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There are an estimated 400 million persons with disabilities in Asia and the Pacific. Physically and/or mentally impaired persons constitute a major group of the most vulnerable poor in this region. A vast majority of persons with disabilities live in rural areas and many of them are small farmers who depend on the agricultural sector for food and livelihood security. A major cause of disability in rural areas is malnutrition caused by extreme poverty and food insecurity. In addition, more and more farmers are disabled by road or machine accidents due to mechanization and commercialization in the agricultural sector. Violence and armed conflict are another major cause of disability among rural people in the region. Rural people with disabilities must confront major barriers to achieve food security and sustainable livelihoods. Dominant social and cultural biases make it doubly difficult for them to overcome these hurdles.

A large majority of country-level rehabilitation programmes for disabled persons do not give due attention to the specific needs of small farmers. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has taken up the challenge of increasing awareness among policy decision-makers and the general public about the plight of rural persons with disabilities.

Pilot activities have been initiated to empower farmers with disabilities, including women, and make them economically self-reliant by developing their self-confidence and skills to become independent, small-scale entrepreneurs.

The FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific provided regional and country-level support for the implementation of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons that ended in 2002. As part of these efforts, the FAO regional office provided technical assistance and coordination in FAO pilot project activities aimed at small-scale enterprise development by disabled farmers, based upon mushroom production, processing and marketing. FAO's technical assistance included provision of agro-processing technologies adapted to the needs of physically and mentally-disabled small farmers to help them become rural small-scale entrepreneurs.

FAO promotes enterprise development by disabled persons in the region, in collaboration with national governments, international non-governmental organizations and self-help groups of persons with disabilities. In 2002, governments from the Asia and Pacific region adopted a new Action Plan for a Second Decade for Persons with Disabilities, called the Biwako Millennium Framework for Action 2003 - 2012. This framework describes the commitments of the Asian and Pacific countries towards the goal of an inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based society for persons with disabilities. FAO endorsed the aims and activities of the Biwako Framework. A major task now lies ahead for all stakeholders in achieving these goals, which, among others, requires enactment and enforcement of the proposed legislation. This, in turn, requires mobilization of the necessary political will for effective implementation of all the instruments already established in the first action plan 1993-2002, covering health, education, information/communication, training, employment and social services for disabled persons.

'A handbook for training of disabled on rural enterprise development' was developed to assist FAO member countries and support organizations in the training of disabled persons on small-scale enterprise development. It applies the lessons learned from the above-mentioned FAO technical cooperation project Mushroom production training for disabled people in northeast Thailand, as well as from the Poverty alleviation through market generated rural employment project that was jointly implemented with the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). Better known as Success Case Replication (SCR), the latter project tested a methodology to replicate successful experiences in village-level, micro-enterprise development by small farmers in eight Asian countries. This handbook has adapted the SCR methodology to the needs of farmers and other rural persons with disabilities.

This handbook is a practical tool for pilot activities, by FAO and other interested UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to empower rural people with disabilities as part of the implementation of the Biwako Framework commitments. It provides an adapted SCR methodology, references and check-lists, and identifies resources for use by specialized training centres, village development workers and other trainers on self-employment of disabled persons as small-scale rural entrepreneurs.

He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and
FAO Regional Representative for
Asia and the Pacific

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