5th African RCE Conference Remarks by Prof. J.C. Maviiri, Uganda Martyrs University
1. 5th African RCE Conference
Remarks by Prof. J.C. Maviiri, Vice Chancellor, Uganda Martyrs University, Uganda
Our distinguished guests, to all conference organizers and fellow participants: Let me start
my communication by commending the organizers for selecting a pertinent theme for this
conference namely “Building stronger RCE/ESD network for transforming communities.”
It is a good answer to the observation by the Brutland Commission in its report entitled
Our Common Future which observed in paragraph 1. That ’The Earth is one but the world is
not. We all depend on one biosphere for sustaining our lives. Yet each community, each
country, strives for survival and prosperity with little regard for its impact on others. Some
consume the Earth's resources at a rate that would leave little for future generations. Others,
many more in number, consume far too little and live with the prospect of hunger, squalor,
disease, and early death.’
Pope Francis in his recent encyclical letter published on 24th May, 2015, On Care for Our
Common Home he stated “Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the
words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is
like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to
He goes on to say ”…This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on
her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have
come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence
present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in
the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened
and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in
travail” (Rom 8:22). “We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7);
our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and
refreshment from her waters.”
Indeed in the process of striving to attain basic needs and development we have caused
adverse changes to the environment. The problems we are faced with include land
degradation, desertification, and loss of biodiversity, extinction of some species,
deforestation and destruction of natural habitats, pollution, energy crisis and the depletion
of non-renewable resources.
To address this situation 17 sustainable development goals have been adopted by the UN
General Assembly to guide global development for the next 15 years. Let us look more
closely at three of them.
Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Extreme poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 1990. While this is a
remarkable achievement, one in five people in developing regions still live on less than
2. $1.25 a day, and there are millions more who make little more than this daily amount, plus
many people risk slipping back into poverty.
Poverty is more than the lack of income and resources to ensure a sustainable livelihood.
Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other
basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in
decision-making. Economic growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs and
Goal 1 Targets
By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured
as people living on less than $1.25 a day
By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all
ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions
Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all,
including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the
By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable,
have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services,
ownership and control over land and other forms of 13 property, inheritance,
natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including
By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and
reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other
economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters
Ensure significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources, including
through enhanced development cooperation, in order to provide adequate and
predictable means for developing countries, in particular least developed countries,
to implement programmes and policies to end poverty in all its dimensions
Create sound policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels,
based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies, to support
accelerated investment in poverty eradication actions
Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote
3. It is time to rethink how we grow, share and consume our food. If done right, agriculture,
forestry and fisheries can provide nutritious food for all, and generate decent incomes,
while supporting people-centered rural development and protecting the environment.
Right now, our soils, freshwater, oceans, forests and biodiversity are being rapidly
degraded. Climate change is putting even more pressure on the resources we depend on,
increasing risks associated with disasters such as droughts and floods. Many rural women
and men can no longer make ends meet on their land, forcing them to migrate to cities in
search of opportunities.
A profound change of the global food and agriculture system is needed if we are to nourish
today’s 795 million hungry and the additional 2 billion people expected by 2050.
The food and agriculture sector offers key solutions for development, and is central for
hunger and poverty eradication
Goal 2 targets
Globally, one in nine people in the world today (795 million) are undernourished
The vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries, where
12.9 per cent of the population is undernourished.
Asia is the continent with the hungriest people – two thirds of the total. The
percentage in southern Asia has fallen in recent years but in western Asia it has
Southern Asia faces the greatest hunger burden, with about 281 million
undernourished people. In sub-Saharan Africa, projections for the 2014-2016
period indicate a rate of undernourishment of almost 23 per cent.
Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45 per cent) of deaths in children under five – 3.1
million children each year.
One in four of the world’s children suffer stunted growth. In developing countries
the proportion can rise to one in three.
66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing
world, with 23 million in Africa alone.
4. Agriculture is the single largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for 40
per cent of today’s global population. It is the largest source of income and jobs for
poor rural households.
500 million small farms worldwide, most still rain fed, provide up to 80 per cent of
food consumed in a large part of the developing world. Investing in smallholder
women and men is an important way to increase food security and nutrition for the
poorest, as well as food production for local and global markets.
