About Us

Our Vision

FARR is dedicated to building positive futures in South African communities by significantly reducing birth defects caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The focus of our major activities is on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).

Our Mission

FARR will achieve our vision and become the household name in our field by implementing, impactful direct community interventions, driving social awareness programmes, conducting world-class research and by offering a full range of diagnosis, management, support, training, educational and mentorship services whilst maintaining our high ethics and respecting human and child rights.


During 1995 a small team of South African medical personnel was invited to investigate possible clinical causes for an alarming rate of learning disabilities among pre-school children attending the Trudi Thomas Children’s Centre on the outskirts of Cape Town. Led by Professor Denis Viljoen (who at the time was Deputy Head of the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Cape Town Medical School) the team discovered evidence of unprecedented levels of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) among children attending the centre.

Other anecdotal evidence from evaluation of children at institutions for the Intellectually Impaired showed very high frequencies of FAS and as we discovered later, FASD. Similarly, children referred to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital genetics clinic frequently had a diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

The United States was at the forefront of FAS research at this time, and the extent of the problem that Professor Viljoen found prompted him to travel to the United States to present his findings. The aim of this trip was to seek funding to help him to further his investigations in the Western Cape. His presentations to various health care agencies in the United States confirmed that South Africa was potentially faced with the highest reported prevalence of FAS in the world.

This situation prompted US health authorities to support the research efforts of Professor Viljoen and his team, and led to the formation of FARR in January 1997, with funding provided from the USA and ARA. Since then, FARR has become the leading NGO in South Africa in the fight against FAS. Professor Viljoen is considered to be the “Father of FAS in South Africa” – his passion and dedication to reduce FAS has been an inspiration to thousands of people across the country.

FARR World First and Other Achievements

  • 1997 – FARR founded as the first NGO in South Africa to focus on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) research and prevention
  • 1998 – FARR publishes the first Prevalence Rates of FAS in South Africa
  • 1998 – FARR proves that Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) can be diagnosed in infancy
  • 2002-2008 – FARR assists Medical Engineers at the University of Cape Town with the development of videometric, three-dimensional camera techniques to assess children with FAS
  • 2003 – FARR reported the highest FAS Community Prevalence Rate in the world (De Aar 122/1000)
  • 2003 – FARR was the first organisation to demonstrate a Genetic Protection factor (a Polymorphism of the ADH 2 gene) against FASD
  • 2010 – FARR demonstrates a 30% reduction in a FASD Prevalence Rate in a community (De Aar)
  • 2010 – FARR receives a Silver Award for the Premier Service Excellence Awards 2010 in the Northern Cape
  • 2010 – FARR receives the Community Builder of the Year Award in the Northern Cape Province
  • 2010 – WHO invites FARR to serve on the WHO FASD task team (only representative of a developing country)
  • 2011 – FARR receives the Organisation of the Year Award in the Northern Cape Province
  • 2012 – Prof Denis Viljoen receives the prestigious Henry Roset Award in San Francisco, USA for his outstanding contribution to FASD research and intervention work. He is the first Non-American recipient.
  • 2012 – Prof Denis Viljoen and Leana Olivier participate in the opening ceremony of the FASD Centre in San Diego, USA
  • 2013 – FARR is awarded a Platinum Innovation Award by Ipumelelo

The FARR Team

FARR operations are managed by Leana Olivier, the CEO, with support from Professor Denis Viljoen, Chairperson and the rest of the Board of Directors. Other aspects of FARR’s work are carried out on a project or contract basis through an extensive network of highly qualified and experienced professional associates, contract workers and advisors. Post-graduate students, working on specific assignments or studies, often form part of the FARR team for shorter periods of time.

Appropriate resources are drawn from a number of world leading local and international scientific, medical and academic institutions, as well as national, provincial and local government departments, the private sector and other NGOs.

FARR NGO Registration and other Credentials

The Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) was established as a section 21 Non-governmental, not for profit organisation in 1997.

Registration Number: 1997/0190/08
VAT Registration Number: 4610166615
HWSeta Accreditation: HW591PA1011091 (Provisional Accreditation)
BBE Certification: BRS E004022 (Level 4 status)

FARR Awards

The FARR Benefit and Scholarship Programme:
Through the Foundation’s fellowship and scholarship programme, FARR has enabled three leading medical professionals in South Africa to attain unique qualifications in the field of medicine.

  • In January 1999, Dr Nathaniel Khaole became FARR’s first fellow to study Medical Genetics and Birth Defects as they relate to FASD.
  • In October 2002, Dr Louisa Bhengu became the first black South African woman to qualify as a specialist in Medical Genetics with specialised training in the diagnosis and management of FASD.
  • Dr Andre van der Westhuizen has followed in Dr Bhengus footsteps and qualified in the speciality of Medical Genetics in 2006. He was awarded the Bill Winship prize for passing the Fellowship Examination with distinction.
  • In 2012 Dr Candice Chetty-Chan received her PhD in Psychology focusing on FASD in relation to maternal depression.

Our Team

Learn more about our Team


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Important Documents

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View our BEE certificate