Sustainable development sounds great! On the diverging notions of the path leading to a sustainable, just future

Do you also get this uneasy feeling when participants from all institutions are always sharing one common opinion, one not really pronounced vision? It´s not that I would mind if we were all working together to achieve all sustainable development goals, a common vision. But this is obviously not the case!

There were some first signs of the diverging notions of sustainable development on Monday's keynote. Someone asked: „So why are there still poor people getting poorer?“ (See Elsby´s blog entry on it here: Sustainability is a very broad term, comprising also many contradictory opinions on how to reach the goal. Are primed seeds or rather commonly owned landraces the answer to food security? Is it really food security or rather food sovereignty that counts? What is our vision really about? Don’t we need to ask more fundamentally critical questions: which economic system will allow a world of equality, sustainability, and solidarity? And are systems going to be the solution anyway?

what to take home?

Taking an example of a government funded project on the potential of baobab products, the project comprises one billion euros in order to conduct research. It sounds like a disguise of another aim, when the project is presented. Baobab, a multi-purpose tree in many African semi-arid regions, is an essential source of food and vitamins - and therefore a possible key to food security. But the project focuses on processing and the potential as a novel food in Europe. So, will baobab be the new chia or quinoa? Will we once again “discover” a new super food with all the negative consequences in the country of origin? I am convinced that the export of baobab products will lead to a change in the availability on the local market and a higher strain on the wild baobab population. So is this development aid or rather the development of a new resource to be exploited by the industrialised countries? Of course, one could put forward the source of income for local producers. But income based on what used to be a key for food security will not bring an improved food sovereignty.

Obviously, for many researchers Tropentag is also an opportunity to find donors for more research projects. And money today seems to be the only tool used in directing policy, public sector engagements and research, too.

I am looking forward to a lively discussion during today´s closing keynote. What role does solidarity really play in our research? What is our vision and do our small steps really lead up to this vision in the end? Let´s use this chance for reflection.


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