Disability is under-represented in food security policy and practice, but the development community can take steps to address it
Food security policy should address disability in all activities rather than as a separate issue. Photograph: Imagewerks/Getty Images/Imagewerks Japan
Over a billion people, about 15% of the world’s population, live with a disability, according to the World Health Organisation.
The links between poverty and disability are complex and go in both directions – poverty can lead to disability through poor living conditions, malnutrition and lack of access to health services. At the same time, disability can lead to poverty through lack of employment and education opportunities, limited access to health and social services.
Despite this, disability remains an under-represented issue in food security policy and practice (there is no mention of disability at all in the new 2012 millenium development goals report). To a great extent, disability in development remains stuck in the ‘special needs’ section of targeted projects on health, education and welfare.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the 2011 WHO/World Bank world report on disability and post-2015 agenda now provide an opportunity for disability issues to be brought into the mainstream of development.
How can we achieve this while tackling food insecurity in practice?
Disability should be addressed in all activities rather than as a separate issue. We need to acknowledge the roles that people with disabilities can and do play in achieving food security for themselves and their families. The diversity of knowledge, skills and abilities of disabled people should not be forgotten. We should be careful that our own practices are not disempowering.
Get in touch
There are many disabled peoples’ organisations working in development. Who better to know about disability than people with disabilities themselves? Some international disability NGOs are already taking part in food security consultations but many may not have the funds and capacity to make their voices heard. Food security groups should make contact with these organisations early in consultative processes, not at the end, when it is often too late to make changes. There are numerous online networks and communities which can guide you towards local and regional organisations.
Make all your information more accessible. Writing in a clear style and avoiding jargon benefits everyone. Having a well written consultation or policy document is only one step. Making sure people can physically access it is another. Place your documents online, but don’t assume that your website is fully accessible.
Use alternative methods to get your message across. Social media, mailing lists and blogs have a wide reach, and can help engage disabled groups that are hard-to-reach. Think about the formats you are providing. For example, making your documents available in Microsoft Word helps people who use text readers or need to change the font size to access the information. Ask disabled groups how they would like information to be presented.
Sharing stories of best practice and innovation
Promoting and disseminating success stories from the field is a great way to ensure a more efficient allocation of limited resources to projects that are more likely to succeed. Examples of best practice help avoid repeating problems encountered in previous interventions, and provide opportunities to scale up innovative programmes and apply solutions in new areas.
Find sources of examples and lessons learnt from making gender equality part of mainstream development – for which there is extensive critical literature and practice – and see how this knowledge can be extended to disability.
Food security for all
The food security agenda post-2015 should be about equity, human rights, sustainable and inclusive development and sustainable and inclusive growth. Beneficiaries should be included in the design, implementation and monitoring of programmes, which make programmes more likely to succeed. Ask yourself, are disabled people involved in all stages of the project cycle in your organisation – project identification, project design, implementation and monitoring, and project evaluation?
Influencing the post-2015 agenda
Now that we are rapidly approaching the deadline for halving the number of hungry by 2015, there is an opportunity for disabled people to be fully included and to influence the post-2015 agenda. All of us have a role to play in deciding who has a place at the table in targeting food security.