While poverty is a systemic problem that requires systemic solutions addressed over long time, development work in many impoverished communities like Nyakongo deals with only a small portion of people who are poor and this ultimately has little impact on the systems which propagate poverty. Besides, traditional approaches to the community development planning and work often view constitution of the community in three separate, unrelated parts – economic, social and environmental. Consequently, the community’s development challenges are as well viewed as isolated issues. On the other hand, the youth in and out of Nyakongo, especially those in learning institutions and recent graduates are disenfranchised and aren’t empowered to lead transformative change. They lament at the inadequacy of time and resources to be change agents and wait for other actors to lead the change.
Many proven technologies and models of transformative development work are often not scaled-up as NGOs seek to remain autonomous and prove their relevance. Without paying much attention to eco-monetary innovation (changing the economic ‘infrastructure’ – financial, legal, business models), a number of circular and sharing initiatives or smart technologies remain locked-in in a ‘growth’ scenario, e.g. ‘Green growth’ or ‘Inclusive growth’. Thus economic growth is pursued as an aim in itself, where people and planet are reduced to a ‘means’ employed for private profit and GDP -growth resulting in social injustice and non-resilient development. For real sustainability to be realized, there is need for a shift in pursuit of economic growth as a means (allocating scarce resources effectively) to a systemic goal (e.g. “Contribute to the well-being of all, including future generations and other species”). Nyakongo2030 will empower youth (especially college students) to lead community development programs distributing proven products, services and technologies that ensure a balance of social, environmental and economic objectives whilst promoting equal opportunities for current and future generations.
The field of sustainable development is full of jargon that is considered common usage among academics, business people and social campaigners, but not among people living in rural locations such as Nyakongo. There is need to engage the villagers on their terms and avoid the local sustainable development process being intellectualized and exclusivist. Great care is necessary to avoid disenfranchising local people through excessive jargon and a process that may ignore their real needs or push the project forward at a speed that leaves significant numbers of villagers behind. To outsiders (external actors) the focus of discussions is often towards technological aspects of sustainable living, such as distributing solar panels, drilling boreholes etc. To the villagers, social aspects of sustainability – human relationships are essential. To the villagers, a sustainable community must be a caring community. Nyakongo2030 is designed to embody the qualities of flexibility, responsiveness and resilience.
The need for properly integrated spatial planning is particularly acute in rural areas like Nyakongo, where service provision and public investment is often more difficult to co-ordinate due to the geography of the countryside and dynamics of rural communities. Planning policies are very often not tailored to local circumstances, are too general and lack the sophistication to foster the rural development likely to be most beneficial to a particular locality. There is a need for more locally appropriate rural planning policies for sustainable development.
Nyakongo Sustainable Village Initiative is thus envisioned to be a laboratory for reinventing development. Through it, we seek to prove that we can achieve a more transformative and holistic impact by working together than alone.