- Knowledge base
- Policy question
One in five people living in extreme poverty has a disability, creating a double burden in terms of access to health care, education and employment (DFID, 2014; Edge, 2013). Similarly, due to population ageing, elderly constitute an increasingly large group of vulnerable people. Older people are more likely than younger people to have a disability and the barriers they face, mainly in terms of physical access, are similar. The new Sustainable Development Goals are expected to foresee zero extreme poverty in 2030, but this can only be achieved by the systematic inclusion of these two (sometimes) related vulnerable groups.
Studies by the ILO, FAO, and other organisations found that the exclusion of people with disabilities from employment is costly and has a negative impact on GDP (Banks et al, 2012; FAO, 2002; Yeo et al, 2003). This is especially true for low-income countries where the livelihoods of many depend on agricultural water management for food security. In the Dutch policy on trade and international development, both inclusion of the extremely poor and water resources management have high priority. Therefore, the potential offered by inclusive agricultural water management needs attention.
Till date, there is scarce evidence of programmes that have explicitly aimed at enabling the participation of people with disabilities and the elderly in agricultural water management. Where such efforts have occurred, they were mostly small-scale disability-specific projects. An explanation for this might be that older people and people with disabilities are often regarded unable to contribute in physical work. However, Bruijn et al (2012) found that: 80% of persons with disabilities can participate in social life without any specific additional intervention or with low-cost and simple community-based interventions that do not require any specific rehabilitation expertise.
The costs of inclusion are thus often minor, especially compared to the financial, economic and social gains for the individual, the family, and society. The same argument extends to the inclusion of elderly: as populations age and in some countries farming increasingly relies on older farmers, the need for people to remain engaged at older age seems evident. Ageing, increasingly chronic health conditions and (often subsequent) disability will place a greater (financial) responsibility on society and as such new and innovative ways need to be found to address the growing needs and demands of elderly and people with disabilities.
We can identify three main strategies aiming at inclusion of people with disabilities in (agricultural) water management: (1) mainstreaming disability with a strong focus on enabling environments, (2) attending to the needs for special services and/or appliances, and (3) prevention of disabling diseases. Exploring the actual opportunities and obstacles for effective inclusion in agricultural water management is a way to bring laws and conventions, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability, into real action and beyond this, it is essential in eradicating extreme poverty.
To enable full participation of these vulnerable groups, action is required during subsequent phases of the project cycle, aimed at:
The results may include substantially enhanced physical and psychological well being; increased productivity; labour and income generating opportunities; financial gains for individuals and their families; and overall economic benefit for society. Ultimately these actions will lead to acceptance, appreciation of the elderly and people with disabilities, and a more inclusive and accommodating society.
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