Hero Spotlight: Blind Farmers See Through Their Hands, Learn from Experience
May 16, 2017
For about a year now, Just Hope has been working alongside a group of blind farmers in Sierra Leone who continue to inspire us with their determination and skill.
You might remember Amidu “Francis” Kayina, the blind chaplain at the Baptist Eye Hospital in Lunsar, who is a powerful local champion for the blind being able to provide for themselves independently.
Francis put Just Hope in touch with a group of blind farmers working together in the village of Katic last fall. Maada Kabia, 56, is the chairman of this group. He is married with three children and was blinded by an accident with a stick when he was younger.
Just Hope’s Field Officers in Lunsar, Sierra Leone – John and Shanty – began teaching Maada and his group conservation agriculture practices, which are highly tactile and especially appropriate for someone who sees through his or her hands. Right off the bat, the farmers produced a healthy and bountiful crop of corn – the best they had ever planted. Sadly, the corn was stolen by monkeys the night before they were to harvest it. That heartbreaking experience left them frustrated but undeterred, first because they are determined people, and second because they had experienced the potential of conservation agriculture.
Resolved to try again but now at the end of the planting season, they worked with John and Shanty to prepare their fields for the next planting season. In February they participated in a composting workshop and learned how to build 1.5-cubic-meter compost piles, which create a valuable soil amendment. Without assistance, they measured, gathered materials, built and regularly turned their compost, ensuring that it generated the proper amount of heat for decomposition. Now complete, they have an amount of compost they can apply to the farm as a critical input for their groundnut and pepper crop.
“We have turned the compost nine times, and we are now ready to use it and hope it will bring us another strong crop,” said Maada. “We are still encouraged by the Just Hope staff to plant, weed and mulch our plots.”
“The compost pile was remarkable not because it was perfect, but because they did it without help,” said David Reeves, Program Manager. “These farmers are determined and expert learners, and I have no doubt that their second attempt will be outstanding and equal to what a group of seeing farmers could produce.”
They are also taking steps to prevent another monkey theft, with an onsite hut that will be staffed around the clock in the critical days leading up to harvest. The hut will serve as a base of operations and a shady retreat that will allow them to work longer hours during planting seasons.