Time to move on from redefining the problems and concentrate on solutions already seeded on the ground.

Jay Owen SRI/ESG News, Earth Systems Science

############################################Time to move on from redefining the problems and concentrate on solutionsalready seeded on the ground.

Prof Roger LeakeyEditor’s NoteThis article describes one of many case studies and solutions to povertypresented recently in UNCTAD’s Trade and Environment Report [1] (see [2]Paradigm Shift Urgently Needed In Agriculture, SiS 60)Redefining problems without solutionsIn Global Development Goals – Leaving No-one Behind [3], the United NationsAssociation of the United Kingdom (UNA-UK) presents a collection of articlesby eminent people in important positions around the globe. Although thisreport identifies progress towards some Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),it recognizes that success has been uneven. The principle achievement of theMDGs has been “shaping the international discourse and driving theallocation of resources towards key global development goals … withunprecedented political commitment and a strong consensus for tacklingpoverty and other development problems.” The report itself, however, makesrather depressing reading as it seems we are not really making huge progressin our efforts to address the big issues facing the world, especially withregard to the gap between rich and poor. Instead of identifying solutions,this booklet redefines the problems and we go from eight MillenniumDevelopment Goals to twelve Post-2015 Development Goals. It seems we stillhaven’t learnt that hunger, malnutrition, poverty and many of the otherthings on our ‘to-do wish list” are part of a bigger and inter-relatedcomplex of issues. Why?Maybe the problem is the size and complexity of all the interacting factorsimpacting on the lives of people scattered across numerous sectors andstrata of society. The ‘development’ agenda is very multi-disciplinary andis partitioned between rural and urban situations. Furthermore, it requiressome detailed understanding of biophysical and socio-economic issues bestaddressed within holistic integrated rural development programmes.Unfortunately, we live in a world where problems and solutions are confinedto disconnected silos. How to proceed is also influenced by the verydifferent perspectives of people depending on whether they are looking fromindustrial or the least developed countries.The poverty trapMany of the problems arising from poverty in urban areas of least developedcountries arise from inward migration from the countryside; thus central tomaking progress across all the development targets is tackling the rootcauses of land degradation and rural poverty. The biggest issue in the ruraltropics is that actual crop yields are well below the yield potential ofmodern varieties (this difference is called the Yield Gap). The reasons arecomplex. First, there is the crippling decline of soil fertility and a lossof agroecological functions. This results in land degradation and the lossof biodiversity above- and below-ground. This is exacerbated by persistenthigh levels of poverty, which deny farmers access to modern technologies,such as fertilizers and other agricultural inputs (see p192 of [1] UNCTADTrade and Environment Review 2013 – Wake up Before it’s too Late).Consequently we have billions of marginalized people, many of them farminghouseholds, trapped in poverty and suffering from malnutrition, hunger andpoor health.  They also lack access to clean water, medical and other socialservices, and opportunities for education and employment – indeed all thethings highlighted by the Post-2015 Development Agenda.Reversing the downward spiral and closing the Yield GapRead the rest of this report herehttp://www.i-sis.org.uk/Post_2015_Development_Africans_Show_the_Way.phpor see other recent reports from ISIS here http://www.i-sis.org.uk/index.phpIf you find this report useful, please support ISIS by subscribing to ourmagazine Science in Society, and encourage your friends to do so.http://www.i-sis.org.uk/subscribeOr have a look at the ISIS bookstore for other publicationshttp://www.i-sis.org.uk/onlinestore/books.php========================================================This article can be found on the I-SIS website athttp://www.i-sis.org.uk/Post_2015_Development_Africans_Show_the_Way.phpAll new articles are also announced on our RSS feedhttp://www.i-sis.org.uk/feed.xmlISIS website is now archived by the British Library as part of UK nationaldocumentary heritageIf you like this original article from the Institute of Science in Society,and would like to continue receiving articles of this calibre, pleaseconsider making a donation or purchase on our websitehttp://www.i-sis.org.uk/ISISappeal.phpISIS is an independent, not-for-profitorganisation dedicated to providing critical public information on cuttingedge science, and to promoting social accountability and ecologicalsustainability in science.