Since the 1900s, some 75 per cent of crop diversity has been lost from farmers’
fields. Better use of agricultural biodiversity can contribute to more nutritious diets,
enhanced livelihoods for farming communities and more resilient and sustainable
If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in
the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.
1.4 billion people have no access to electricity worldwide – most of whom live in
rural areas of the developing world. Energy poverty in many regions is a
fundamental barrier to reducing hunger and ensuring that the world can produce
enough food to meet future demand.
Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent
work for all
Roughly half the world’s population still lives on the equivalent of about US$2 a day. And in
too many places, having a job doesn’t guarantee the ability to escape from poverty. This
slow and uneven progress requires us to rethink and retool our economic and social
policies aimed at eradicating poverty.
A continued lack of decent work opportunities, insufficient investments and under-
consumption lead to an erosion of the basic social contract underlying democratic
societies: that all must share in progress. The creation of quality jobs will remain a major
challenge for almost all economies well beyond 2015.
Sustainable economic growth will require societies to create the conditions that allow
people to have quality jobs that stimulate the economy while not harming the environment.
Job opportunities and decent working conditions are also required for the whole working
Goal 8 targets
5. Global unemployment increased from 170 million in 2007 to nearly 202 million in
2012, of which about 75 million are young women and men.
Nearly 2.2 billion people live below the US$2 poverty line and that poverty
eradication is only possible through stable and well-paid jobs.
470 million jobs are needed globally for new entrants to the labour market between
2016 and 2030.
Suggestions for pursuing these three goals which may also apply to other goals as
We believe that the RCE approach is fitting, as stated in the Roadmap priority action area
five: Accelerating sustainable solutions at local level. In this priority action area is
recommended that we need to strengthen multi-stakeholder networks at the local level
and improve the quality of local platforms for learning and cooperation. Mobilising many
new stakeholders to involve as large a stakeholder population as possible is an important
objective. Local authorities and local leaders are called upon to increase and strengthen
learning opportunities for the community through formal, non-formal and informal
venues. Empowering and increasing the capacity of civil society as critical agents of
change is essential. Most of all, these concerned stakeholders will develop measures and
mechanisms to resolve the sustainable challenges facing their communities.
Locally, here in Buganda region, this approach which was widespread in the past was
referred to as Bulungi bwansi or working for the common good of the local community. In
Kenya something similar was called Harambee, and in Rwanda it is referred to as
omuganda. This spirit which is being revived in Buganda is part and parcel of Kiganda
culture. The Bulungi bwansi approach was aiming at conserving a certain promodial
harmony with the world according to Dr. Joseph Kisekka. He observed that it always
begins with respect for whatever was nearest to you. It required that one had to exchange
greetings with whomever one met, even strangers along the way. All adults were also
expected to correct and advise the young ones even if they were not biologically related.
Drums could be sounded to summon the men and boys to work on community projects
like cleaning and protecting wells or cleaning the part of the road next to one’s home.
Augustus Nuwagaba has noted that bulungi bwansi was a community initiative to improve
social and economic wellbeing at the microlevel but alas this spirit has overtime
diminished giving way to individualism and lack of community consciousness. As a result
there is a weak civil society and lack of civil competence leading lack of nationalism,
erosion of ethics and negative changes in value system.
Pope Francis quotes the Vatican Council II document on the Church in the Modern World
paragraph 26 which observes that the common good is the ‘sum of those conditions of
social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and
6. ready access to their own fulfillment.’ The Pope adds that common good involves respect
for the human person who is endowed with basic inalienable rights ordered to his or her
integral development. It also has to do with the overall welfare of society and the
development of a variety of intermediate groups, applying the principle of subsidiarity.
Outstanding among the groups is the family. Finally, the common good calls for social
peace, the stability and security, ensured by a certain order which cannot be achieved
without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence
ensues. Society as whole and the state in particular are obliged to defend and promote the
common good. Common good may also be pursue through forming and becoming
members of cooperatives including SACCOs like SILC- Savings and Internal Lending in
Communities and VSLA – Village Savings and Loans Associations.
Through such approaches we shall keep in mind the word of wisdom from the late
Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who stated that you cannot develop another person but you can
assist that person to develop himself.