(What follows is based on a talk given by Mary Kurek for SDGs Academy/Pakistan: Focus on Poverty) 1/16/22
Let me give you a vision – it’s a good one. It’s a beautiful day in the village, unlike a few years ago. Instead of piles of smelly trash marinating in the heat, starving little children sleeping on the streets, unemployed youth hanging out in slums, hospitals full of beaten women and pregnant girls, farms withering due to drought, power outages happening every afternoon, vacant schools with rocks on the floor that served as seats, and dried up river beds that produced little hope of water…instead of all of that, today, this village has a Data Center that serves as the headquarters for a well-planned and operating town.
Data Center employees are trained specifically to run the technology by the local college where youth are realizing an opportunity for a good job. Farmers have been participating in the 24/7 operational vertical indoor smart farms with several times more harvests than ever before – boosting export activity and changing the agriculture business environment for the whole country. Those who maintain family farms outdoors have participated in the Innovative Genomics Institute partnership and have learned how to genetically modify their crops for climate, pest, and irritant resistance with less dependence on water. This thriving village loves its solar energy network and especially residents appreciate the opportunity to own their own solar-energized homes. The local waste-to-energy plant has kept trash off the streets which now is considered almost more of a commodity than a menace. Health, education, entertainment, and small business enterprises enjoy the opportunity to build their companies here because they are tracked to ensure success. Wow! Big vision – right!
This sustainable, profitable, carbon zero village is owned and operated fully by its own residents. Ownership means that shares are equally distributed to each adult – only transferable by inheritance. Per capita income has been climbing over the last 5 years and in another few years, as this village continues to replicate, the word poverty won’t even be whispered in the same sentence as this country’s name.
This isn’t a dream. The model for this type of village project was done successfully with tribes in the state of Alaska in the US where households were below the US poverty line in the 1960s. In the year 2000, the per capita wealth of all Alaskan families was among the top 5 states in the nation (and still is). It is because this kind of project is enterprise-based. This isn’t another project dropped on the doorstep and left for dead or handed off to be operational as a government program. This work is being carried out by a company that supports all of the UN SDGs but particularly Goal 17 — partnerships for all goals. Goal 17 is the only way to fix Goal 1, which is “No Poverty”…and all of the goals.
Fixing any of the goals takes investment and passion from a multitude of partners. With the right partners, all things are possible. For example, partners, like the organization that builds medical universities in Africa that could be the facilitating partner where a village like the one I shared can locate relying on previously secured government agreements. Partners like the diplomat who has a big farm in a remote area of Africa and has built a shelter for trafficked girls. He can expand his farm and shelter as an “anchor” for the village to take root and grow. And, partners like the orphan organization that has a partial building in India looking to add on and even expand – they could be the center which the village builds around. This isn’t just wishful thinking. Two of these three specific examples we are currently processing and more to come. What is required for a village like this to move forward initially is a local government nod of approval, some land, and an established business partner on location to coordinate details. That’s just the beginning stage, but, it’s a simple beginning that really starts with relationships and trust. Again, it’s all about partners. With good, credible, well-connected, and genuinely passionate partners in place, nothing is impossible.
I’m sure there are others who may be familiar with this type of process. And, I’m not trying to pitch a particular project as a one-stop solution. Let’s be clear on that. Because of what I do, I have access to resources like this all over the world. I just wanted to share this one as an example of what is possible.
Poverty is an enormous problem to tackle. And, it connects in some way to every other goal. So, if you want to fix poverty, you have to fix the rest of the goals…and the only sustainable way to do that is to work with entities that understand partnerships of all kinds (including investments) and how to work them into broad solutions with as much transparency as possible because recipients of progress like this need to be able to open the door for change.
In the end, the concentration on SDG #1 – “No Poverty,” and all of the goals needs to shift to Goal #17 – “Partnerships for all goals,” with the first partner, after the good Lord, being the location where change needs to happen.
My prayers go out to all of you working on these goals from both sides. I hope the impact you wish is what you shall realize.