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The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ICTs in agriculture : Introduction

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This introductory piece is part of a broader series of blogs that will look at the application of ICTs to the SDGs. The first blog introduces the SDGs and their conceptual framework and their integration to the agricultural domain - using the FAO mainstreaming of SDGs as an example. In the successive blogs, the role of ICTs within each of the SDGs (only those that apply to agriculture) will be highlighted focusing on each of the identified SDG goals and their targets. The purpose of this series is to explore how ICTs are used (and can be used) in enabling stakeholders in achieving these goals. . 


Towards a better world: the SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are broader overarching development goals promulgated and adopted by the Head of State and Governments in September 2015 as global goals. The SDGs are officially known as transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (The Future We Want) and are a set of 17 "Global Goals" with 169 targets between them.

These 17 goals are an attempt by the world leaders to end poverty, reduce inequalities and tackle climate change, amongst the many challenges the world is facing and to make the world a better place to live.

As a follow up to the SDGs, the United Nations Statistical Commission’s Interagency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) agreed on 230 indicators to monitor the SDG’s 17 goals and the 69 targets.

The implementation of this global ambitious project did not come without teething challenges – for example getting the multi-stakeholder partnerships up and running is a mamoth task, redirecting focus from security issues to Sustainable Development is another challenge.

The following were identified as some of the environmental issues inhibiting the achievement of the SDGs - demographics in Africa; migration; slower and unequal economic growth and a vulnerable middle class.

The Sustainable Development Goals

Click the image below to learn more about each respective goal. The data below comes from the SDG Knowledge Platform which was designed to provide a specific information on each goal, its targets and resultant indicators. 

Source: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs,2017

The SDGs, Food and Agriculture

Many governments and international institutions have realigned their goals or mainstreamed the SDGs with their respective mandates. This is the first step of ensuring that these institutions are in a position to contribute towards the achievement of these goals.

The SDGs and agriculture is fairly an unexplored topic, but when covered a number of institutions have mapped the respective goals to different agriculture. In this blog, l use the The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as an example of an institution that has mainstreamed the SDGs to its work (atleast l am familiar with).

FAO is ready to support countries and work alongside partners in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals within the agricultural domain.

In this regard, FAO is proposed as ‘custodian’ UN agency for 21 indicators, for SDGs 2,5,6,12,14 and 15 and as a contributing agency for four more. The responsibility of FAO is stated on the dedicated website:-

  • Collecting data from national sources, validating and harmonizing them, estimating regional and global aggregates and making them available for international reporting.
  • Contributing to annual SDG progress reports, feeding into the High-Level Political Forum’s follow-up and review processes. Flagship publications are set to broaden their scope to include both a storyline and statistical annexes on relevant SDG indicators under FAO custodianship.
  • Establishing partnerships with other international agencies to monitor the increased number of indicators, crucial to achieving interrelated goals. – (FAO, 2017)

FAO supports its member countries to achieve the SDGs through the alignment of its Strategic Objective results framework (SO) and programmes to the SDG framework, and through statistical methods and capacity development to support the establishment and monitoring of national indicators related to food security and sustainable agriculture. 

To this end, FAO analysed the full set of 169 targets and 230 indicators for the 17 SDGs to ensure that the set of SDG targets and indicators eventually incorporated in the SO results framework were those where FAO could provide support to countries through the SO programmes. 

The FAO StrategicObjectives

Source: FAO,2017

FAO has mapped the SDGs to its Strategic framework -the specific objectives are:

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and the SDGs

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) play a vital role in many sectors including agriculture. There is a debate on whether ICTs are enablers of sustainable development, one camp is for while the other vigorously highlight the ICTs negatives. However, ICTs have changed the business is done as their contribution to development is well documented.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) acknowledges that the spread of ICTs and the global connectivity has a great potential to accelerate human  development. The works of ICTs have acknowledged that ICTs are already empowering billions of individuals around the world in many ways through facilitating access to education, health care (e-health), mobile banking, e-government and social media. A literature search reveals great works in ICTs and development. These works include:-

Nevertheless, there is not yet any specific works that focuses on ICTs and agriculture besides the linking WSIS Action Lines with SDGs with the e-Agriculture action line. The successive blogs will delve 'a-piece-a-piece' into the respective SDGs goals identified for agriculture.