Weiterbildung, 3|2022 pp 40-43

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) attempt to address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change and environmental degradation which are interwoven. The top two among 17 goals to be achieved by 2030 were the elimination of poverty and hunger. These are tasks for rural development in the developing world where the vast majority of the world’s poorest, whose livelihoods depend upon traditional subsistence agriculture, live (FAO, 2019). Towards a better and more sustainable future for all, the SDGs call for participation from all countries and sectors, including Higher Education (HE). The participation of HE in sustainable development can be traced to the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) which states that universities should function as places of research and learning for sustainable development (UNESCO 2004). This is because HE plays a vital role in sustainability competencies (SCs) among students, the new generation of intellectual leaders for sustainable development (UNESCO 2017, IAU 2017). This is both a curriculum development and a pedagogic issue. The political, economic, social, and cultural diversity of the real world complicates its resolution. Although there is a broad consensus on the SDG’s themselves, there are, unsurprisingly, different interpretations of what are effective SCs. As we have indicated, this affects both curriculum and teaching and learning. It is complicated by the need to achieve successful university community partnerships. Given that poverty alleviation and food security are the top two priorities of the SDG programme, we argue that the challenges facing rural capacity building should be prioritised and integrated into university and higher education curricula as Sustainability Competencies (SCs).