Data-driven agriculture is bringing about the more economic and efficient use of natural resources, and enabling small-scale farmers to access credit, targeted inputs and advice, logistics and markets. CTA has been leading the way in supporting farmers’ organisations to gather and interpret digital farmer information to facilitate enhanced farm data management and improved market access.
Exponential growth is being witnessed in the collection of farm information as data-driven agronomy expands worldwide. Across Africa, farmer organisations have been supported by CTA in partnership with the Pan African Farmers Organisation (PAFO) to take up digitalisation practices. These include farmer profiling (the digital recording of smallholder data, such as their farm area, location and crop type), data management, analysis and visualisation. For the Confederation of Associations of Agricultural Producers for Development (CAPAD) in Burundi, the main objective for joining the PAFO-CTA programme was to improve the effectiveness of its farmer services, states Annick Sezibera, CAPAD Executive Secretary. Since 2018, CAPAD has supported 39 smallholder cooperatives to digitally record and store the farm information of over 14,000 smallholders (55% women) in online databases. The accumulation of farmer information, for instance on farm size and crop type, has enabled the cooperatives to coordinate bulk ordering of inputs and better plan for upcoming seasons.
“This initiative has been an opportunity for PAFO’s farmer organisation members to build digital capacity. We also benefited from greater exposure to policymakers on the issue of data management.” Elizabeth Nsimadala, President, PAFO
Open data dialogue
Global discourse around open data in agriculture – and its application – has been promoted by CTA in its support of the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) initiative. Established in 2014, GODAN currently has around 1,000 members, a third of which are based in ACP countries, particularly Africa. In 2017, the initiative received a boost at the GODAN ministerial conference supported by CTA, which culminated in the Nairobi Declaration. This historic agreement committed 15 African countries to make data on agriculture and nutrition freely available, accessible and usable. Ghana, one of the signatories, led work under its e-Agriculture Unit of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) in conjunction with Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and CTA in 2019 to develop a range of policies, strategic planning and investment activities by MoFA and other stakeholders who influence open data policy and practice in Ghana.
To maximise the potential of open data, GODAN Action, the CTA-managed capacity development arm of GODAN, has supported capacity building through a series of face-to-face workshops across Africa. Over 4,400 data users, including ICT workers, policymakers, extension officers and researchers from 148 countries have also completed a free 4-week e-learning GODAN course on making data open and usable. Working with WUR, lessons from the workshops have been fed into policy advice on data sharing, and in relation to open data more generally across the continent. “CTA has been particularly influential in terms of capacity building and training, and they have helped to influence policymakers and others, especially in Africa,” emphasises André Laperrière, GODAN Executive Director.