Employing Space Technologies to Realise SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production

The United Nations embraced a global call to action in 2015 to protect the environment with a comprehensive framework for global sustainable development. This motion birthed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a collection of 17 interwoven global goals meticulously designed to balance social, economic, and environmentally sustainable development across the world by 2030.

The SDGs aim to be relevant to all nations – poor, rich and middle-income – to promote prosperity while protecting the environment and tackling climate change. They have a strong focus on ending hunger, poverty, HIV/AIDS, and discrimination against women and disadvantaged populations in particular so that no one is left behind.

SDG – 12

The UN defines sustainable consumption and production to be about promoting resource and energy efficiency and sustainable infrastructure. It also includes providing access to essential services, green and decent jobs and a better quality of life for all. Its implementation helps to achieve overall development plans. Furthermore, it will reduce future economic, environmental and social costs, strengthen economic competitiveness and reduce poverty.

SDG 12 calls for a comprehensive set of actions from businesses, policy-makers, researchers and consumers to adapt to sustainable practices. It envisions sustainable production and consumption based on advanced technological capacity, resource efficiency and reduced global waste. Realising economic growth and sustainable development requires promptly decreasing our ecological footprint by altering how we produce and consume goods and resources. Agriculture is the biggest user of water worldwide, and irrigation now claims close to 70% of all freshwater for human use.

Managing shared natural resources and toxic waste disposal are essential targets to achieve this goal. Encouraging industries, businesses, and consumers to recycle and reduce waste is equally necessary, supporting developing countries to move towards more sustainable consumption patterns by 2030. A large share of the world population is still consuming far too little to meet their basic needs. Halving the per capita of global food waste at the retailer and consumer levels is vital for creating more efficient production and supply chains. This can help with food security and shift us towards a more resource-efficient economy.

Here are the 11 targets for the 12th Sustainable Development Goal

  1. Implement the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production, all countries taking action, with developed countries taking the lead, taking into account the development and capabilities of developing countries
  2. By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources
  3. By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses
  4. Achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil to minimise their adverse impacts on human health and the environment by 2030
  5. By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse
  6. Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle
  7. Promote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities
  8. By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature
  9. Support developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacity to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production
  10. Develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products
  11. Rationalise inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption by removing market distortions, in accordance with national circumstances, including by restructuring taxation and phasing out those harmful subsidies, where they exist, to reflect their environmental impacts, taking fully into account the specific needs and conditions of developing countries and minimising the possible adverse effects on their development in a manner that protects the poor and the affected communities

How space technologies can help to achieve SDG-12 

According to The United Nations Office for Outer Space Activities, space can assist the realisation of SDG 12 through 

  • Natural resources management
  • Food and dangerous goods traceability
  • Monitoring of endangered species trafficking and products of human slavery
  • Smart Agriculture by combining Earth observation, satellite telecommunications and Global Navigation Satellite Systems
  • Spin-offs of In-situ resources utilisation (ISRU), such 3d printing technologies to create structures in orbit, could have applications on Earth

In the Gambia, farmers are suffering from crop losses due to irregular rainfalls, soil erosion, degradation and sea-water intrusion from the Atlantic Ocean. To address these crop losses, The European Space Agency (ESA) and the Swiss Earth observation service provider, Sarmap, are leveraging radars on multiple satellites to map the entire country. The projects include observations from Japan’s ALOS satellite, the Cosmo-SkyMed mission, and ESA’s Envisat historical data. 

Together with Sarmap, ESA supports the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) by mapping the whole country using radars on multiple satellites. These include observations from Japan’s ALOS satellite, the Cosmo-SkyMed mission, and ESA’s Envisat historical data. Under these projects, IFAD and The Gambian government are focusing on poor, rural communities and their participation in local government. This also includes improving agricultural production while safeguarding the environment. 

These activities can take Africa closer to sustainable consumption and production via satellite technology. Furthermore, ESA, Sarmap and IFAD are also working with the locals to build capacity. This involves educating field technicians on collecting crop information for validating space-based maps to ensure their accuracy. This ensures that the locals can ensure sustainable production of food.

XY Analytics South Africa has also developed a technology-enabled application that is transforming the food system in the country. They created a herd management tool that leverages geospatial data to monitor livestock’s health, movement, reproductive status, and location. This ensures effective monitoring of livestock to prevent avoidable their easily avoidable death. Steps like this ensure the sustainability of African livestock, and consequently, consumption.

Furthermore, Kenya is leveraging satellite data for natural resources management and monitoring its endangered wildlife. For example, the black rhino is now an endangered species in Kenya, with only 650 left out of 20,000. This is due to climate change, poaching and illegal hunting. Thus, Kenya uses satellite data to monitor weather and seasonal cycles and detect suitable grazing lands for the rhinos. The team responsible for the efforts utilises the Africa Regional Data Cube (ARDC) to look back over 20 years of satellite data. They use this to identify changes in rainfall and the vegetation state of the grazing land.

By leveraging the data cube, the team can observe and predict trends in vegetation conditions. This will help them identify suitable plots for the rhinos and develop grazing plans to prevent land decimation.

Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) also instituted a project – CROPMON – to develop and provide an affordable information service. The information provides farmers with information that helps them make better farm management decisions during the growing season. This improves the farmers’ crop productivity by ensuring that correct decisions are taken. The project provides information on:

  • The actual crop condition;
  • The most probable crop growth-limiting factor (climate, soil fertility, water supply, etc.) when crop development drops;
  • And advice on how to remedy or reduce the limiting factor by adjusting farm management.

Koolboks also intends to leverage geospatial applications to solve Africa’s food wastage problems. According to the company, over 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity and refrigeration. Furthermore, when they have refrigeration, the cost of owning one is usually an uneasy task. To address this, Koolboks created an off-grid solar refrigerator that can generate refrigeration for up to four days. The solar generator can generate refrigeration in the absence of power, and even in limited sunlight. The initiative uses the IoT tech(Internet of things) for a GIS system. This makes it possible to monitor a refrigerator’s temperature from anywhere in the world. It also helps them determine the fridges’ location anywhere in the world. 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.