Capacities for Change, GFAR blog

The importance of open and equitable access to agricultural data


Open and equitable access to data and information is a vital and tremendously powerful instrument for change. Yet despite tremendous potential value, open access to data is not without risks. Data and associated information and communication technologies by their nature tend to favour those who hold them, or can most readily access and make use of them. Measures that empower and enable some can actually leave the excluded even further behind. Resource-poor smallholders often lack access, power and an ability to act on data, yet much information derives from farmers themselves.

GFAR is providing technical support to help overcome these barriers. GFAR and FAO are proud to have helped catalyze the establishment of the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition initiative (GODAN) and now provide direct technical support to GODAN’s operation, linking in the GFAR networks of thousands of organizations. GFAR Partners are pleased that GODAN’s first publications include papers on “Responsible Data in Agriculture” and “Ownership of Open Data: Governance Options for Agriculture and Nutrition” and that GFAR has contributed to both.

At GODAN’s High-Level Forum held at the UN ECOSOC on September 15th, GFAR Executive Secretary Mark Holderness highlighted the importance of open data in meeting the world’s agricultural challenges. The Panel included US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Jeffrey Sachs of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Willy Bett, Kenyan Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.

The Global Forum on Agricultural Research, GFAR, established by FAO and IFAD, is a unique multi-stakeholder forum and catalyst for change. Partners in GFAR work together to make agricultural research and innovation more effective in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals. GFAR Partners come from all sectors, from farmers and consumers to upstream science. GFAR puts resource-poor smallholders and consumers at the centre of processes of agricultural research and innovation, not at the end of a knowledge chain.1

GFAR is also opening up access to data and knowledge through support to other platforms and initiatives. The GFAR-managed CIARD RING enables databases to cross-connect and supports ICT capacity development in national systems. GFAR is supporting rural communities in dialogues to envisage and re-appropriate their own futures, shaping and owning the innovations and knowledge needed to achieved their desired futures, using data to create new enterprise opportunity for youth, and new metrics by which to value sustainable development.

The extensive partnership established in GODAN has both a tremendous capacity and an inherent duty to ensure equity in access and use of information for sustainable development. Open data is a human right, let us fulfil that right, to ensure agriculture fulfils the role demanded of it in sustainable development.


Watch the entire high level meeting on open data here.

Blog post by Mark Holderness, GFAR Executive Secretary

To learn more about what GFAR Secretariat and Partners in GFAR are doing to open doors to data, click here

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