Natasha Mhango is Senior agricultural information officer-publications at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock of Zambia. Using skills she honed at our training course in Nairobi in July 2016, and with mentoring from the Local Development Research Institute (LDRI), she has been building on open data to write about the biggest issues in agriculture and nutrition in Zambia. Her recent stories include:
- Stabilising Agricultural Productivity in Zambia
- Stunting In Children – Zambia's Road To The Malabo Declaration Goals
Paida Kadzakumanja writes for The Nation, in Malawi. She is investigating challenges facing the country's Farm Input Subsidy Programme, basing her stories on a range of data sources, and illustrating how access to data allows journalists to illustrate progress on government programmes rather than simply relaying opinions. Among her latest stories are:
Digging through data
The journalists launched into this work following the open data training course for journalists in July 2016. This course is just one part of our commitment, under the GODAN Action project, to connect open data with users who can apply it to food security and nutrition challenges.
Open data is data that anyone can access, use and share. It is a vast and resource that is growing explosively. The training course introduced participants to the concepts around open data, showed them where to find it, and demonstrated ways to use it. The journalists learned how to transform it into compelling stories, charts, maps and infographics.
“The sources of data I used for my articles were all online – the FAOSTAT website, and Zambia’s Central Statistical Office website, on which I found Zambia’s agricultural crop forecast reports,” says Natasha Mhango. The training course helped her learn to better navigate open data sources, which can sometimes deliver too much of a good thing.
“I often come across very bulky data, so to say. And so the workshop’s practical session on how to filter data was most useful to me, as it has now made interpretation and subsequently presentation of the data easier.”
Stories in the numbers
On completion of the training, the Fellows were encouraged to produce one piece of data- or research-driven content every month for six months, with LDRI’s mentorship. The content is being published by their own organisations online and offline, as well as on TransformAgriculture.
Mhango has found the assistance to be valuable in the age-old task of writing stories that speak to people. “My target audience are usually small scale farmers, so such data helps me better describe to them issues that directly affect their farming practices, in a way they can easily understand,” she says.
CTA has helped establish a GODAN Working Group on Capacity Development for individuals and institutions interested in collaborative efforts in agricultural and nutritional open data initiatives. The working group aims to promote open data knowledge and increase awareness of ongoing open data initiatives, innovations and good practices. All who are involved in, or wish to be involved in, such efforts are encouraged to join.
Two other activities have already been organised by members of the working group. In October 2016, an AgriGIS Workshop and Think Tank allowed African agricultural researchers to share knowledge and strategies for the better use of geographic information systems (GIS). That same month in Quito, during the Habitat III conference, the Land Portal Foundation held an International Training on Open and Collaborative Platforms for Responsible Land Governance.
Action is building to turn data that is available to everyone into data that informs everyone. We are pleased to be a part of this collaboration, and hope that the stories shared above showcase the promise of open data in action.