The proposed 17 Sustainable Development Goals are described as being interdependent and indivisible, with the achievement of each required to achieve truly sustainable development and to eradicate extreme poverty. However, the approach towards these goals will require significant coherence, most strikingly in the agriculture sector. Agriculture is directly linked to at least 4 Goals:
- Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
- Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
- Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
- Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Agriculture will also be an essential component of 4 other goals:
- Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere - as the vast majority of people living in extreme poverty are smallholder farmers
- Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls - as the majority of smallholder farmers are women
- Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all - as agriculture employs over 70% of the populations of the least developed countries
To achieve this coherence - across the areas of climate change, environmental protection, economic growth, food production and wellbeing - targets and indicators need to recognise the centrality of reaching the most marginalised and vulnerable smallholder farmers.
Throughout Goal 2, Practical Action are calling for indicators which represent sustainable agricultural practices. Currently mooted indicators, such as those measuring "yield gaps" and input use efficiency, promote a particular pathway to agricultural development, dependent upon maximising output and dependent upon chemical production inputs. This could lead to very unsustainable agricultural practices which degrade the natural resource bases of millions of smallholder farmers, and trap them in cycles of debt and a total lack of economic independence.
Practical Action calls for indicators which focus on sustainability, yield optimisation, resilience building, and biodiversity.This is fundamental to achieving SDG Target 8.4 "to endeavor to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation".