The Association of People with Disability offers horticulture training for men in Kothanur

Lush is how I would describe the Association of People with Disability Horticulture Training Centre in Kothanur. As the neatly paved pathway led me around the entire 5-acre plot, I managed to lose my way several times while admiring the sheer variety of plants grown here.

Established in 2001, the APD’s centre specialises in training rural people with disabilities. “We conduct camps in various villages, mainly in Karnataka, and recruit people into our programme twice a month,” says Recruitment Officer Shankar M. Thirty-six male trainees aged between 18 and 30 are admitted to their residential training programme, which lasts about ten months. The medium of instruction is mainly Kannada, and candidates are trained according to their ability.

An exercise in independence

Students are given individual attention, especially as the level of literacy and education among them varies. The rigorous ten-month course includes a one-month bridge course, six months of training and three months of practical work. “In the first week, most of them find it hard to adjust to the programme, but later on, they get the hang of it. It is not just horticulture they are taught here but overall development. The trainees are taught to cook, clean and fend for themselves as we want them to live independently, whether they choose to live in urban or rural areas,” says Santosh S. Naik, a trainer.

Green therapy

Yoga and personality development classes are also held. “Being close to nature proves to be therapeutic and calming for all of us. We conduct rural and urban-based training programmes depending on whether they want to go back to their villages to cultivate their land or stay back in the city,” says Santosh.

APD also supports students who want to study: volunteers coach those who want to complete their basic schooling. So far, the placement record at the centre is 100 per cent, and students are employed by corporate offices such as Biozeen as well as schools and colleges nearby.

Water shortage

Around 70 per cent of their funds are raised from selling their 800 varieties of plants, but it isn’t all smooth sailing. “There’s enormous shortage of water. We have to buy at least ten tankers to water all the plants. We’re planning on starting a formal diploma, for which we need funds to build classrooms and laboratories,” says Yashodha Patil, the programme manager.

The trainees here are completely at home in their new surroundings. “I haven’t been to my village in quite a while. I love it here. I never knew there were these many different plants and trees before I came here,” says Ramesh S. from Mysore.

Honnurappa from Bellary, who is being coached to write his PUC exams, says, “at first I thought I would never be able to do all the work they trained me to do. But now I enjoy myself immensely being among plants and nature all day long.”

(The APD Horticulture Training Centre is near Dattatreya temple, Doddagubbi Road, Kyalasanahalli. Call 28445384.)

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