Digital and data-driven agriculture: Harnessing the power of data for smallholders
This paper (PDF), by GFAR, GODAN and CTA, discusses the huge opportunities and the main challenges of data-driven agriculture for smallholder farmers, illustrates some data and agri-food system drivers that can help make data-driven agriculture more smallholder-friendly and proposes a few institutional and policy approaches to develop a data ecosystem that can enable farmers to fully harness the power of data. Investing in data-driven agriculture is expected to increase agricultural production and productivity, help adapt to or mitigate the effects of climate change, bring more economic and efficient use of natural resources, reduce risk and improve resilience farming and make agri-food market chains much more efficient. Data-driven agriculture uses big data to supplement on-farm precision agriculture. The two main challenges for smallholders are to gain access to relevant data and to make sure that data sharing does not weaken their positions. There are four different data streams that farmers use, with different opportunities, challenges and risks for farmers. The provides, enables and handlers of data-driven services for and with farmers are critical actors in agri-food data systems. Data standardization is one of the biggest challenges for these actors. Smallholders are tough to reach but have much to gain from data. However, for smallholders to benefit from data-drive agriculture, tools and applications need to be designed for their situations and capacities. Making data-driven agriculture smallholder-friendly should be guided by agri-food system drivers that determine the effectiveness of data-driven improvements, and data system drivers that need to be factored into investments. There are three priority actions to help develop a data ecosystem to support smallholders: 1) Farmers data should be aggregated through joint action that empowers and givers voice to farmers; 2) Platforms that enable open data sharing should be established at different levels; 3) International agreements to facilitate data access, ownership and flows should be developed.