In September 2015, all 193 Member States of the United Nations adopted a plan for achieving a better future for all – a path is laid out for the next 15 years with the focus to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect our planet. At the heart of the so-called Agenda 2030 are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which provide a powerful aspiration for improving our world – clearly defining where we collectively need to go and how to get there. The United Nations recognizes ‘sustainable agriculture, food security and nutrition’1 as one of the most important sustainable development goals to be realized. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation recently released a report announcing an alarming number of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition. It is estimated that more than 800 million people of the 7.3 billion in the world (one in nine) are currently suffering from acute undernourishment, where almost 90% are residents of developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia2. Moreover, our soils, freshwater, oceans, forests and biodiversity are being rapidly deteriorated. Hence – more than ever – a profound shift in the global food and agriculture system is urgently needed. If done properly, agriculture and forestry can provide nutritious food for all and generate decent incomes while supporting peoplecentric rural development and protecting the environment3.
Investing in the agricultural sector can further address challenges including poverty, water and energy use, climate change, and sustainable production and consumption. The agricultural sector does indeed offer key solutions as the Haiti-based nonprofit organization (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihood (SOIL) demonstrates – a winner of the 2015 Humanitarian Water Air Food Awards. SOIL has been promoting dignity, health, and sustainable livelihoods through the transformation of wastes into resources since 20064. This is achieved through developing social business models around ecological sanitation (EcoSan), a process in which nutrients from human wastes return to the soil rather than polluting fresh water resources. Its model not only prevents further harm to the environment, it actively restores soil health through compost generation. EcoSan meets the dual challenge of providing sanitation for people without access to toilets while improving water quality and producing a constant supply of rich, organic compost agriculture and reforestation. Far-reaching revenues are generated along the entire sanitation value chain from toilet construction to waste collection to composting to agriculture, ensuring a truly lasting impact and support of life’s most crucial daily necessities.
Photo Credit: SOIL 2016
For more than a third of the world still lacks access to a toilet, and more than half has its waste dumped without treatment. SOIL strives to inspire a transition to a more ecological and equitable sanitation solution globally while working every day to increase national access to sanitation in Haiti. Considering that one third of the global population lives without access to basic sanitation facilities, SOIL’s initiative has the potential to vastly expand sanitation access in an affordable, sustainable way, while creating new jobs and livelihoods. This very initiative also underpins several of the other goals that the world has agreed on in September 2015: With its efforts – basic levels of sanitation are ensured (SDG No.6), healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages are fostered (SDG No. 3), action is taken to end poverty in all its forms (SDG No. 1) while combating climate change and its impacts (SDG No. 13).
1United Nations: The General Assembly (2015) Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. [ONLINE] Available at: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld [Accessed 19 April 2016].
2Food and agriculture organization of the United Nations (2014) The State of Food Insecurity in the World: Strengthening the enabling environment for food security and nutrition. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4030e.pdf [Accessed 19 April 2016].
3United Nations (2015) Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/hunger/ [Accessed 19 April 2016].
4Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) (n.d.) Our Mission. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.oursoil.org/who-we-are/about-soil/ [Accessed 19 April 2016].
This article was written by Camilla Warmedinger, WAFA Journalist