Section 1 of The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2023, entitled Promise in Peril, begins with a foreboding yet instructive statement that says “Leave no one behind.” That defining principle of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a shared promise by every country to work together to secure the rights and well-being of everyone on a healthy, thriving planet. But halfway to 2030, that promise is in peril. The Sustainable Development Goals are disappearing in the rear-view mirror, as is the hope and rights of current and future generations. A fundamental shift is needed – in commitment, solidarity, financing and action – to put the world on a better path. And it is needed now.”
The report goes on to give a reassurance that “in moments of severe challenge, humanity has always come through.” And that ”now is another of those moments.”
It is in this context that SINRMAS with the support of Inkomati-Usuthu Catchment Management Agency (IUCMA) and community-based local partners within various communities is leading efforts to sensitize and mobilize communities into a united action to restore the ecological integrity of our rivers in the Lower Ususthu; Upper and Lower Komati Sub-catchments on the one hand while creating the much-needed jobs for the local youth and women on the other.
The project, dubbed sustainable river rehabilitation, is a twenty four month river cleaning endeavour that has created 45 direct employment opportunities for unemployed locals, mostly youth and women, who mobilised themselves into three different not-for-profit organizations or cooperatives that put aside up to 12 days in a month to clear selected river streams of all kind of waste from household to industrial that somehow and mysteriously finds itself enjoying access to and tenure within our river system thereby not only endangering both aquatic and riparian ecosystems but also seriously impacting the quality and quantity of our precious water resources in so perilous a manner.
What is unique about the project is that it is an intersection point or a combustion room for nine of the seventeen United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that we referred to earlier on herein:
The socio-economic component of the project directly contributes to the attainment of SDGs #1 and #2 that respectively talk to ending poverty and hunger by 2030. Here is an initiative in a high-poverty settings where unemployment statistics are north of 45 percent that creates a real chance for its participants to earn a living and put a meal on their tables.
Most of the project participants have never worked anywhere prior to joining the project and through continuous training they now stand a chance to exit the project better empowered to compete in the fierce job market out there or to collectively continue and run their enterprises in a sustainable and profitable manner along the same lines as the project itself.
Goals #3; #6; #11; #13; #14; #15 set out humanity’s resolve on good health; water & sanitation; sustainable communities; climate action; conservation and protection of water and land ecosystems and are all in one form or another addressed by the environmental component of the project which deals inter allia with community and industrial waste management; combating of river pollution; water quality and quantity monitoring; contribution to better public health outcomes by reducing risks to water-borne diseases; contribution to climate change mitigation and protection of aquatic and riparian life.
The purposeful bias towards women in terms of the project’s employment targets at a narrow scale and the fact that the project in a way combats water scarcity in rural communities where river water remains an alternative source in times when municipal taps run dry – this juxtaposed against the reality that women carry the heaviest yoke of water supply shortages in rural communities when compared to their male counterparts, at a broader scale contributes meaningfully to the attainment of Goal #5 on gender equality as well.
Because we recognize that inherent to the sustainability of the project is our ability to place communities themselves at the centre of all our rehabilitation activities, we have made continuous social education and awareness creation a critical pillar upon which the other components of the project rest. Together with all our partners and with clear guidance from IUCMA we conduct quarterly interactive sessions with community members during which time we also collect important data on various aspects that explain specific social actions or behaviour and we hope to collate and present that at a symposium ideally to be convened in the first quarter of 2025.
The project remains an exciting experience for all of us at SINRMAS and we draw our continued strength to drive it from the highly energized teams on the ground and the expertise of its owner, the IUCMA at whose behest we are implementing. It is the kind of project that creates a room for everyone to live out either their calling or their moral responsibility towards sustaining life. For those with a limitless vista on the planet, the realization of the SDGs could be what is at distant sight and worthy of the chase while for those of us whose sight can go only as far as the bounds of immediate horizons, its ability to create jobs for locals and address their basic humanitarian needs is what hits that raw nerve in the heart.
We are doing our part to put the world on a better path. We are taking action and we are taking it now. The health and state of our nation plays itself out in the health of our rivers.
Join and journey with us on this exciting cruise through the detours and contours of our beautiful streams; rivers and rivulets.
Chief Executive Officer