Transforming SDGs into realities

Blog.Feb
Development Landscape of Vietnam- Photo Credit:Anna-Selina Kager

Global leaders, think tanks and development practitioners are working tirelessly to agree “a truly transformative agenda” in a new set of development goals that will improve the lives of all people. These new global targets will replace the millennium development goals (MDGs), which reach their deadline at the end of this year. But, how are we moving in achieving a grossly agreed [consensus based] development agendas?  Will the new sustainable development goals [SDGs] have the strategic focus and necessary strengths, which could benefit almost 1 billion people, still living in abject poverty; would the hundreds of thousands of women, dying each year during pregnancy and childbirth be able to overcome this? Could it be able to provide clean cooking and lighting to 3 billion people, who have been still relying on traditional biomass for cooking and heating and 1.2 billion have no access to clean lighting? Similar questions also go for the global health, sanitation, education and human rights. Indeed, a draft set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), with 169 targets have been developed. The proposed goals cover the broad themes of the MDGs – ending poverty and hunger, and improving health, education and gender equality – but also include specific goals to reduce inequality, make cities safe, address climate change and promote peaceful societies. It is hoped that the goals will encourage a more holistic approach to development at national and international level, and offer a chance for more partnerships and collaboration. However, unfortunately, we have not yet seen a universal buy-in of the SDGs by national governments as well as international donor’s communities. There is a general perception that the goals are too many and ‘having too many targets means no targets’. Hence, there is an urgent need to develop a consensus on the targets and goals. Crucially, the next set of goals should be universal, which means all countries would be required to consider them when crafting their national policies.  Indeed, this will be a major challenge. We will also need endorsement of bilateral donors, philanthropists and private sectors on the proposed SDGs and perhaps, private sectors will also be interested to see a focus on market externalities, resources and/or capital. We must not forget that the real test of UNs, global leaders, think tanks, donors and governments’ commitment isn’t the loftiness of the goals; but, it is what they are prepared to do to reach them!

Keshav C Das Senior Advisor SNV Netherlands Development Organisation Kathmandu, February 03, 2015

ENERGY SMART FOOD – LINKING FOOD AND CLEAN ENERGY

If energy prices continue to rise, the global food sector will face increased risks and lower profits. The efforts from low-GDP countries to emulate high-GDP countries in achieving increases in productivity and efficiencies in both small and large-scale food systems may be constrained by high energy costs. Lowering the energy inputs in essential areas, such as farm mechanization, transport, heat, electricity and fertilizer production, can help the food sector mitigate the risks from its reliance on fossil fuels. Hence, a major focus of food processing industries should be to reduce energy demand and/or promoting efficient energy management as well as introducing renewable energy technologies (RETs) to reduce the food sector’s dependence on fossil fuels. Indeed, introduction of RETs should happen from field to factory (processing) and up to the retail-outlet.  Energy.Smart

The encouraging development is that there is increasing consensus on the necessity on energy smart food and very recently in a study on energy-smart food, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) stresses that agriculture’s dependence on fossil fuels is undermining efforts to build a more sustainable world economy. The paper, which is titled “Energy-Smart Food at FAO: An Overview[1],” notes that world food production consumes 30% of all available energy, most of which occurs after the food leaves the farm. The paper calls for: increasing the efficiency of direct and indirect energy use in agri-food systems; using more renewable energy as a substitute for fossil fuels; and improving access to energy services for poor households. It outlines numerous approaches to adapt practices to become less energy intensive.

However, to promote the campaign on energy smart food, we need affordable technologies at farm-level and food processing level. Unfortunately, most of the ‘energy efficient’ technologies in the agriculture sector of developing countries are expensive and not within the reach of poor farmers. Similarly, financing is also pivotal. Most farmers do not have upfront investment for introducing energy efficient devices in to their farm operations. Can we think of introducing a concessional loan systems into the farm system to meet this requirement as well as provide a really doable and practical contract farming model to the farmers, where, farmers will receive advance market commitments from global retailers and big MNCs in food market chain, and therefore, farmers will be in a comfortable situation to produce more and trade more? Indeed, agriculture insurance is also a key and obligatory intervention in the current context; particularly to reduce the risk of damage and loss due to climate change related adverse effects.

We also need enabling policies: strong and long-term supporting policies and innovative multi-stakeholder institutional arrangements are required if the food sector is to become energy-smart for both households and large corporations. Financial policies to support the deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy will also be necessary to facilitate the development of energy-smart food systems. Examples exist of cost-effective policy instruments and inclusive business schemes that have successfully supported the development of the food sector. These exemplary policy instruments will need to be significantly scaled up if a cross-sectoral landscape approach is to be achieved at the international level.

Indeed, development organisations like SNV Netherlands Development Organisation has a major role to play in this domain so that the agriculture sector of developing countries are ready for the deployment of appropriate technologies; introduction, sharing and adaptation of energy-smart technologies; and carrying out capacity building, support services, and education and training on energy smart food production supply chain. Nevertheless, addressing the energy-water-food-climate nexus is a crucial and complex challenge. It demands significant and sustained efforts at all levels of governance: local, national and international.

 

Keshav C Das

Senior Advisor, Renewable Energy and Climate Finance

SNV Netherlands Development Organisation

 

[1] http://www.fao.org/docrep/014/i2454e/i2454e00.pdf