“Citizens, not spectators”
With most African economies already grappling with complex social and environmental challenges, many fear that the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic will further deepen the cracks that keep a great proportion of the continent’s population in poverty. Spurred in part by the increased difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, several countries have begun exploring promising pathways to enhancing the resilience of those employed in livelihood-dependent sectors such as food and agriculture. A key question as it relates to Ghana’s efforts in this regard is: how best can the country sustain programme and policy implementation whilst recognising – and accommodating – the new reality of health protocols and practices likely to shape our society and productivity pathways in our most critical business sectors?
Ghana’s current government has admonished citizens to not sit on the fence but rather be actively involved in the development process. One group of its citizens is of particular interest here. As noted in a previous GCSGI blog post, Ghana’s youthful population is a resource offering enormous potential for solving the country’s challenges in new and innovate ways. One key bridge for connecting this demographic group to the work at hand is citizen science – the science of engaging citizens in collaborative processes right from data gathering to reporting and outreach. Already, government flagship programmes such as Planting for Food and Jobs, One-Village-One-Dam, and One-District-One-Factory have sought to focus on transforming local economies, especially those of rural areas, whilst steering the development agenda so as to attain the goals of reduced poverty, ending hunger and ensuring a healthy and wealthy population.
 Author, X. (2020). COVID-19, Innovation and the Future of Africa’s Agriculture. In Goldcoast Sustainability Governance Institute’s Dialogues in Innovation and Sustainability Series, Vol. 1, edited by Wes Grooms.
The post-COVID-19 reality will very likely require that the government take steps to ensure such interventions are sustained. In the short-term, Ghana’s government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and its agencies – the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Education – should collaboratively explore ways and means in which community residents could be engaged in the field to conduct environmental monitoring and, to a degree, project monitoring, using simple, and familiar, methodologies. An inclusive development process must shift exercisable agency away from traditional public institutions toward community groups and members who in most cases can be engaged daily in multiple capacities and at no cost. The call is for an inclusive collaborative governance process involving state and non-state actors and public and private institutions.
Whilst the possibilities of citizen science have been well explored in the research domain, its promise remains under-utilized for leveraging citizen strength in governance actions. To remedy this deficit, public institutions – aided by district assemblies through the ministry of local government – can and should begin to explore avenues for designing and implementing such community-based citizen involvement. Doing so promises the development and leveraging of a new crop of responsible citizens who, rather than expecting only their parliamentary representative to be involved in policy-making and governance, are equally engaged in local level development. In a country where governance is expected to be with and of the people, the COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for Ghana’s government to inspire and animate the nation’s youth toward realising their ingenuity and innovative potential when put to the challenge. Increasingly, the government of Ghana can – and should – set the pace for realising how such an untapped resource on the continent might be leveraged in managing social and environmental challenges now and in the future.
To cite this article: Author, X. and Author, Y. (2020). The promise of citizen science and inclusive sustainable development in post-COVID-19 Ghana. In Goldcoast Sustainability Governance Institute’s Dialogues in Governance and Development Series, Vol. 1, edited by Wes Grooms.
Views herein expressed are of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the Goldcoast Sustainability Governance Institute.