What problem are you trying to solve?
Poverty is a serious issue in rural Cambodia, one that keeps people chained to barely subsistence levels. Particularly, People with Disability face higher levels of poverty because they struggle to be included in many aspects of everyday life. The agricultural value chain is one of these aspects. They might have land but find it increasingly difficult to effectively utilize it due to increasing prices of seeds and equipment; lack of young labour due to young people migrating for employment such as factory work, and lack of support from and access to local experts/ self-help groups. These farmers are often indebted due to unscrupulous money lending systems. They are heavily reliant on subsistence farming. In growing rice, for example, they use the broadcasting method. This is difficult if you have low vision or mobility impairments. Also, there’s additional work involved in transplanting the excess saplings to a second or third field resulting in planting 4 times as they expect to yield.
What is your solution to this problem?
Western designers may not solve these problems for communities and specifically for people with disability. But we believe that communities can learn to identify, brainstorm, prototype and implement their own low-cost solutions as experts of their own situations. However they are often denied opportunities to promote necessary changes, The participatory methodology we designed leads groups of farmers through a series of workshops to help identify and prioritize their problems, develop their creativity to find ideas to tackle them, develop and test solutions and improve the solutions based on the field test. An outstanding aspect of it is that farmers are using basic locally available materials to design tools and equipment which aids their farming activities, e.g. the rice seeder. While seeders do exist elsewhere, they are currently too expensive for our community but also, they are not available in any markets for the community to purchase.
What is your latest update on your innovation?
The participatory design approach for farmers (with and without a disability) have been applied and tested in two rounds. The methodology is ready for replication. The prototypes that have been developed by the farmer groups (5 in total) need to be refined and further developed.
The rice seeder for example, given its simple design, has the potential to scale quickly and impact a large number of communities. We have just finalized the second round. The prototypes developed by the farmers are:
2. Chicken coup
3. Water carrying trailer for wheelchairs
4. Crop carrier
A handbook for facilitators is made available online