Incidence of the different goals and targets addressed by the seeds
Goals and targets addressed by the seeds
125 targets (out of a total of 169 targets described in the 2030 Agenda) were addressed by the 69 African seeds. The frequency of individual targets appearing in the seeds varied greatly among seeds, as some targets are addressed by many seeds (e.g., 12% of the targets appear in more than 15 seeds), while most targets only occur in a few (e.g., 52% of the targets appear in fewer than 5 seeds).
All 17 SDGs were addressed by the seeds. However, within the different goals, there was a large difference in the number of targets addressed by the seeds (Fig. 2). For instance, Goals 15 (biodiversity), 4 (education), 6 (clean water), and 7 (energy) had all their targets addressed by the seeds. In contrast, less than half of the Goal 5 (gender) targets were addressed, and it was also the goal with the least number of targets addressed by the seeds (n = 4).
Considering the frequency with which the different targets and goals were addressed by the seeds, we found Goal 4 (education) addressed by the highest number of seeds (65%) and had the highest number of targets addressed by the seeds. Goals 6 (clean water), 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger), 8 (decent work & growth), 10 (reduced inequality), and their related targets, were also frequently addressed; while Goals 16 (peace & justice), 3 (health), 14 (oceans), 5 (gender), 13 (climate action), and related targets, were vaguely addressed by the seeds (Fig. 3). Goal 17 (partnership) was addressed by a high number of seeds (61%), but a low total number of targets within this goal were addressed (Fig. 3).
Targets not addressed by the seeds
Of the 169 targets defined by the 2030 Agenda, 44 targets were not addressed by the seeds. These targets were characterized by requiring a national or international scope that is usually beyond the capacity of locally grounded sustainability initiatives. For example, missing targets were mainly process-oriented or input targets (n = 20) such as Target 1A (mobilization of resources from governments to implement programmes and policies to poverty eradication) or Target 9A (facilitation of international financial and technological support to infrastructure development). Unaddressed targets also included those requiring national level structural changes (n = 16) such as Target 10.6 (enhancing the representation voice for developing countries in decision-making in global international economic and financial institutions) and Target 14.6 (prohibiting some forms of fisheries subsides contributing to overfishing).
Other targets that were not addressed were primarily focused on developed countries, e.g., Target 12.1 (implementation of the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production, all countries taking action, with developed countries taking the lead); or because the topic was not directly related to social-ecological problems, e.g., Target 3.6 and 3A (reducing the number of deaths from road traffic accidents and tobacco consume, respectively).
The social, ecological and economic dimensions of the goals and targets addressed by the seeds
Following Folke et al. (2016)’s social–ecological classification of the SDGs, 21% of the targets addressed by the seeds belong to the ecological, 43% to the social and 28% to the economic dimension. The remaining 8% of the targets corresponded to Goal 17 (partnership; Fig. 4). When considering the ecology-related goals, Goal 15 (biodiversity) and 6 (clean water) were the most frequent (i.e., 38% of the ecology-related targets addressed by the seeds were both within Goal 15 and 6), with a high representation of target 6.3 (improving water quality by reducing pollution and eliminating dumping). Goals 14 (oceans; 13%) and 13 (climate action; 18%) were the least frequent ecology-related goals.
Of the social goals, Goal 4 (quality education) exhibited the highest frequency (27% of the social-related targets addressed by the seeds belonged to Goal 4). Target 4.7 (ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development), had the highest overall frequency across the whole set of goals, being addressed by 42% of the seeds (Fig. 4). The social-related goals that were less addressed by the seeds were Goals 16 (peace & justice; 5%), 5 (gender; 7%), 7 (energy; 7%), and 3 (health; 8%).
Of the economic goals, Goals 8 and 10 exhibited the highest frequencies (decent work and growth, 34%; and reduce inequalities, 28%). Target 8.6 (substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training) was the most frequent under Goal 8. It is closely related to the goals from the social dimension, and specifically to education. For Goal 10, the most frequent targets were 10.1 (employment generation for the poor) and 10.2 (empowerment and inclusion) (see Fig. 4 and Table S1). Goal 12 was the less frequent economic related goal (responsible consumption & production; 20%). However, Target 12.5 (reducing waste generation by prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse) had a high representation on the sample, being addressed by 32% of the seeds.
