Dear Mr. Guterres,
Since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] three years ago, and with only 12 years until 2030, little has been done to put the extremely poor in the path of their implementation. The poor are still being left on the sidelines. In a remote area like ours, in eastern Uganda, there is not a single event, as a result of the SDGs, happening on the ground, to end poverty. Our struggles are the same as before.
On the one hand, getting a voice heard from a secluded part of the earth, like ours, is virtually impossible. On the other hand, even the many SDG-themed programs that have come up, such as the SDG Action Campaign or the SDG Fund, have maintained a distance between their work and the people living at the bottom of the pyramid, and have thus brought nothing new along with them to emancipate the poorest of the poor.
What voids the SDGs' 2030 Agenda to "leave no one behind by 2030" the most, for those of us who live on [$2/day, is: even post-2015, the same ideals that undermined the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] – which "commits world leaders to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women. The MDGs are derived from this Declaration, and all have specific targets and indicators."
On the ground, many of the local anti-poverty institutions, including UN agencies, often follow what Anthony Banbury called a "sclerotic" approach. There is little flexibility towards local challenges. There is no room to design new solutions together with the poor, unless those solutions can fit into a predetermined program. So, the poor have nobody to call a partner.
After all, even the UN's flagship global antipoverty agency, the UNDP, has a clearer inference on this:
"...even though the overriding UNDP priority is poverty reduction, a large part of the activities it undertakes at the country level and the manner in which it undertakes them does not conform to this priority. Many of its activities have only remote connections with poverty, if at all" — UNDP Report, 2013.
In this particular case, the key recommendation of the above report was: all "programs undertaken by the UNDP should [henceforth] be designed with an explicit pro-poor bias, always trying to add specific elements that would enhance the likelihood that the poor will benefit more than they otherwise would through general development interventions." Yet, in reality, nothing has since changed to reflect that.
But the UN's own vision of achieving the SDGs and ending poverty in all its forms everywhere by 2030 is centered on "fostering cross-sector collaborations and partnerships", as well as "listening to all voices" and "leaving no one behind". We believe this should be more about listening to, and fostering partnerships with, the people who directly live on less than $2/day.
We are asking you, Mr. Guterres, to help us make one stride to put an end on poverty. As people who have lived in extreme poverty for decades, we just want to see a world that is devoid of poverty in our lifetime.
It would be a big shame if the status quo remained unchanged, when we had the energy and the inner drive to change it, but only had no voice. And, given the pace at which the 2030 Agenda is moving, only you, Mr. Guterres, can decide the fate of the poor.
We live in a remote area where, by default, there are zero prospects of moving out of poverty by 2030. But we want to change this. At this point, though, we have literally approached every single UN agency, and all people out there, asking for a voice -- in vain.
We are smallholder farmers. And so, the one stride that we want to make — with your help — in order to put an end to extreme poverty, is to create a reliable and viable means of marketing our agrarian produce.
To learn about what we want to do to achieve this, see a PowerPoint Presentation that we made before the entire UNDP senior team in Uganda six months ago.
FYI, we had approached the UNDP as a last resort, after years of contacting all other UN agencies, and everyone else. Still, the UNDP, too, could only think... "since this is about agricultural markets, it is outside the mandate of the UNDP". This is a good example of the UNDP sticking to their "predetermined, general development interventions", while ignoring the poor.
Specifically, we had only asked the UNDP to use its convening power to pair us with people who could give us a voice, and those who could offer technical assistance — since the notion of "connecting people and ideas", or that of "cross-sector collaborations and partnerships", is a core aspect of the 2030 Agenda.
Is someone not listening to all voices? What, then, will become of all the other rural poor communities that have no means of making their case before the elite?
Who We Are
We at the Uganda Community Farm (UCF) are a team of people who have lived in chronic poverty our entire lives, in a remote part of eastern Uganda. We crave to change this, if we had a voice.
Please see how our team leader, Anthony, turned a lifetime of struggles with extreme poverty into a calling for taking action. That is what we stand for.
Above all, we believe our request reflects what many poor communities all over the world are capable of doing towards zero poverty, if only the people who live on less than $2/day were placed at the helm of the 2030 Agenda and its implementation process.
Farmers and volunteers work on organic fertilizers at the Uganda Community Farm demo center. (Image source: UCF)
If we completely fail to get a voice anywhere, as we currently are, our sole option shall be to accept defeat and stay put — in poverty. But, if you could give us a voice, dear Mr. Guterres, what we are asking of you, is:
#1). As the 2030 Agenda is centered on "bringing together people and ideas", we would like to ask you, if convenient, to put us together with any technical teams from the global north, to train us on turning the rural smallholder farmers' fruit crops (in eastern Uganda) into consumer-grade intermediate food products — especially fruit purees & concentrates.
However, if #1 above sounds too difficult per your schedule, just give us a voice on #2 below, and we will work out the technical part of it ourselves.
#2). To get our plan rolling, we are also requesting you, Mr. Guterres, to pair us with a team of influencers (e.g. the SDG celebrity ambassadors), to give us a voice only via social media by teaming up with us on this crowdfundraiser, so we can leverage the power of new media to raise support for our planned solution.
(See our planned solution in a Presentation that we made in front of the UNDP senior team months ago.)
Again, only you can give people like us a voice. Please leave your comment for Secretary General Guterres below, in the Reader Comments section.
Founder, Uganda Community Farm
P.O. Box 16
 The Eight Millennium Development Goals are:
- to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
- to achieve universal primary education;
- to promote gender equality and empower women;
- to reduce child mortality;
- to improve maternal health;
- to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
- to ensure environmental sustainability; and
- to develop a global partnership for development.