The central and transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to leave no one behind. This requires fervent commitment to eradicate poverty in all its forms, end discrimination and exclusion, and reduce inequalities.
Yet, some people who have an important role to play as change agents, are often excluded.
A deliberate effort to empower those being left behind will benefit society at large. Yakubu is an example of someone who was left behind but now feels included and empowered, thanks to a deliberate support.
“I was just sitting idle at the mercy of others but now I am happy to be busy for a good cause”, Yakubu Issakah, a person living with a mental health disability benefiting from a solar irrigation vegetable farming at Banda Ahenkro disclosed.
Like Yakubu, many people who often face exclusion only need a ‘little push’ or support to reach their full potential as humans. Reducing inequalities requires a conscious effort in identifying who is being left behind and why they are being left behind to inform effective measures to address the root causes. With a 24acre land from the chiefs, solar irrigation facilities from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the UNDP Global Environment Facility Small Grant Programme (GEF/SGP), and capacity development from Agriculture Extension Officers in the Banda District of the Bono Region of Ghana, Yakubu and about 250 persons with disabilities, are making a living with their environmentally friendly vegetable farming.
Like Yakubu, Rebecca was written off because of speech disability, but she is now playing an important role in safeguarding the environment for our future. She is strictly following lessons taught them in organic farming by using neem tree as a pesticide and compost, to grow fresh vegetables.
Addressing all forms of discrimination
Mostly, a major cause of people being left behind is persistent forms of discrimination including disability, gender, and age. Yakubu is a man with a disability who needed support. Just like him, by ensuring that the support provided is inclusive, Rebecca who is a woman also feels empowered to protect the environment while seeking to improve her livelihood. Similar to Rebecca’s experience, women like Hannah are driving change at the grassroots.
“Now, we can proudly say we have peace of mind. This is because we are now able to contribute financially to our families’ development”, noted Hannah Chiama, President of Ayorya Women Groundnut Farming Association.
Hannah leads a group of 300 amazing women in Ayorya, who needed access to land and finance to produce and add value to groundnut. With land from the chiefs and leadership from their Queen Mother – Nana Serwaa Kruwaa, they managed to access the UNDP GEF small grant to set up a groundnut factory. They now produce groundnut paste, oil, and vegetables for major markets in the Kintampo South District of the Bono East Region of Ghana.
Working across generations
To succeed in leaving no one behind, we must also work across generations and build bridges.
“What is unique about our aquaponic project approach is that we are strengthening social networks because we connect young people to older farmers for experience and knowledge sharing”, stated young Zuweira Yakubu, Project Coordinator at Link Ghana – a grantee of UNDP GEF Small Grant Programme in Tain in the Bono Region.
Like the other interventions, through the UNDP GEF Small Grant Programme, over 1200 farmers including young people are combining fish farming with vegetable and crop cultivation. All these initiatives are creating jobs and improving incomes, nutrition, and environmental sustainability.
“I never knew we can use water for fish farming and now I use the pond water to produce vegetables. I am also training my daughter who has graduated from the university in agriculture to take over, and also training six other young girls”, said Mr. Kofi Nyamekye.
The stories of Yakubu, Rebecca, Hannah, Zuweida, and Kofi are clear examples of how deliberate support can help empower people and transform lives and communities.
Partnership is key
It is obvious that, people must always be at the centre of development and development must be inclusive, equitable, and sustainable to the benefit of all. The success of our heroes and heroines in this story demonstrates that inclusive development is possible if a deliberate effort is made to collaborate and support those being left behind.
It is also important to ensure that, while we pursue development, this is not at the peril of the environment. Living in balance with nature means we make a conscious effort to work together in addressing various forces including systemic discrimination, technological advances, climate change impacts, and conflicts. This way, we can leverage the full potential of all, to advance the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Addressing inequality requires actions at all levels. Working together will be critical in upscaling successful development interventions to ensure that all segments of society including women, youth, and persons with disabilities lead decent, dignified, and rewarding lives in a healthy environment.