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Although many programmes are available for the rural poor, more needs to be done to help the poorest of the poor - rural people with physical or/and mental disabilities. Many rural persons with disabilities are forced to go to the city for rehabilitation or livelihood training. More rehabilitation programmes for the disabled are needed in the rural areas. Poor farmers with disabilities, with or without land, need to generate income or supplementary income to become active participants in their family and community, thus reducing the burden of their disability on both family and society. More opportunities must be provided to enable disabled persons in rural areas to generate income and become self-reliant.

This guide is designed for government and non-governmental organizations working for the social integration, rehabilitation, training and empowerment of persons with disabilities in rural areas. Its main objective is to give direction on how to prepare persons with disabilities to become active members of society and generate income through micro-enterprise development.

Jobs are not readily available for persons with disabilities. Even with special government incentives, many employers refuse to hire persons with disabilities because they think that the disabled person cannot do as good a job as a worker without disabilities. However, it is also not easy for a disabled person to be self-employed. Not all people, disabled or otherwise, are born entrepreneurs. While some can set up a successful micro-enterprise on their own, many, if not the majority of people, need basic training on starting a new enterprise and some advice on its overall management. Moreover, careful consideration is needed before choosing the type of micro-enterprise and its eventual expansion.

The aim of this guide is to reduce the risks involved in setting up a new project through careful preparation. People in the field should be able to use this guide as a tool to establish a micro-enterprise for supplementary or main income generation. The guide takes the user through every step to be considered when a disabled person decides to start a small-scale enterprise. Although many of the items may appear logical and simple, the guide should serve as a checklist and be adapted to the trainer's entrepreneurial skills and those of the potential rural micro-entrepreneur with a disability. It reviews how a small-scale enterprise can and should be started with minimum capital investment, where this investment can be found and how to use and manage readily available resources.

It further reviews the success case replication methodology and how it can be used with disabled persons. This methodology has proven effective for non-disabled persons and offers the same advantages for persons with disabilities.

The final part illustrates how disabled farmers overcome their disabilities, become successful micro-entrepreneurs and active members within their families and communities.

Self-reliance through micro-enterprise development

Most persons with disabilities live in rural areas and, as such, it has become necessary to identify income-generating opportunities for them so they can become self-reliant while remaining within their community. Disabled persons have long been treated as social outcasts and were offered little support in becoming self-sufficient and capable of taking care of themselves and their families. However, things are changing and persons with disabilities are now being recognized as individuals capable of doing.

Initially, all help and support programmes could only be found in the cities, forcing rural persons with disabilities to travel to urban training centres. New approaches are now being implemented with the inclusion of disabled children and adults in schools and the workplace respectively. Nevertheless, employment remains difficult for a person with disabilities although several government programmes offer incentives for companies and industries to hire them. The incentives include subsidies for making workplaces accessible to persons with disabilities, special on-the-job training, payment by the government of part of the disabled employee's salary and tax rebates for companies hiring disabled persons.

However, many business owners are reluctant to hire persons with disabilities. Most often because of ignorance, employers tend to see only the disability and cannot recognize the capabilities of a disabled person. Consequently, self-employment offers an interesting alternative. However, not all persons with disabilities are capable of becoming entrepreneurs, being no different from non-disabled persons in this respect.

Several factors have to be considered before starting a micro-enterprise. The various aspects of a business must be taken into account. Management and administrative skills must be developed. Many people in rural and remote areas, whether with or without disabilities, have already devised strategies and projects that generate sufficient income to sustain their families. These micro-enterprises vary according to country and culture, and can be found in various sectors such as agriculture, aquaculture, sericulture, animal husbandry, fishing, tool repair, and much more. Cooperatives have been organized in some sectors and areas.

Case study: With determination, a low-income paddy farmer with amputated leg becomes a millionaire entrepreneur in aquaculture

His right leg had to be amputated below the knee after a farm accident in 1992. Yet, 54-year-old Samang Rooplaikha, a former low-income paddy farmer in Thailand's Nakhom Pathom province about 100 km from Bangkok, is now recognized as an active and successful member of his community. A prosperous and well-known entrepreneur, he is an inspiration both within the community and beyond.

With only a primary education, Mr. Samang was growing rice and breeding chickens to support his family with six children. Seeking to boost his meagre income and observing other successful farmers, he decided to cultivate black tiger prawns. He learnt about the aquaculture business by himself from books, a successful neighbour and visiting other tiger prawn farms.

He started his own black tiger prawn farm with an interest-free credit of 20 000 baht given by the Disability Fund of the Department of Public Welfare. He was able to expand his business after only one year. Determination, hard work and a sound business investment have enabled him to increase his annual income from 40 000 to one million baht in just five years. He is now a prominent aquaculture entrepreneur whose success has been publicised by newspapers and other mass media. Many aspiring aquaculture entrepreneurs from various provinces of Thailand visit his farm regularly to study and learn from his example. Mr Samang owns land, a car and a mobile phone. He attributes his success to hard work and willingness to learn constantly. "The key to success is to be diligent and to regularly improve one's knowledge," says Mr Samang.

These small-scale entrepreneurs have often encountered several problems, which they managed to solve using existing facilities, resources and understanding. They often know what works and what is needed for their enterprise to be successful. Persons with disabilities need to develop new ways and approaches to accomplish certain tasks and to surmount problems that they would face because of their disability. Small-scale entrepreneurs and especially those with a disability are in a perfect position not only to share their experience but also to teach others like them what to do and what not do, and how it can and should be done.

Training rural persons with disabilities in their own community has the advantage of allowing the trainees to remain with their families and to learn a trade that is accepted by the community. Training within their village or a nearby habitation also allows the trainees to exchange experiences with neighbours and make new friends. Since all people come from the same background, have the same culture and traditions, they are better able to understand the needs of each other.

Persons with disabilities have tremendous capabilities and courage, and must be given a chance to prove themselves. Capacitating persons with disabilities to become micro-entrepreneurs improves their livelihoods and has beneficial effects on the quality of their life and health. It helps reduce rural poverty and food insecurity and leads to the better integration of disabled persons into their community. Disabled farmers can become self-reliant, capable of generating regular income and thus be proud and active members of their families and communities.

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