The Sustainable Development Goals: How Development Actors Could Put People in the Driver’s Seat

The Sustainable Development Goals: How Development Actors Could Put People in the Driver’s Seat

There is just a decade left for countries of the world to attain sustainable development goals. These are 17 in all, yet they capture most of the problems bedevilling the world. So much still needs to be done to fast track a development infrastructure that leaves no one behind. Every day, the statistics are frighteningly staggering. 615 million people are suffering from water stress with 2 million others displaced across the globe by extreme weather. 1 million important plants and animal species are being lost in seconds. In 2019 alone, 80 million people were forcibly displaced by war while almost 1 billion of the world’s population is starving. The stats keep rolling and urgent steps need to be taken to tackle these problems globally.

However, in doing this, the people for which the development solutions are meant    should not be left behind. People driven development interventions should be the focus of development workers. Otherwise, a development effort could go awry. Here is a story of development interventions that went south.

An Awful Development Intervention Story

There was a community where development intervention was undertaken by a development agency. According to their survey, access to water supply was considered as the major need of the community. This was due to their observation that the community children usually trek miles to get water.

In a bid to alleviate this perceived challenge of the community, the agency erected a borehole for the community and expected it to solve the challenge of travelling a long distance to get water. However, to their surprise, the community members detested the borehole, refused to fetch water from it and the children continued to trek miles to get their water.

The development agency was apparently surprised by this reaction. This was not acceptable to the agency so they decided to enquire about the issue. Below was what they found out.

Majority of the houses in the community are a single room apartment. Consequently, the father, mother and children sleep in the same room. This sleeping arrangement somehow impedes the father and mother from having sex in the night. In a bid to satisfy their sexual desires, children are usually sent on the long journey of getting water early in the morning. This period allows their parents to have sex and helps the community children to socialise better. Hence, the adults in the community considered the borehole project as a threat to their sexual need because the children will return early from getting water from the borehole and might discover the age long secret.

In order to prevent this, the community head openly placed a curse on the borehole thereby prohibiting people from fetching water from it.

There are lessons to be learnt from this funny but real story. One, so much resources were wasted constructing what the development interventionists felt the community needed. There was a mismatch between an observed need and the real need of the community. Perhaps, the community was not carried along in the process of looking for the problems, planning the solutions to the problem and in the implementation of the solution.

One of the key hurdles to the attainment of the SDGs in Nigeria is lack of awareness and information about the goals. When people are not aware, no one should expect them to key into the achievement of the goals. A study conducted in a city in the Southwest in 2019 indicated that low awareness of the global goals. How would the goals be achieved when no one knows about them?

It is also apparent that there is no concerted and coordinated efforts to ensure the global goals are achieved as the target year counts down. In Nigeria, the governments both at the national and sub national levels have different scattered plans to achieve the global goals. The highest political mechanism put in place to attain the global goals across the nation is the appointment of special assistants or special advisers in charge of the SDGs. There is a need for a coordinated national, sub national and local government strategies to drive the global goals to attainment.

Finally, educational institutions are the best channels through which the opportunities inherent in the attainment of the goals could be passed across the length and breadth of Nigeria. Courses on SDGs should be factored into the curriculum of the educational systems from primary, post primary to tertiary institutions. This would ensure the percolation of the ideals, ideas and opportunities inherent in the SDGs.

In all of these, the people must be carried along. They must be in the driver’s seat of their own development. Community ownership of development issues and collective efforts towards addressing these gaps are the solutions to a development plan that leaves no one behind.

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