EFFECTIVE use and management of land is vital amid the rapidly growing population, scholars said yesterday.
The scholars were speaking at a one-day conference dubbed, “Local Solutions to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs), in Kigali on Wednesday.
The symposium, organised by the Great Lakes Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN GL) and the University of Rwanda’s College of Business and Economics, explored mechanisms to attain SDGs through domestication and dealing with them in a local context.
The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which consist of 17 goals designed to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, as well as tackle climate change by 2030, was adopted by world leaders in September 2015.
The scholars also noted that construction of buildings is being done in a way that encroaches on land designed for farming, posing a threat on achieving food security and zero hunger by 2030.
Achieving zero hunger and eradicating poverty remain a big challenge for the African continent, calling for bold steps and concrete government actions.
According to Ignace Kabano, the head of training at African Centre of Excellence in Data Science, proper land use requires countries like Rwanda to allocate land for housing projects, and for farming activities to benefit the economy and livelihoods of citizens.
“Rwanda is a small country in terms of size. But it has two good strategies that should be reinforced, such as land use consolidation, as well as grouped settlement policy,” he said.
“If the two strategies are coupled with enabling people to access basic infrastructure such as water, electricity and agriculture, it will help a lot because people will live in a good environment as they will be guaranteed daily basic necessities and get land to cultivate in the long-term,” he said.
The Executive Director of UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), Guido Schmidt-Traub, said sound education policies that equip people, especially the youth with advanced skills, present economic advantages and are key to obtaining decent jobs in various socio-economic sectors which is one of the SDGs targets.
Irrigation, drought resistant crops
In line with proper land use, Guido said researchers in Africa should develop crop varieties that withstand effects of climate change, especially drought.
This move, he said, should go hand-in-hand with developing irrigation infrastructure to make farming resilient to climate change shocks.
“Climate change is already the problem of the present, adversely affecting agricultural productivity, hampering efforts to reduce poverty, and is likely to happen in the future too,” he said, adding that countries should also avail quality seeds and fertilisers to farmers to register improved yields.
The Director-General for Science, Technology and Research at the Ministry of Education, Dr Marie-Christine Gasingirwa, said higher institutions of learning should be actively engaged in identifying problems affecting communities and, through research, finding evidence-based solutions to address them.
“The university network’s role should be to research and identify common challenges and help find innovative solutions in a timely manner so as to speed up the implementation of SDGs,” she said, observing that such a development will enable evidence-based policy formulation and implementation strategy.
Akinwumi Adesina, the president of the Africa Development Bank, said 58 million African kids are malnourished and stunted, and that malnutrition and stunting alone cost Africa $25 billion a year.
The World Food Programme says up to 800 million people are affected by hunger.