Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) based in Tokyo, Japan with projects in the areas of emergency assistance, assistance to persons with disabilities, mine action, action against infectious diseases and public awareness raising. Established in 1979 as an organization with no political, ideological or religious affiliation, we aim to extend emergency and long-term support to the people in need of help. Since 1979, we have operated in over 60 countries and areas, and are currently active in Japan and other 14 countries.
Since 2000, AAR Japan has supported production of wheelchairs and promoted the social participation of persons with disabilities at the wheelchair workshop located in Laos’ National Rehabilitation Center. In December 2018, we started small scale income generation activities for persons with disabilities, particularly for women with disabilities.
AAR Japan has been supporting small scale income generation activities for persons with disabilities, particularly for women with disabilities since December 2018. In this project, we have been cooperating with Lao Disabled People’s Association (LDPA) with the mission of promoting persons with disabilities’ social involvement by supporting their small-scale businesses for income expansion. We provide trainings on catfish, frog, and mushroom farming to PWDs in Oudomxay Province and Sayabouri Province.
Mushroom Cultivation Is the First Step towards Financial Independence
With a limited number of job training facilities, the Laotian Government has not been able to provide PWDs in rural areas with a sufficient amount of support to obtain jobs. Female PWDs, in particular, have a very limited number of job opportunities, finding it very difficult to make a living with a stable income. Since December 2018, AAR has been closely collaborating with LDPA (Lao Disabled People’s Association) in Sayabouly Province and Oudomxai Province. Mainly targeting female PWDs and their family members, we started an initiative to encourage entrepreneurship on a small scale by training them in mushroom cultivation and farming of catfish and frogs. We expect them to start their own business at home and be able to financially support themselves in their own community.
One advantage of mushroom cultivation is that the initial cost is small because you don’t need a lot of space to start it. In addition, the cultivation does not require a lot of manpower for cleaning even if cleaning the beds and watering the mushrooms may be troublesome at times. After a lecture about mushroom cultivation by an experienced instructor, the participants started to make a mushroom kit as part of the on-the-job- training (OJT).
At the OJT session, sawdust, which serves as culture media for mushrooms (substance containing necessary nutrients for culture), is mixed with rice bran, sugar and magnesium sulfate and other things. Then, with an appropriate amount of water, it is mixed until the culture media becomes uniform in its content. After that, the culture media is put into bags with a lid. These bags are then put into a metal drum and sealed before being sterilized by heating for about six hours. After waiting for a day, fungus thread is planted. 30 or 40 days after that, mushrooms start to come out and harvesting usually lasts for about three months.
During the OJT, the PWDs and their family members worked together and made approximately 170 mushroom cultivation kits. At first, there were some people who simply continued working without chatting with others, but gradually they began to open up and started to interact with each other. On the 3rd day, they were even able to share their concerns or information, sometimes smiling at one another.
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