Patterns of interactions between SDGs
The degree of interaction among the targets was related to their frequencies in the sample. Overall the most frequent goals and related targets—Goals 8 (decent work & growth), 2 (zero hunger), 1 (no poverty), 6 (clean water), 10 (reduced inequalities), and 4 (education)—exhibited the highest number of co-occurence with other targets. Less frequently addressed goals exhibited the fewest number of interactions between different targets (Fig. 5).
However, we found some exceptions. For instance, Goal 11 and related targets (sustainable cities & communities) were frequently addressed by the seeds, but exhibited a low number of interactions with other targets. This is also the case for Goals 7 (energy) and 9 (industry & innovation), although the average number of interactions of their related targets was similar to the average number of interactions for all the targets addressed by the seeds (x̅=55.62). More interactive than expected were Goals 5 (gender), 12 (responsible consumption & production), and 17 (partnership). These goals had a low frequency of their targets addressed by the seeds but presented a high number of interactions.
Finally, Goals 9 (industry & innovation) and 16 (peace & justice), and Goals 14 (oceans) and 7 (clean energy) did not have any interactions, meaning that not a single initiative addressed these goals together.
Clustering the SDGs in the context of the African seeds
Six groups of goals were identified by our hierarchical clustering of the frequency variables [i.e., percentage of seeds addressing a goal and observed vs expected targets (standard residuals)] and interaction variables (i.e., average degree of goals, interactivity within the goals and interactivity among different goals; see Table S2) (Fig. 6).
The first cluster includes Goal 11 (sustainable cities & communities) alone. This reflects the particularity of this goal and its targets when implementing local initiatives. Goal 11 has a high frequency of its targets in the sample and is addressed by 41% of seeds; however, it presents a low interaction between targets within Goal 11 and across other goals. The second cluster, SDGs addressed by specific projects, consisted of goals that are addressed by few seeds and usually these seeds focus on a narrow set of targets within one specific goal. This cluster includes Goals 7 (energy) and 9 (industry & innovation). For instance, Goal 7 projects have a strong focus on fostering affordable and clean energy—especially for vulnerable populations—addressing a limited number of other different targets, e.g., solar energy micro utilities (or solutions in a box) like Solar Turtle (www.solarturtle.co.za) or Ishack (www.ishackproject.co.za). The third cluster, SDGs under-represented, includes goals poorly represented in our sample, i.e., Goals 14 (oceans), 3 (health), 13 (climate action) and 16 (peace & justice). These goals are addressed by few seeds and present a very low frequency of their targets and interactions (low degree). Group four clusters Goals 17 (partnership) and 4 (education), which are used as means of implementation for some other goals. For instance, Target 4.7—sustainable education—was the most addressed target by the seeds, as it is used as a supporter for the rest of the activities related with other goals. For example, the Nosso Mar, Nossa Vida project (https://ama-amigosdaterra.org/osol-projecto-nossa-mar-nossa-vida-bioclimate/) that aims to support fishing co-management in Mozambique through locally appropriate and sustainably financed resource management, also engages with some sustainable education activities for the achievement of its goals. Goals 17 and 4 are addressed by many seeds and their related targets interact with many different targets (very high degree) across different goals, but less so within goals 17 and 4, because there is a high variety of targets in these goals that are not necessarily related to each other. The fifth group consisted on goals mainly addressed by general or broad projects: Goals 8 (decent work & growth), 10 (reduced inequalities), 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger) and 6 (clean water). These goals and related targets are addressed by the highest number of seeds and have a very high interaction with other goals and targets. They relate to projects with a broad aim definitions, that develop many activities (or programs) addressing multiple goals, e.g., Kwetu Training Centre (http://www.kwetukenya.org) addresses 41 targets from 12 different goals (including all the goals in this cluster), with the purpose of promoting mariculture and silviculture technologies to diversify the livelihood options of local communities dependent on mangrove wetlands as well as advocating for the conservation and sustainable use of mangroves in coastal communities. Cluster 6 is made of cross-cutting SDGs, and includes Goals 5 (gender), 12 (responsible consumption & production) and 15 (biodiversity). Their related targets, while presenting a low frequency in our sample, present high levels of interaction with other goals and targets. For instance, gender equality appears as a cross-cutting issue in many projects related with different topics, e.g., The Seed and Knowledge Initiative (http://www.biowatch.org.za) aims to bring together policy makers, NGOs, researchers and farmers’ organisations, in order to stimulate discussion around sustainable agricultural production and garner support for small-scale farmers practicing agro-ecological methods of crop production. In doing so, this seed specifically considers the participation of women in these meetings.