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 ethical standards and respecting human and child rights.

History of the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research

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 an unprecedented prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) among children attending the centre.

At this time the full spectrum of the disorder Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) was not yet known as the other possible diagnoses which make up FASD were not yet described. Other anecdotal evidence from evaluation of children at institutions for the Intellectually Impaired showed very high frequencies of FAS. 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 the time, which prompted Professor Viljoen to travel to the USA to present his findings on the extent of the prevalence in the Western Cape. The aim of this trip was to seek funding 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 globally. The US health authorities agreed to support the research efforts of Professor Viljoen and his team, and this led to the formation of FARR in January 1997, with funding provided from the USA and ARA (Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use, now called Aware.org). Since then, FARR has become the leading NGO in South Africa in the fight against Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Professor Viljoen is considered to be the “Father of FASD in South Africa” – and his passion and dedication to reduce FASD has been an inspiration to thousands across the country.


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 2012 Dr Candice Chetty-Chan received her PhD in Psychology focusing on FASD in relation to maternal depression.
  • 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 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.
  • In January 1999, Dr Nathaniel Khaole became FARR’s first fellow to study Medical Genetics and Birth Defects as they relate to FASD.

FARR World First and Other Achievements:

  • 2023 – FARR CEO Dr Leana Olivier was invited to be a keynote speaker at the FASD Conference in Antananarivo, Madagascar in April 2023. During this conference the Africa. FASD Network was established, and Dr Olivier was selected as the Chairperson.
  • 2018 – FARR CEO Leana Olivier obtained her PhD from Maastricht University, Netherlands
  • 2017 – FARR CEO Dr Leana Olivier invited to serve on the International Expert Advisory Committee for the Bi-Annual FASD Canadian Conference
  • 2013 – FARR is awarded a Platinum Innovation Award by Ipumelelo
  • 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
  • 2012 – FARR receives the Organisation of the year Award in the Northern Cape Province from Die Volksblad and Kumba Iron Ore
  • 2011 – FARR receives the Organisation of the Year Award in the Northern Cape Province
  • 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)
  • 2009/2010  – Dr Leana Olivier, winner of the SA Council for Business Women (Non-Profit Business Category), Business Woman of the year award.
  • 2009/2010 – Dr Leana Olivier, National Finalist in the SA Business Women of the year awards.
  • 2008 – FARR awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from People to People:  Social Work Delegation to South-Africa.
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 1997 – FARR founded as the first NGO in South Africa to focus on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) research and prevention

2023 Annual Newsletter
2022 Annual Newsletter
2021 Annual Newsletter
2020 Annual Newsletter
2019 Annual Newsletter
21 Years and still going strong Newsletter
Dedicated for 20 years and still going strong Newsletter

NPO Registration and other related legal documentation

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
B-BBEE Level One Qualifying Small Enterprise (Specialised Entity) – Registration number: 1997/000190/08

FARR B-BBEE Affidavit
FASD Pamphlet
FARR Pamphlet