Towards a global data ecosystem for agriculture and food
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Policy engagement

Towards a global data ecosystem for agriculture and food

CTA and its partners are building capacity in ACP countries to use open data in agriculture. At the recent International Open Data Conference, CTA reported on four innovative approaches to developing the capacity of farmers and other groups to use open data in tackling key agricultural and nutritional challenges.

Feeding the world’s growing population means that agriculture must adapt to increasing demands and changing conditions, such as those caused by climate change and volatile markets. Many initiatives have been launched in recent years to help unlock the potential for using open data to innovate. Yet this data will only be useful if farmers have the capacity to use it. 

Developing data standards, or analysing and publishing the large amounts of data that already exist on agricultural processes and products, can increase productivity, as has already happened in other industries. For example, geological, satellite and weather data, when combined, can accurately forecast problems such as drought and disease.

CTA has been involved in open data for a number of years and has recently stepped up its activity through the GODAN Action Project (Global Open Data for Impact and Capacity Development in Agriculture and Nutrition), which was launched by the UK’s Department for International Development to bring together agriculture and nutrition specialists and open data experts to build people’s capacity to engage with open data. This work is contributing to increasing farmers’ yields, improving nutrition for consumers and providing better evidence-based policy-making. Focusing on standards, research and capacity, the project will be supported by activities aiming at high levels of uptake of its results, and monitoring and evaluation. 

Capacity development

CTA’s GODAN project coordinator Isaura Lopes made a presentation to the International Open Data Conference in Madrid, Spain on 7 October 2016, focusing on capacity development. Much of the work she reported on came from the activities of the GODAN Capacity Development Working Group, which is led by CTA, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Open Data Institute (ODI). “We presented several innovative approaches that we are developing, which are aimed at allowing data publishers, farmers’ organisations, civil society and journalists to use open data to tackle key agricultural and nutritional challenges,” Isaura explains.

The project started by assessing existing training needs, incentives and barriers, and mapping the capacity-building landscape to identify key partners. A capacity-building group was developed in partnership with GODAN, to make the most of the significant contribution and resources of its international members working with open data. As a result, a range of capacity development activities will take place, with a specific focus on Africa. The project will focus on building capacity using four approaches and will assess their efficacy.

The four approaches are:

  1. Face to face: to promote open data training with existing ICT training providers and help improve open data materials
  2. 'Workbench' activities: with multiple stakeholders on an open data project building their applications and learning about key success factors
  3. E-training: to develop online training courses based on existing approaches with FAO
  4. Self-learning: in particular, innovative approaches to learning using mobile phones.

All the materials produced for each training event will be uploaded to the 'open data learning repository' to ensure efficiency and knowledge sharing among capacity development activities. This will enhance capacity on data production and data curation amongst different stakeholder groups such as data producers and researchers. “Our challenge is the opening of access to this data not just through coding but through awareness and use,” explains CTA’s Chris Addison.

Open data can be particularly useful to journalists writing about the critical challenges facing agriculture. Participants heard about the CTA-sponsored training provided to members of the CAADP Journalists Network, with practical tips for using open data. CAADP is the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, which works to improve food security and nutrition, and increase incomes in Africa's largely farming-based economies.

One of the key resources of the GODAN Action Project will be a Knowledge Repository Platform of learning materials on open data, including examples of good practice, success stories, training materials and initiatives hosted on the GODAN website. Produced and used by the many different stakeholders in agriculture, from smallholders to multinational conglomerates, a shared global data space will drive forward the productivity and efficiency of the industry.


GODAN is an international partnership between Wageningen UR–Alterra, AgroKnow, FAO, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), the Land Portal, CTA, ODI, AidData and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS).

Find out more

Download the GODAN publication A Data Ecosystem for Agriculture and Food Read about the GODAN Action project Discover the GODAN website