Africa Science Diplomacy and Policy Network (ASDPN) organized an enlarged training grouping 10 key actors in rural development. The workshop centered on the theme: SCIENCE DIPLOMACY AS A TOOL FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT. This was mindful of the fact that rural development encompasses development activities and initiatives that are taken by governments, donors, non-governmental organizations and communities with the singular objective of improving the standard of living in rural areas such as non-urban neighborhoods, countryside’s and remote villages. In this light ASDPN selected a cream of key community leaders from different parts of the national territory, who are driving change in their respective communities to build their capacity around Science Diplomacy so as to bring about Sustainable Development in their respective communities.
“Science Diplomacy is a field in international cooperation for development that uses science as the basis for forging constructive international relationships and engaging all development actions, be it at the political, social or economic level so as to ensure a steady and sustainable evidence based decision stream” said Mr. Nche Tala Aghanwi, Founder and Executive Director of the Africa Science Diplomacy and Policy Network (ASDPN) at the start of the training.
In the conception and implementation of rural development policies in Cameroon, very little if not no attention is usually given to science. This has often resulted in a backlash of development initiatives, living communities indifferent to development actions or further deteriorating their conditions primarily because decisions were never made on the grounds of evidence.
Where scientists are consulted, usually the solutions they provide are never really welcomed by policy makers at the local level. Delegates present were therefore schooled on the importance of Science in decision making and were enjoined to develop and implement rural development policies around scientific evidence.
The overarching goal of enhancing Science Diplomacy in rural development, is to provide rural councils, Community groupings and indigenous peoples reliable evidence around the origins of their challenges and the best solutions based on well communicated evidence based information, tailored to get communities out of risks and underdevelopment towards a path of sustainability.
The opportunities that Science Diplomacy offers for rural development were well articulated to the appreciation of the delegates who pledged to uphold the principles that govern Science Diplomacy in their rural development engagements.
“This training has come at such a timely moment for us as actors in rural development given that the country is presently in full implementation of the decentralization programme as spelled out in the constitution. Indeed in order to effectively decentralize the country we cannot disassociate ourselves form Science and Diplomacy” said Assistant director of Keldon Bilingual Institute of Professional Studies (KBIPS) Mr. Keafon Jude Thaddeus.
The importance of self-reliance and community development supported by science was also emphasized as another key strategy for enhancing community development.
“Since our country is now decentralization oriented, I have learnt how we can change the mindset of the communities to be self-reliant so as to enhance their own developmental aspects in their various communities” said Mr. Ngu Benedict, representative of the Balikumbat Council.
Africa Science Diplomacy and Policy Network enjoined the actors in rural development “to disassociate from ongoing actions geared towards transforming rural areas in to cities and rather focus efforts on transforming rural areas in to sustainable communities by incorporating social, environmental and economic issues in to sustainable community planning and development with science as the base always,” rural development actors were told.
“From all indication Science Diplomacy can definitely help our local communities to sustainably develop while maintaining our rural setup and preserving our rural identity” said Mr. Christopher Chubuka Kennedy, representative of the Ako Council, Ndongamantung Division.
Ultimately, investing in Science Diplomacy for the purpose of pooling rural communities out of poverty, risks and underdevelopment and placing them on a sustainable path is crucial according to ASDPN.