Ghana ‘Marches for Science’ with poverty eradication top on agenda

By Joseph Opoku Gakpo

April 16, 2018

With poverty eradication top on the agenda, scientists and science-loving people in Ghana stepped out on Saturday for the Accra March for Science.

The march, led by scientists from Alliance for Science Ghana, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), was organized under the theme “Building Ghana: Let’s eradicate poverty and environmental degradation through science-informed actions.”

Participants embarked on an 8-kilometer walk on the streets of the national capital, Accra, and later converged for a forum to discuss the role of science in national development.

“If we can’t relay the real things that happen in our life with science and technology, then we are not going anywhere,” Emmanuel Kyeremanteng Agyarko, chairman of the Environment, Science and Technology Committee in Ghana’s Parliament, told the marchers.

He expressed worry that the non-prioritization of science and technology is fueling a cycle of poverty in the country and called for a change. “We rather want to spend all of our money doing politics… And one of the biggest budgets we have internally is peacekeeping. It is the same money needed for science we are using to do these things. So the farmers get poorer. The dependency on the state increases. Somewhere, somehow, we must break this cycle,” Agyarko noted.

Bearing placards with various inscriptions as they marched on the streets of Accra, the scientists called on government to increase investment in science and technology research to accelerate national development. They said Ghana spends less than 0.5 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP) on research, which is woefully inadequate.

“Government must increase funding for science and technology research from current 0.5 to 3.5%,” one of the placards read. There were other inscriptions calling for the introduction of improved technology to agricultural production as the sure way to break the poverty cycle. Other placards read: “Biotechnology is a tool that Ghana needs;” “Our farmers deserve better – Days of hoe and cutlass farming are over;” and “Without science and technology, we can’t defeat poverty.”

Reuben Quainoo, executive member of Alliance for Science Ghana, in an interview called on government to do more to extend scientifically informed support to farmers as a way to ensure food security and lift rural communities, especially, out of poverty. “There are lots of scientific innovations and improved agree technology, including biotechnology, that have been developed at research institutions here in Ghana which are not reaching farmers as a result of poor extension services, lack of investments in agriculture generally and cumbersome regulatory procedures… This must change,” he noted.

“There is a direct correlation between scientific investments in science, ensuring the technologies reach farmers, and poverty reduction. That is why we are marching — to draw attention to that link and encourage the prioritization of science and technology,” he added.

Quainoo also called for an end to the destruction of forests, which he noted had depleted from more than 8.2 million hectares 100 years ago to about 1.6 million hectares now with no clear plan to replace them. “The destruction of forests has had devastating impact on agricultural productivity as climate change kicks in with its attendant extreme drought and flooding incidents. Climate change is real and we must all act to end it, especially government,” he said.

Prof. Kenneth Danso, director of the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agric Research Institute of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, told the marchers that with the impact of climate change hitting hard, application of biotechnology to agriculture will be the surest way to enhance productivity. “Other countries have benefitted from this technology. Why not Ghana?” Danso asked.

The chairman of Parliament’s Environment, Science and Technology Committee agreed with Danso’s comments on biotechnology. “All the fabric we now wear, is it not genetically modified cotton that they used? Science solves problems. Technology solves problems,” Agyarko noted.

Dr. Richard Ampadu, Ghana coordinator of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), called on all Ghanaians to embrace science and technology, noting there is the need for it to be broken down for the understanding of ordinary people. “We need to change our attitudes towards science and embrace it and let that lead in efforts to develop the country,” he said.

Some of the participants in the March for Science say they did so to ensure ordinary members of the public understand the importance of science to national development. “I think science is the way forward if we want to develop as a nation,” said participant Paul Bonzie Afful. As University of Ghana Nana Opuni explained, “I realized that I have to be an ambassador for change, especially in the scientific community. I believe science is the bedrock for the development of any nation. And so government must pump money into science and technology.”