don’t give up, continue. I feel proud of myself that I can sit and talk to you,” said Daveisha. “I want to encourage others that are going through hard times. I want to let them know they can make it. I want to train more people on how to farm and be independent.”

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