A pledge for new food productivity models

In the Northern region of Ghana, where the Agricultural and Environmental scientist Anita Takura comes from, 30% of the population lives in poverty and 21% of children are undernourished. The arid savannah conditions and increasing impact of climate change make it difficult to ensure that sufficient food is available year round. That is why Anita Takura, a L’Oréal–UNESCO For Women in Science 2013 fellow, dedicates her research to finding new ways to increase food productivity, so as to ensure food security in Ghana and many other African countries, without causing irreversible environmental damage.

DiscovHER - What benefits might society gain from your research?

Anita Takura - My contribution would be providing perspectives on how different food productivity models would impact natural systems including soil, water and natural habitats, as well as household food security. In a nut shell, how we can increase productivity and improve livelihoods without compromising our natural systems, which are already threatened by climate change. There is also evidence that women and children will be the most affected with climate change and other natural disasters, hence my area of interest will also cover improvements in nutrition for children and opportunities for women to develop resilience and coping strategies in a changing world.

D/H - Generally speaking, what do you think about the state of our world today?

AT - My view on the state of our world today concerns the overwhelming evidence of the realities of climate change which we are still unable to resolve. Despite increasing frequencies of catastrophic events and changes in weather patterns, the world has failed to reach a global consensus. Consensus or not, these adverse impacts have arrived and we need to intensify efforts aimed at building resilience, coping and adaptation strategies. I am of the view that climate change can be better tackled through voluntary initiatives that require companies to be more carbon sensitive rather than monetary commitments on the part of national governments.

D/H - Did anything specific ignite your passion for science?

AT - Nature became a fascinating subject to me as a child when I started learning some simple things like the universe at the basic level of education. I would sometimes wonder how creation and the theories of the origins of the earth came into being. A career in science to me became a choice when I realized that there is so much more in nature that is still unknown to man, and science is the only way to interrogate some of the issues critically.

D/H - What are some challenges for women scientists in your home country, Ghana?

AT - In Northern Ghana, where I come from, a woman in science is something that is termed highly academic and most people within the society perceive you as someone with the intentions to defy the laws of your community by staying in school for too long and learning things that have nothing to do with running a home and bearing children. In that context alone, without a mentor to encourage young talented women, it is highly challenging to reach their highest potential. This also gives credence to the fact that childhood education for girls remains extremely low in the region. I myself did not have anyone to act as a mentor to me but I have had a lot of encouragement from my father who is a teacher and has supported me in my choice of career.

In Africa, women are still relegated to the back seat as far as education is concerned and these values are embedded cultural and are normally unacceptable for a woman to defy these cultural norms.

This is why this fellowship means everything to me as an individual and also in championing my cause for promoting women in science, particularly in Ghana.

Watch Anita Takura's speech at the 15th L'Oréal-UNESCO Awards Ceremony

For Women in Science

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