guest column Peter Makwanya
The United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Sustainable Development Goals for Development, are critical in their attempt to change the lifestyles of the people.
The SDGs need everyone’s participation and active involvement as well as understanding what they mean in order to succeed. The fundamental issue with regard to SDGs is that, according to their mantra, they are inclusive, hence no one should be left behind.
The SDGs are a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030. They are a universal call for all nations to end poverty, protect the environment and contribute to peace and stability.
While the SDGs appear comprehensive and exhaustive, a closer analysis reveals that they are highly integrative and complementary, hence they sufficiently influence each other and should not be treated in isolation.
While it is also not easy to integrate them sustainably, people can always try, provided the resources, the right atmosphere and political will are prevailing.
Among the SDGs that require urgent attention are goals 1, 2, 3, 4 and 13. SDG2 — No hunger, is strongly aligned to promoting food security and sustainable agriculture.
The success of SDG1 — No poverty’s success depends on the sustainable implementation of SDG2. This is because in order to escape the jaws of poverty or rather manage it, there must be enough food. Above all, in order to have a sound understanding of all the SDGs and what they stand for, quality education is paramount, which is SDG4.
There are also problems where people always situate quality education in the classroom. Quality education is not only championed in a formal setting, even informal settings are also critical and complementary in nature.
Informal education is qualitative enough in that it contributes to life-long learning and life skills, necessary for everyday transactions and livelihoods enhancement.
In this regard, when issues of quality education are talked about, the people’s world views are characterised by formal routines, including settings like learning centres, computers, furniture and other related facilities.
There is no substitute for knowledge because knowledge is power and it empowers sufficiently. As such, for farmers to contribute to sustainable agricultural production, health and nutrition of their countries and climate action (SDG13) strategies for resilience, knowledge from sustainable education is key.
Farmers need to demonstrate sufficient knowledge in order to work around the SDGs in question, in order to improve their environment. In this regard, sustainable agriculture and quality education play fundamental roles in addressing climate change impacts.
Therefore, it is the duty of farmers to demonstrate best management practices, through quality education, on their small-scale or large-scale farms. Quality education is a process and a journey too, but not a destination.
Knowledge of organic farming and smart farming practices are some of the best management practices which can be used to contribute to sustainable development goals.
But literature around the sustainable development goals is not readily available for the grassroots, who are supposed to actively participate in the implementation of the SDGs.
Farmers also need to know the farming strategies which help to maintain carbon stocks under the ground, moisture retention methods and crop cover.
Having equipment and materials that help to conserve water is every farmer’s dream. Knowledge of crops that help to restore nitrogen is also critical, so are activities that help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the farms, especially methane from ruminating cattle, is encouraged.
All these factors and others require sustainable education to change human behaviours and agricultural practices that destroy soil fertility. People can use quality education, not literacy education, but sustainable quality education to eradicate hunger, reduce poverty and apply this knowledge for sustainable healthier living (SDG3).
Most of the SDGs were crafted with Africa in mind. Of course, we cannot ask why it’s Africa because we are already the reason behind this. This is not an attempt to belittle our great continent that has hatched great minds and Pan-Africanists, but if the truth cannot be told then hunger and poverty will not set us free, despite having all the natural resources we need.
Despite having abundant natural resources, including good soils and climate, Africa still can’t feed its people and most people still can’t feed themselves. I am not quite sure if this is a curse, but it emanated from the kind of education that most African countries received.
This type of education was not qualitative enough, it was aimed at destroying the African mind so that the mind would not think innovatively and in versatile ways to improve their own livelihoods. It is still in Africa that we are failing to make use of the precious God-given resource which is land.
Yes, we can talk of recurring droughts, climate change-induced disasters, but we are not making sufficient footprints in implementing the sustainable development goals.
Africa will, indeed, fail to implement the SDGs even by 2030 until other high-sounding buzz words and frameworks have been introduced again because we cannot break away from the type of education and mind-set that was inculcated in us and sadly we graciously accepted it.
Most of my kith and kin would rather accept to survive on handouts from non-governmental organisations and government’s benevolence without working to produce their own food.
Most Africans have assumed knowledge of climate change and they have also heard about SDGs, but they don’t know what they are, and no one cares about providing quality education about these SDGs.
So what this means is that, poor Africans lack climate change literacy as well as SDGs literacy, but these are talked about in the print media for a specific audiences with the exclusion of many potential implementers.
Climate change literacy and SDGs literacy elude the majority of people in Africa because governments are not willing to engage, but to lecture.
This is not a good way to enhance climate literacy for sustainable development, so that people have knowledge of mitigation, adaptation and smart farming contributing to resilience.
Africa is also its own victim of poor governance, toxic politics, human rights abuses, corruption and nepotism. All these vices don’t work in the presence of quality education.
While other regions are moving forward, according to the SDGs mantra of not leaving no one behind, in Africa, there are still medieval challenges of lack of clean water and sanitation (SDG6), meaning that the people’s health is always compromised.
Many African countries have challenges of infrastructural development, bad roads, sub-standard bridges and housing. We cannot talk of economic growth, industry and innovation when in many African countries the businesses they know are bottles and beerhalls.
As such, SDGs 8 and 9 have suffered still-birth. Lack of quality education has also contributed to the stifling of SDGS 5 and 10, gender equality and reduced equalities are glaring.
Gender blindness need quality education to unmask, while most African countries have only two classes, the rich and the extreme poor, and no middle class. The other problem African countries have is SDG 12, responsible consumption.
Countries consume much more than they produce. Africa is debt and leaders are careless and reckless in their spending to such an extent that no money is left for sustainable agricultural production.