The green or smart concept appears to have been oversubscribed without matching tangible results on the ground. For a vision of an ideal environment and desired settlement pattern that would situate developing countries strategically for mordernisation and growth in line with the current developmental paradigms, more actions than words are required. It starts from a village, to a peri-urban; town and then finally a smart city, from the simple to the complex, in that order.
Developing countries need to work hard to improve the settlement patterns of their people, especially rural areas that have maintained the same status for thousands of years. The idea is to come up with simple model houses in which the governments, donors and the private sector can participate in designing and constructing befitting of a rural status.
These simple rural designs would be everything in one with regard to their quality, being environmentally friendly, using locally available materials and resources that do not damage the environment. These would be settlements with all the ingredients of eco-friendly facilities which would transform the lives of the poor and make them compete with those of the same status in developing counties.
So much talking has been done, so has material been written and researched, but the people’s situations remain unchanged. The poor cannot talk of realising resilience if they cannot see changes in their lives. These model villages don’t mean destroying and starting afresh, but making improvements in line with sustainable development goals which advocates for clean water, health well-being, housing and infrastructural development as well as good schools, clinics, hospitals, roads and efficient transport systems and above all agricultural production. All these can be realised in a clean, habitable and friendly environment.
People have been bombarded enough with green discourses, but words, although they build worlds, are not enough. It would be welcome for developing countries to begin with pilot model villages, with all the envisaged requirements in place so that they can make some checks and balances. The developmental discourses cannot be swallowed wholesome lest authorities will be overwhelmed by their ambitions.
We cannot talk of environmental sustainability when the people affected have never realised the benefits of living in a clean environment, including realising there is clean energy and when energy poverty is their existence. The desired model green villages need to be solar-powered, have access to clean water for household consumption gardening, small-scale irrigation schemes, using organic manure and also each homestead should have a woodlot, as trees are necessary as well as fruit trees, drip irrigation kits which conserve water and toilets in order to avoid defecating in the forests. All these have ingredients of model eco-friendly villages.
Talk is cheap, coming up with something of a reference point would be very much welcome. The envisaged communities would not plough along river banks, avoid human activities that promote stream or river siltation or mining in streams or rivers because they are water bodies not mines.
Planting of woodlots would make them avoid going into the forests to destroy trees and degrade landscapes. They will preserve their forests, including the wildlife in these forests and also contribute towards eco-tourism. They would also respect wetlands and respect their value-addition processes. Furthermore, they need to be taught water harvesting techniques in order to avoid water scarcities during the times of need. Although governments, donors and the private sector can play their part, communities can come up with locally available materials for infrastructural development.
In this regard, before the people can change their behaviours and untoward human practices, their mindsets should be freed from those attitudes which harm the environment. This begins in their homes, later outside and nearby areas, including their immediate environment. Regarding fertilizer uses, communities should be taught to make use of livestock manure, vermicomposts and other organic forms of manure. These are environmentally friendly, would preserve moisture and don’t harm the soils.
Education, training and awareness are important, but they also need to be backed by strong action on the ground. It is the area of water sustenance and use that communities should be nurtured into, in order to make the model villages a success.
These villages should be model enough to save water, preserve their immediate environment live sustainably and make use of clean and cheap energy which delivers them from energy poverty. They can also participate in projects like nutritional gardens, poultry, piggery, cattle fattening, small-scale dairy, horticulture or honey production in order to improve their livelihoods and send children to school.
Their living habits should help them get prepared to adapt during any weather extremes or climate eventualities by not promoting carbon footprints which harm the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.
Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on: [email protected]