Opinion & Columnist

Situate SDGs around youths for smart solutions

guest column:Peter Makwanya

The sustainable future that we all want cannot be realised if youths are left out from the planning process or when their concerns are not factored into the country’s vision.
Strategically situating the youths in the national discourse is paramount since they are there to oversee the full cycle of events because of their age. Therefore, responsible authorities need to nurture innovation and provide spaces for practical learning solutions to the young people if the country is to beat challenges and sustainable development targets.

According to The Brutland Report, sustainable development should meet the needs of the present without compromising the future generations to meet their own needs. In this regard, the youths have critical needs which can be converted into life-skills for livelihood development hence they need not be compromised. It is also significant to situate the youths within the framework of the new knowledge economy so that they can familiarise themselves with simple rural innovations using technology.

As a result of being techno-savvy and ready to communicate risks, the youths can be placed at the heart of sustainable development, transform lives and landscapes as well as enhance environmental security.

The prevailing situation on the ground and developmental paradigms should be able to translate to the youths’ aspirations and desires for a better nation. The youths, through sustainable mentorship, require creative spaces for divergent and versatile thinking around the sustainable development goals and climate action strategies in order to realise climate solutions and resilience.


In order to develop the country’s workforce for the future, it is important to empower the youth and place them on the forefront, rather than placing emphasis on the old and tired minds. Without taking anything from the old people, they should use their maturity and experiences to nurture the youths so that they build their confidence and realise their potential.

Educating the youths on sustainable development issues is paramount, although not all education is sustainable though, but it should be qualitative enough to achieve goals, create milestones and produce goods and services necessary to move the country forward. Youth oriented quality education and designs should solve livelihood problems according to their needs, situations and world-views. There are four pillars necessary to cultivate their standpoints, give them direction, vision, purpose and relevance. In this regard, the youths should be empowered to change lives and situations around them into marketable solutions.

As the youths focus in what is good for them and their designs, elders should only give guidance, material and financial resources without trying to behave as youths themselves. In this view, the definition of what the youth is not only known, but it is in the public domain too. Youths are within the age range of 5 to 35 years, not 45 or 50 years. These age groups are not only necessary to strategically situate and classify the youths, but they are also important in giving them meaning, relevance and vision. In this regard, they can be sufficiently oriented to participate at the heart of sustainable development, including ecological skills, necessary for the youths to explore their creative environmental spaces in order to identify and close institutional and procedural gaps, proactively. The youths also have a future they can imagine for themselves which becomes central and youth-focused to enhance participatory networking and sense of ownership.

The 2030 agenda for sustainable development and its sustainable development goals (SDGs) should have some of its objectives met hence the universal nature of the SDGs should never be taken for granted. These goals are practically oriented and people centred, therefore, they should not be for grandstanding or communication massaging. Indeed, they require sustainable action which the youths should be ready to demonstrate. In this regard, authorities should not be seen using poverty (Goal 1), zero hunger (goal 2), good health and well-being (goal 3), gender (goal 5), clean water and sanitation (goal 6) or climate action (goal 13) and other closely related goals for grandstanding purposes.
Although the sustainable development goals apply to all countries of the world and not just poor countries, there should not be any excuses for not placing emphasis on the livelihoods of developing countries where the youths should play active and empowering roles.

Above all, these universal goals should act as the youth’s local goals and they are the rightful candidates to realise Agenda 2030.

Issues of sustainable land use and inequality of development should be at the core of the youth aspirations. The youths need to use land sustainably to preserve the environment, for agricultural production and food security. Realising the success of SDGs requires collective efforts from all stakeholders which include government, businesses, academia, civil society, the vulnerable and the marginalised which include the youth, women and children. In this view, everyone has a role to perform, hence more emphasis should be placed on the youth because they are the future. As such, information about goals, perspectives and deliberations on how best to navigate the developmental pathways requires inclusive efforts without leaving the youth behind.

Necessary and conducive environments should be realised by the youths in their local communities so that they do not migrate to urban centres or even outside the country looking for greener pastures. Therefore, conditions should be necessary for the youth to come up with their own greener pastures locally that is if they are not locked out of national funding schemes. The youths also need financial resources just as high ranking government officials or those in the private sector with the ability to pay back. Youth cannot be capacitated using the word of mouth and promises, they need real and tangible funding including land to launch their livelihood projects. The opportunities are endless to the youths and with research, a variety of agricultural ventures can be realised. With suitable support, youths can explore opportunities in forestry, small-scale mining, livestock, horticulture, fish farming, tobacco, bee keeping, micro-lending projects and many more. Opportunities in forest regeneration are critical because even during droughts, trees may lose leaves, but they do not die, they will continue to grow. Trees are important for clothing the environment and improve their beauty as well as holding soils together to reduce soil erosion and improving soil fertility through falling leaves and twigs.

Youths can be expert agri-prenuers and through using their experiences of growing up in villages, with their comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the soils, trees, rivers, mountains, birds, vegetation and many others, they can be able to establish a relationship with the environment and connect with nature.

Therefore, training the youths would provide effective ways of creating local community ownership of the SDGs.