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Scientists are calling on government to increase investment into science and technology research to accelerate national development.
They say the country spends less than 0.5 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP) on research, which is woefully inadequate.
They embarked on a walk in Accra on Saturday themed ‘March for Science’ to drum home the point. “Government must increase funding for science and technology research from current 0.5 to 3.5%,” one of the placards for the 8 km walk read.
The March for Science is a global event that saw scientists and science loving people walk in more than 230 cities across the world to demand that science is prioritised in governance. In Ghana, the march which was led by scientists at Alliance for Science Ghana and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was under the theme; “Building Ghana: Let’s end poverty and environmental destruction through science informed actions.”
Chairman of Parliament’s Environment, Science and Technology Committee and Member of Parliament for Ayawaso West Wuogon Emmanuel Kyeremanteng Agyarko joined the march. He told a forum after the walk it is worrying that other aspects of nation building more often takes precedence over science and technology research.
He said: “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 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.”
“If we can’t relay the real things that happen in our life with science and technology, then we are not going anywhere,” Mr. Agyarko noted.
The legislator also expressed worry about the attitude of Ghanaians towards science and technology and called for a change.
“We are gradually getting into a culture where we are making our people think that it is magic, it is superstition and prayers that will solve our problems. Look at the movies we watch. Any problem must be solved by a fetish, or magic, or a pastor. Witches don’t solve problems, if witches exist, they are destructive. What solves problems is science, technology and innovation,” Mr. Agyarko said.
Executive member of Alliance for Science Ghana Reuben Quainoo in an interview called on government to do more for scientists so they can play the expected role in developing the country. “It is not enough that government only pays research scientists salaries at the end of the month; President Akufo-Ado must invest heavily in science and technology. There is a direct correlation between scientific investments in science, ensuring the technologies reach farmers, and poverty reduction,” he said.
Mr. 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.
Ghana coordinator of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) Dr. Richard Ampadu 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. Paul Bonzie Afful, a participant said, “I think science is the way forward if we want to develop as a nation.”
Nana Opuni, a student at the University of Ghana 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,” she said.