Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with over 181 million people. It is also the 7th in the world. A UN report, ‘World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision’, projects Nigeria’s population would reach 300 million by 2050 making it the third largest in the world just behind India and China.
Nigeria like most other developing countries is faced with the challenge of catering for its humongous population and developing home grown solutions to cater for its people. However, science holds the solution to the nation’s many challenges. With inventions and innovations to push for the rapid industrialization of the nation, science, more importantly, provides opportunity for the deployment of scientific tools to boost productivity, especially in the agricultural sector to feed our large population and ensure food security.
In recognition of the importance of science in promoting common good on earth, Nigeria signed up and joined more than 600 other cities across the world to commemorate the Earth Day with an inaugural march held on April 22, 2017 organised by March for Science at the United States of America’s Washington District of Columbia (DC).
On April 14, 2018, Nigeria also joined the rest of the world to mark the 2nd annual event of March for Science with a march in support of science in the nation’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, an event that saw scientists and science supporters take to the streets to sensitise the populace of the importance of science and the role it plays in everyday life.
Enthusiastic science lovers made up of scientists, farmers, civil society groups, lawyers and journalists, took to the streets of Abuja to campaign for science and sensitise Nigerians on its role in the overall socio-economic development of the nation.
The event was organised 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 event which drew participants from the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF); National Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS); FCT Department of Science and Technology; researchers from various institutes in Nigeria under the auspices of Academic Union of Research Institutes (ASURI); ECOWAS; a private agricultural solution firm, CONTEC Global and other scientific officers and innovators presented an opportunity for science supporters to come together, join voices to amplify available science-based solutions the nation can adopt to ensure food security, affordable health care delivery system, industrialisation and environmental sustainability.
Speaking on the rationale behind the march, the director of bi-resources department, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST), Mr. Abayomi Oguntunde, who was the overseeing director-general of NABDA during the march, said it sought to create awareness and sensitise the populace on the many ways science serves our communities and our world as well as to encourage the public to “value science, treasure science, respect science, invest in science, appreciate and engage with science.”
“The life of everyone of us is highly dependent on scientific inventions, innovations and modern-day technologies. Science has changed the lives of people largely as we all know and have been deployed to every aspect of modernization and in sectors like agriculture, medicine, environment, education, industry, electricity, aviation, information, etc for both developing and developed nations. Modern science in Nigeria is awakened by the continuous and hard efforts of the outstanding scientists and researchers who attempt scientific advances of highest international caliber.
“Just like other scientists across the world, Nigerian scientists have developed various scientific tools that can help in the area of food security, combating climate change and challenges in medicine which the public have not been fully aware of. The March for Science therefore, provided an opportunity for science supporters to come together, join voices to amplify available science-based solutions the nation can adopt to ensure food security,” he said.
He contended that 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 conventional method of agriculture can no longer meet up with our demand. Science holds the solution to our food security.”
Earlier, the OFAB Nigeria chapter country coordinator, Dr Rose Gidado, said the march sought to include humanizing science as it is first a human process, pointing out that many Nigerians viewed science as abstract and were not aware there are scientists in Nigeria. She added that her organization supports scientists by speaking up for them and amplifying their voices and partners the public by engaging the communities in research process. Nigeria will be participating in the 2019 March for Science on May 4.