2 December 2003, Rome -- The contribution of individuals with disabilities to agricultural projects can have a significant impact on food security, says an FAO study released ahead of the annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons.

Proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1992, the International Day of Disabled Persons is observed every year on December 3rd to promote awareness and understanding of disability issues.

One of its major objectives is to help implement international norms and standards for persons with disabilities and to promote their full participation in social life and development.

Half a billion

Worldwide today, there are more than half a billion people with disabilities, approximately 80 percent of whom live in developing countries.

The FAO study, entitled "Addressing Extension and Training Needs of Farmers with Physical Disabilities - A case study of the Islamic Republic of Iran", examines situation of disabled Iranian farmers and proposes solutions.

Its findings may be helpful to other member nations in devising strategies and special programmes. In particular, a questionnaire used in the Iran study has been included as an annex for use by individuals who may be conducting similar studies in other countries.

FAO expert Kalim Qamar, who worked in the region soon after the Iran-Iraq War, said he had witnessed the effects of conflict first-hand. Many war-disabled veterans were returning to their villages and wished to remain active in the agricultural sector.

Tailored approaches

According to the FAO expert, "extension approaches must always be tailored to socio-economic factors, political situation, population density, farming patterns, literacy level, gender, age, religion, cultural beliefs and physical disability."

"In recent years, we have seen a tremendous increase in incidences of natural disasters and conflicts. For this reason, our work with the disabled will increase and we must be prepared to adapt to these changes," also said Mr. Qamar.

In Sri Lanka, an FAO project will help disabled farmers to gain the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to begin and maintain rural-based small enterprises, mainly horticulture and poultry production.

William Seiders, FAO Agricultural Training and Extension Officer, is currently working on this project proposal. By establishing and sustaining meaningful income-generating activities in agriculture and related areas, rural disabled persons will enhance the overall well-being of their families and contribute directly to household food security.

The Sri Lanka proposal has learned from the lessons of a successful FAO mushroom cultivation project for the rural disabled in Thailand.

Like the Thailand project, the Sri Lanka proposal depends heavily on the support of the families and communities to individuals with disabilities who will undergo training.

Pierre Antonios
Media Relations Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53473