Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22 with various worldwide events held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. In commemoration of the day this year, over 600 countries across the world took to the streets for ‘March for Science’. Our dear country, Nigeria was one of the countries that participated in the march and took a stand for science.
The event was organised in Abuja, Nigeria, by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology in collaboration with other ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government; the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA); National Orientation Agency (NOA); the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa, Nigeria Chapter and a non-profit institution based at Cornell University, New York, the Cornell Alliance for Science.
The ‘March for Science’ drew participants from the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF); National Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS); FCT Department of Science and Technology; Academic Union of Research Institutes (ASURI); ECOWAS; a private agricultural solution firm, CONTEC Global and other scientific officers, who marched from the Eagle Square to the Unity Fountain and back. There was also a media parley and a tour of NABDA facilities at the agency’s headquarters on Airport Road, Abuja.
Addressing participants at the Unity Fountain, the permanent secretary of the science and technology ministry, Mrs Belema Wakama, said the march provided an opportunity for scientists and science supporters to take a stand and highlight the immense benefits available for Nigerians in science.
“We are here to remind you that we live in the age of science. The life of everyone of us is highly dependent on the scientific inventions, innovations and modern day technologies. Science has changed the lives of people largely which as we all know have been deployed to every aspect of modernization and in sectors like agriculture, medicine, environment, education, industry, electricity, aviation, information, etc. for both the developed and developing nations,” she said.
Wakama noted that science is revolutionary as it holds the key to constant development and improvement for addressing climate change, food shortage and challenges in medicine, stressing that the march provided yet another opportunity for supporters of science to come together, join voices to amplify available evidence-based solutions for the nation to adopt to ensure food security especially with its growing population.
According to her, “at the current population of over 180 million people and projected population of 400 million people by 2050, Nigeria is faced with the risk of decreased farming population due to age; decreased arable land; poverty; malnutrition and hunger because the conventional method of agriculture can no longer meet up with our demand. Science holds the solution to our food security.”
Saying a country that cannot feed herself cannot have self-pride, she pointed out that the issue of food security required all hands to be on deck for the reconstruction, revival and rejuvenation of our agricultural sector.
The permanent secretary represented by the director of bioresearches and technology at the ministry, Abayomi Oguntunde, stated that agricultural biotechnology and genetic improvement is recognised all over the world as a solution to food security, adding scientific and regulatory agencies around the world had repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be safe.
Earlier in her remarks, the director-general of NABDA, Prof. Lucy Ogbadu, said the ultimate goal of the march was to ensure that scientific integrity played an important role in government decisions that affect everyone, from funding research for evidence-based policy making to regulation recommendations.
She said the march also aimed to highlight the vital role science plays in our lives and take a stand on it; to build capacity, gain publicity and demonstrate strength and solidarity in science to decision makers; to re-emphasis the role of science in national development; to help scientists and communities they serve work together in improving science education, communication and access.
Other objectives of the march, according to her, include to create awareness and sensitise the public on the many ways that science serves our communities and our world and also encourage the public to value and invest in science, appreciate and engage with science; to speak up because research is not gaining enough support it needs to drive the plan to revitalise Nigeria’s agricultural sector; to create an open, honest science communication inclusive public outreach and to affirm science as a democratic value.
Speaking to journalists, the OFAB in Africa, Nigeria chapter coordinator, Dr Rose Gidado, said the aim of the ‘March for Science’ in Nigeria was to persuade the nation to adopt pervasive technologies especially biotechnology.
“We are narrowing the aim of this march down to biotechnology so we can use this technology, the genetic modification tool, in combating the challenges of global warming, desert encroachment, insect and pest infestation of farmers’ farmland. This technology is the only tool that the breeders have been able to find useful; they have used it and they find it useful to be able to overcome these global warming challenges,” Gidado said.