The number of people living with disabilities in the southern African region is estimated to be over 18 million people – that’s at least ten percent of the total population. People with handicaps are often left to their own devices, especially in rural regions. “In many cases, people with handicaps are housebound and live outside the village community. Our goal is to integrate them into community life”, says Andreas Wörster, the founder of the aid organization Utho Ngathi Disabilty Projects, from Siegen, Germany. He is familiar with the realities of the situation, as he has lived in South Africa for the past 27 years. He is sure that integration can happen successfully through education, the development of individual capabilities, and an adequate living.
Utho Ngathi Disabilty Projects have created a wide variety of projects in South Africa and Zambia in order to support and integrate people with disabilities. It plans to conduct educational campaigns in order to draw attention to their difficult situation, and organizes home visits to provide people with regular care and support. It makes wheelchairs and walkers available, too, so that people with handicaps are enabled to participate in community activities and to lead a self-determined life.
Evonik has been supporting the work of this aid organization for the past three years and began its involvement by donating wheelchairs for children. “It’s very moving to see how a wheelchair can change a person’s life for the better by making him or her mobile,” says Heinrich Ruth, who is responsible for Evonik’s business with amino acids for animal feed in Africa. It soon became clear to Evonik that its cooperation with Utho Nghati should become a long-term one, to strengthen Evonik’s commitment to disabled people in South Africa and to contribute its business skills. “In order to be recognized, people need meaningful work that contributes to their society”, says Heinrich Ruth.
Andreas Wörster and Heinrich Ruth decided to work together on implementing a project, that would provide the rural population with better sources of valuable protein and more closely integrate people with disabilities. The plan was to build henhouses holding 300 birds each in the rural village region of Macubeni in eastern South Africa. The construction work started in July 2016. While Evonik employees in South Africa joined Utho Ngathi in Macubeni to build henhouses, Evonik colleagues in Germany and in South Africa organized a donation campaign to finance the project. “In addition, we got a local producer of animal feed, one of our large customers in this region, on board”, says Heinrich Ruth. This producer did not only donate high-quality animal feed, but also taught how to take care of the chickens, carry out cleaning operations, and ensure good hygiene. The first chickens were placed in the three henhouses in the 1st week of September 2016. By now, several generation of chickens have already been raised and sold. Ten villagers - people with handicaps and people without them - work jointly together in the henhouses. Utho Ngathi pays them a small salary from the profits gained from the chicken sales. There is still enough money left over to support six villagers who make home visits to people with handicaps.
Two more henhouses were built in February 2017, one of them for laying hens. Evonik’s Employer Branding unit has linked Utho Ngathi with students from RWTH Aachen University who are members of the international student network Enactus. Together, these partners have set up a solar-powered fish farm to grow Tilapia in a remote village in Zambia, which is now managed by villagers both with and without disabilities. In addition, the Evonik Foundation has also pledged to support Utho Ngathi financially until 2020.