- July 20, 2018

A note prepared by Libor Stloukal, Policy Officer in the Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division of FAO, Rome, Italy.

*Disclaimer: the piece does not represent an official position statement of FAO.

Read more about the Global Disability Summit

According to the World Health Organization, about 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability. In developing countries, people with disabilities face enormous challenges. They often experience stigma and discrimination, which makes them particularly vulnerable to hunger, malnutrition and the impacts of crises and disasters. They have fewer opportunities to deal with economic and environmental shocks. They have special needs, but those are often ignored in development and humanitarian interventions. 

The links between food security and disability are complex and go in both directions. On one hand, food insecurity can lead to disability through poor living conditions, malnutrition and lack of access to health services. On the other hand, disability can lead to food insecurity and poverty through lack of education and employment opportunities, inadequate access to social services and unavailability of assistive technologies. 

Disability is not inability. In fact, many farmers with disabilities make important contributions to the day-to-day survival of their households and communities. Despite this, disability remains an under-represented topic in food security policy and practice. Conventional agricultural policies and programmes insufficiently involve people with disabilities, thus failing to capitalize on the potential of this segment of the rural population.

Making sure that rural women and men who live with disabilities are fully integrated in food security interventions is an essential part of achieving critical development goals: eliminating extreme poverty, reducing malnutrition, and enhancing food security for all.

The agricultural sector has an important role to play to economically empower rural men and women living with disabilities. Agricultural interventions – if properly designed and implemented – can contribute significantly to improving the wellbeing of these people by:

  • supporting the creation of inclusive employment and income generation opportunities in agro-food value chains;
  • providing people with disabilities with the agro-technical, entrepreneurial and business management skills they need to expand their livelihoods;
  • upgrading agricultural technologies to meet the specific requirements of workers with disabilities;
  • enhancing agricultural extension services to address the training needs of farmers with disabilities;
  • fostering accident prevention in agro-industries, including in forestry and fisheries sub-sectors;
  • strengthening nutritional adequacy through improved food security interventions, in order to reduce nutrition-related disabilities;
  • promoting the full participation of persons with disabilities in decision-making processes around agriculture.

Agricultural solutions that increase the productive and entrepreneurial capacities of farmers with disabilities make sound economic sense and are good for rural development. They make agro-food systems more inclusive, efficient and productive. In this way, millions of people can be lifted out of poverty and food insecurity.

The Global Disability Summit that will take place in London on 24 July 2018 provides an excellent opportunity for the development community to finally ensure that farmers with disabilities are fully included in strategies and programmes for agriculture, food security and rural development.

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