Bangkok, Thailand, 21 Feb 2013 -- A regional workshop opened today to promote disability-inclusive agribusiness. The 2-day workshop brought together the Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Nippon Foundation in a joint effort to work towards a disability-inclusive private sector engagement.
According to the World Report on Disability, a joint publication of the World Health Organisation and the World Bank, disabled people comprise 15 percent of the total world population. In Asia and the Pacific, disabled people and their families make up about 40 percent of the total population.
Hunger and malnutrition continue to be a major challenge. The Asia-Pacific region has the largest number of undernourished people, some 563 million. That’s more than 62 percent of the total number of chronically hungry people in the world. There has been little recent improvement because of widening inequity and income disparity, as well as high and volatile food prices, which affect the most vulnerable groups in society, including people with disabilities and their families.
In opening remarks Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific said, “FAO has long been a promoter of the rights of persons with disabilities,” focusing on “capacity building and skill development and linking disabled people with markets, so they gain income generating opportunities and self-reliance, which promotes their self-esteem.” For example, he said, “In Thailand, 13 years ago, FAO initiated the project know as Mushroom Production Training for Disabled People to improve the livelihoods of rural people with disabilities.” It proved to be a very successful first step towards building equitable society and alleviating poverty.
In his remarks, Konuma outlined a number of suggestions for the workshop to consider, including the development and implementation of disability-inclusive policies and strategies that help improve access to productive resources and assets such as credit for disabled people engaged in small and medium enterprises. He called on the private sector to increase job opportunities for people with disabilities and for enhanced technical and vocational training opportunities to help the disabled become financially independent and self-reliant. He also proposed creating a certification system for products produced by people with disabilities to promote the value of disability-inclusive products and services.
Tej Bunnag, the Chairman of the Executive Board, Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability told the workshop that “APCD in collaboration with The Nippon Foundation, conducted roundtable talks with representatives from the business as well as the disability sector to define the concept of disability-inclusive business. These discussions led to the elaboration of disability-inclusive business which strives to utilize the unique knowledge that persons with disabilities have from the perspective of entrepreneur, employee and customer.”
In his opening address to the Workshop Shuichi Ohno, executive Director, International Cooperation Department, the Nippon Foundation, said: “In the course of my trip to this region, I witnessed a number of people with disabilities who were successfully engaged in agriculture. They overcame their handicap through their own wisdom by inventing devices, or creating new ways to do things. But, such knowledge is not always shared with others because of the physical distance between them. I hope the cases of good practices, which we will see here today will be spread widely to reach the public, including those who are struggling with disabilities”.
The workshop is expected to provides senior regional policymakers from agriculture and social welfare ministries, experts from partner organizations, civil society and UN organizations as well as agribusiness sector experts a chance to exchange views on building an enabling environment for disability-inclusive agribusiness development, and heading towards adoption of the Bangkok Recommendations at the end of the gathering.