How disability and the climate crisis converge


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How disability and the climate crisis converge

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

By now, we know all too well that the impacts of the climate crisis extend far beyond the environment – affecting income, food, health and peace. We also know that those who are already vulnerable are the ones who are most affected by climate change. Among them are persons with disabilities, especially those living in rural communities

An estimated one billion people worldwide live with a disability, 8 in 10 of whom are in developing countries.

A vicious cycle and how to break it

Despite being disproportionately affected by the climate crisis, persons with disabilities are often left out of conversations on how to respond to the challenges posed by the changing weather. This lack of representation exacerbates existing barriers to accessing food and participating in food production, creating a vicious cycle in which persons with disabilities risk falling further into poverty and hunger.

With 18 million persons with disabilities expected to be displaced by climatic events by 2050, we must urgently include them in climate action—both as participants and decision makers.

Everyone benefits

Inclusion can help to improve our understanding of how marginalization creates vulnerability, and it also helps develop climate-resilient and food-secure pathways. After all, persons with disabilities know a lot about being resilient and everyday problem solving in the face of uncertainties. Their experiences can help the world rethink sustainable development.

When given adequate support and resources, persons with disabilities can better contribute to society and the economy, while investing in farmers with disabilities helps increase the climate resilience and food security of their households.

What IFAD is doing to support persons with disabilities

At IFAD, we champion the rights of persons with disabilities and raise awareness of the challenges they face. IFAD’s Disability Inclusion Strategy lays out our commitment to design projects and programmes that proactively include poor and vulnerable populations with disabilities.

For example, in Kenya, a lack of rainfall means farmers must collect water for their crops at night, when the river level is higher. Leonard Murani’s physical impairment prevented him from doing so.

Now, thanks to the IFAD-funded Upper Tana Catchment Natural Resources Management Project, irrigation systems pump water from the river to Leonard’s farm, helping him grow nutritious and sustainable food, fulfil the farm’s economic potential and face water scarcity in the future.

“[With IFAD’s support] I have seen a lot of change,” explains Leonard. “We grow these nutritious foods which help our bodies and the rest we sell.”

“My message to all the people with disability in the world is to have hope. Even if you feel that you cannot do that, try and do it, and you will achieve it.”

Leveraging the skills and abilities of all members of rural communities is key to building equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient to climate change and food insecurity.