The Sustainable Development Goals – a set of 17 globally agreed-upon targets for the year 2030 – are clearly listed and appear to be easy to subscribe to. However, development planning and the implementation of development projects are never straightforward.
Trade-offs between the 17 goals have to be considered. The pursuit of one goal may negatively affect the achievement of another. For instance, raising farmer incomes may lead to unaffordable food for the urban poor. How should development actors decide on priorities and how should they handle such trade-offs?
As the goals are so broad and multi-faceted, many development agencies focus on specific niches – such as wildlife conservation – that they feel passionate about or think they can contribute most to. Politicians need to prioritise available funds and often choose high visibility, prestige mega-projects such as highways, railway lines or airports.
Munene Njoka, a young farmer from central Kenya, is furious. The reason for his rage is a bundle of decaying maize stacked in a corner of his home.
The maize was attacked by stem borers, a pest that swarms cornfields. The stem borer invasion forced Njoka to remove the affected crop from his farm to prevent the pest from spreading to the rest of his crop.
It didn’t work.
The United Nations (UN) recently launched the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide. It is a response to evidence that our current abuse of nature has accelerated global warming and degraded natural resources to a degree that threatens the wellbeing of people.
The Decade will use overseas development aid to influence land use policies that align with its 10 point strategy. This will be channelled through instruments such as the Global Environment Facility’s drylands programme and the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund.
Kenya’s Tana River – the longest in the country – snakes through a river basin which encompasses a huge range of ecosystems, from lush forests along the upper reaches of the river on the slopes of Mount Kenya to dry rangelands and even coastal mangroves where the river meets the Indian Ocean.
This area in the south of the country is home to a vast array of plants and animals. Some species are found nowhere else in the world, like the endangered Tana River Red Colobus monkey. It also encompasses some world-renowned protected areas that are popular with tourists.