One year on, SDGs provide reason for hope

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Last year, global leaders convened at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, to adopt the universal development agenda, well known as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs were adopted to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.

While the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which preceded the SDGs were generous and well-intentioned they focused solely on developing countries. Today, we are aware that development is a precondition to global transformation. At the same time, we are cognizant that developing nations are rich in natural resources, while developed nations have a high number of urban-poor citizens.

That’s why, the SDGs were adopted, as they take into consideration the development of the whole planet in a strategic and concerted way. Take for example the issue of hunger. While the MDGs aimed to halve hunger, they did not address the development of sustainable food systems. Today, SDGs offers a unique opportunity to eradicate hunger and poverty, concurrently.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), most people living in extreme poverty share the same profession, which is farming. Globally, farmers outnumber every other primary profession, yet they face an enormous challenge – that of growing enough food to feed their families, earn enough from the sale of this farm produce, to provide for alternative basic needs and save for the future.

Thus, if smallholder farmers have the tools and resources to make their farms more productive, they can grow themselves out of poverty step-by-step. If smallholder farmers can make their existing lands more productive, they will clear fewer forests for new agriculture, they could have massive environmental benefits in the form of reduced deforestation, soil depletion, and greenhouse gas emissions.

In this regard, SDGs see development through a much wider prism, that’s why, farmers represent the best opportunity to end poverty on a mass scale. For that reason, the SDGs offer many more entry points to tackle malnutrition and understand linkages between adequate food supply and health, consistent income, early childhood development, a country’s competiveness, and long-term growth.

It’s encouraging to see that the world is collectively tackling these challenges and that the implementation of the SDGs have gained vast traction amongst governments, civil societies and the private sector. This is also why more corporates, are embedding SDGs in their day-to-day operations. East African Breweries Limited (EABL), for instance closely works with barley and sorghum farmers in East Africa as the source of the brewer’s beer raw materials.

Through its robust Local Raw Material (LRM) agenda, the brewer is transforming the lives of small holder farmers across East Africa, by providing already market for sorghum and barley produce. To date, the initiative has provided sustainable revenue and food security to over 32,000 farmers living in Arid and Semi-Arid areas. Recently, EAML a subsidiary of EABL, recruited 12,000 farmers in Kitui, Tharaka Nithi and Embu to grow sorghum and millet in collaboration with Kenya Cereals Enhancement Programme (KCEP). Additionally, EABL’s engagement with small scale farmers is focused on two important aspects – jilishe, kisha uuze.

This engagement encourages the farmer to grow sorghum and millet to meet their household needs, and thereafter, sell the surplus to increase their income.

Such private-sector led initiatives are significantly contributing to the achievement of our SDGs, and much so, those that are geared to eliminating poverty, hunger, and promote economic contribution. Although, SDGs are complex, there are cross-cutting issues such as clean water and sanitation, gender, responsible consumption and production, climate change, decent work and economic growth as well as quality education that demands integrated approaches.

Take for example water and sanitation. The growing scarcity of fresh water is not just an issue for nations, but also for manufacturing companies. It is a global risk to the economic, social and environmental well-being of the communities where we all live and work. In 2015, EABL jointly worked with Frigoken Ltd, Nairobi City Water Company, Pentair Ltd and the Nature Conservancy, to launch the Upper Tana- Nairobi Water Fund, Africa’s first water fund that brings together public and private sector to support 50,000 farmers in Upper Tana conserve the environment while improving their farming practices.

The Water Fund’s progress is being tracked by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Kenya government. The programme benefits will even be more after integrating other investment being made by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and climate adaptation support from Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority (TARDA).

Therefore, trade-offs and synergies need to be managed so that economies can grow more sustainably without undermining future growth. Regardless of one’s field of expertise or work, the SDGs are a permanent, visible and tangible mapping of the many fronts and layers required for sustainable development.

Those 17 iconic images are already redrawing the contours of how individuals around the globe understand and approach development. The nature of the dialogue around development is changing. The notion that the SDGs are a UN construct, divorced from the day to day reality of decision-making. The SDGs were drafted and adopted by the totality of the world’s countries and we are now seeing country after country gearing up to align its policies, plans and budgets with these goals. For the first time in history, both developed and developing countries are tackling the same development agenda. Ultimately we are one species, on one planet.

(The writer is a communication’s practitioner based in Nairobi and Digital Studies Scholar)

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