Dr Tej Bunnag, Chairman of the Executive Board of APCD,
Mr Shunichi Murata, Deputy executive Secretary, ESCAOP,
Mr Shuichi Ohno, Executive director , Nippon Foundation,
Distinguished guests, Resource persons,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to extend to all of you a warm welcome to this “Regional workshop on Disability-Inclusive Agribusiness Development ”.
First of all, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the Nippon Foundation and APCD for their strong partnership with FAO in organizing this important gathering. I also wish to thank UN ESCAP for hosting this special even at the centre of United Nations in Asia and the Pacific region.
Hunger and malnutrition continue to be major challenges in this region. FAO estimates that nearly 870 million people were undernourished , out of which Asia and the Pacific region holds the largest share of 62 percent, nearly two thirds of the world total. There has been a little improvement in recent past influenced by widening inequity and income disparities as well as high and volatile food prices which affected the most vulnerable groups of society including people with disabilities and their family members.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Persons with disabilities make up one of the world’s most significant part of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in society, often excluded from productive opportunities . According to the World Report on Disability issued by the World Health Organization and the World Bank in 2011, persons with disability share 15 percent of the world total population. More significantly, in Asia and the Pacific region, approximately 40 percent of the total population is persons with disability and their families.
Notwithstanding rights that are well understood, persons with disabilities continue to face discrimination, social exclusion and poverty in many instances. Efforts to make a difference has been continuing by governments, UN agencies, Civil Society Organizations and most importantly by the persons with disability by themselves. However, the progress has been rather slow in general and affected by emerging challenges such as negative impact of climate changes and natural disasters, and high food prices. FAO has long been a promoter of the rights of persons with disabilities and has funded and implemented a number of field projects in cooperation with partners and recipient governments. The focus has been on capacity building and skill development and linking them with markets, with an aim to facilitate persons with disability to gain income generating opportunities and self-reliance, thereby promoting their self-esteem in equitable society. In Thailand, FAO initiated the project “Mushroom Production Training for Disabled People” 13 years ago for improving the livelihoods of rural people with disabilities.
In developing countries, among the all disability population, it is considered that four of every five people with disabilities live in rural area. Most people with disabilities who do work in rural areas are engaged in income-generating activities as farmers or related agri-business. However, they frequently lack not only access to existing disability services such as vocational rehabilitation services but also lack access to essential business development services, transportation and microfinance, particularly credit, because of the assumption that people with disabilities are not credit-worthy or constitute a high risk group. However, we need to pose the question whether they are really a high risk group.
Last year, under the ESCAP’s initiative, Incheon strategy “Make the Right Real” for persons with disabilities in Asia and the Pacific has been adapted. Member countries are now committed to the achievement of the regional vision of an inclusive society that ensures, promotes and upholds the rights of all persons with disabilities in Asia and the Pacific. The Incheon goal one aims to reduce poverty and enhance work and employment prospects. Provide adequate support to people with disabilities engages in agriculture and agribusiness will certainly contribute to achieve this goal.
Today, we are moving one step forward by highlighting our efforts towards this direction. Indeed, agriculture remains as the most important job sector for persons with disability. That why today’s meeting is so important. You will hear interesting cases and good practices identified in selected country in Asia through the study conducted by Asia Pacific Center of Disability, the Nippon Foundation and FAO and we wish to discuss further to identify the way forward to support the people with disabilities in agriculture and agribusiness as well as the agribusiness sector to develop the disability-inclusive agribusiness development.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I believe this workshop would provide all the opportunity for the exchange of views on recent developments on enabling environment for disability-inclusive agribusiness development and discuss the issues, gaps and identify future course of actions among the participants from different sectors and levels. I hope that this opportunity of multistakeholders including senior policy makers and planners both from Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Social Welfare, experts from partner organizations, CSOs and UN organizations as well as the agribusiness sector, would lead to a formation of long-term platform to enhance collaboration and concerned effort on disability-inclusive agribusiness development.
Before concluding, I wish to propose the following suggestions for consideration: 1) develop and implement disability-inclusive policies and strategies that help improve access of persons with disability to productive resources and assets including credit, 2) promote employment and job opportunities with a greater participation and contribution of private sector, 3) enhance vocational and technical skill training for persons with disabilities to facilitate them to be more financially independent and self- reliant, and 4) create certification system for the products produced by persons with disabilities to promote the value of disability inclusive products and services.
I would also like to thank all the participants present for sparing their time as well as providing their inputs and sharing their experiences to support this important workshop.
I wish you fruitful discussions and a pleasant stay in Bangkok.