Embracing Communities with Disabilities in Uganda

Levi Byamukama has a vibrant social energy. He greets everyone with a smile and moves through life with joyful curiosity. One day, after seeing a group of Batwa DIG farmers gathered in the fields, Levi moved closer to see what was happening. He ended up staying through an entire DIG training and returned the weeks following. After a while, the group elected he join them and Levi became an official DIG farmer.

Levi lives in southwest Uganda and is challenged by a severe spinal disability. This not only causes him great pain but it has kept him from finding work or practicing agriculture.  He lives with his mother who does her best to make ends meet, but when she is unable to provide for him, Levi is left to beg from friends. 

While our local facilitators and their Batwa community group encouraged Levi to join the DIG program, Levi was worried that because he couldn’t physically dig, the group might reject him. Luckily, our local facilitators knew Levi had gifts to offer. Not only could Levi read and write in the local language, something this Batwa group could not do, Levi also kept rabbits. To date, Levi exchanges his rabbit manure for seedlings grown in the demonstration garden and takes attendance for the group.

Levi attends each and every training because he loves learning new things and he’s finding ways to implement that learning in his own farm. Even though he may not be able to perform the activities himself, he is now able to pay or barter with people to help him. In exchange, he is teaching others how to implement DIG’s climate resilient and restorative agriculture practices. Levi and his family have a consistent supply of beetroot, spinach, carrots, and cabbage. He applies his rabbit manure twice per month and is gets excited by the changes he sees in his garden.

We’re happy to celebrate with Levi on his recent marriage and happy to have his wife also join the group. He’s feeling stronger than ever because of an improved diet and loves the community companionship during the weekly DIG gatherings.

Levi’s story inspired DIG to address the needs of other people living with disabilities in the region. In 2018 DIG modified our Farmer Field School program to better meet the needs of people living with physical disabilities. DIG now works with 7 Disability groups, supporting community cohesion amongst members as well as offering groups an alternative to labor-intensive farming. DIGs work with the Disability groups has seen enormous impacts in bringing marginalized people together who are often dependent on their fellow community members for food, water, clothing, and other necessary items. DIG has provided a way for people living with disabilities to generate an income that is not limited by their physical condition and become self-reliant. Also, Disability groups have reported the enormous benefit in coming together weekly to discuss problems and being amongst people struggling with similar conditions.