Capacities for Change, GFAR blog

Bringing collaboration on open data for food and agriculture forward: enabling GODAN as a Collective Action


On 3 March 2017 GFAR Secretariat facilitated a discussion session on “Perspectives on sharing data and information for food, nutrition and agriculture” at FAO headquarters, with talks from FAO, the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition initiative (GODAN) and the GFAR Secretariat.

The Partners in GFAR consider collaboration on improving data and information sharing to be a central key to addressing many of the challenges around food security, rural development, fair markets, risk management and sustainability in general. GFAR has fostered common initiatives for better sharing and use of data for many years, starting from the Global.RAIS and IISAST initiative in 2005 to CIARD in 2008 and GODAN since 2014.

Now, through the GODAN mechanism, involving 500 partners across the globe and with the reform of GFAR as a multi-stakeholder mechanism fostering networked actions around the world, there is opportunity for more clearly identifying GODAN as being also a “GFAR Collective Action“, contributing to the common purpose of GFAR Partners in transforming agri-food research and innovation for greater development impact, through opening access to, and use of, agri-food data, to better meet the needs of resource-poor farmers and consumers.

Part of this enabling role consists of keeping key partners engaged, facilitating the exchange of experiences across a wide range of perspectives, – from Governments to farmers, scientists to academia –  and re-kindling interest and commitment from all parties. For this reason, taking the opportunity of André Laperrière’s (GODAN Director) visit to FAO and through the privilege of being hosted in FAO, one of the key partners in GODAN, GFAR convened a session on open data especially dedicated to FAO staff. The objective was on the one hand to update all FAO staff on what GODAN is doing and on the other hand to have FAO highlight some of their most relevant activities around open data and identify challenges and areas where collaborations under GODAN could be beneficial.

GFAR-GODAN meeting 2

The session was facilitated by Mark Holderness of GFAR. Presentations in the session were made by GODAN Director André Laperrière on latest achievements of the GODAN initiative; Ajit Maru from the GFAR Secretariat on GFAR’s activities on open data and data rights, especially of farmers; Stephen Katz from FAO Statistics on FAOSTAT; Imma Subirats from FAO OPC on FAO’s involvement in GODAN; Ronald Vargas from FAO CBL on the Soil Information System and collaborations within GODAN and Research Data Alliance; Francesco Calderini from FAO CIO on IT issues related to data ownership and transparency.  At the end of the session there was vigorous discussion on various issues around data sharing within and outside FAO.

All presentations featured one or more common challenges that clearly stood out as areas for collaboration. These included capacity development in the collection, management, opening up and re-use of data and good practices and policies around data ownership and transparency. In both areas, leveraging the CIARD and GODAN mechanisms could prove beneficial. CIARD, an initiative originally begun by FAO and GFAR, could play a role by connecting its network of information specialists in agricultural research and development to capacity development for open data. The GODAN Action project, funded by DFID, could support and promote it with FAO which is also a GODAN partner. In the area of data ownership, GODAN also has a Working Group on data rights and has already published an initial study on data ownership.

In conclusion, both GFAR Secretariat and GODAN, as well as the FAO audience, were very pleased with the outcome of the session and  look forward to continued and fruitful collaborations in GODAN. We are especially interested in seeing FAO, and other International and National Institutions committed to the partnerships, further incorporating data sharing and exchange as one of the central pillars of their activities. It is essential that FAO and GFAR bring together their respective stakeholders, roles and value in agricultural research and innovation for development, to mobilize a wide range of actors in further efforts to facilitate data flows around the world. One of the best ways this can be done now is by leveraging the GODAN initiative , which has gained momentum over the past two years with GFAR and FAO together and can now be considered as a GFAR collective action given its multi-stakeholder nature and inclusion of farmers.  To further this collaboration and catalyze the relative advantages of each network, we encourage GODAN members to register themselves as Partners in GFAR, and similarly, GFAR partners that have not yet joined the GODAN movement, to do so.  

Together, we will set data free and put it to use for the best benefits of global agriculture and nutrition.

by Valeria Pesce, Mark Holderness, Ajit Maru and André Laperrière

Image credits: 1-André Laperrière; 2-Valeria Pesce

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