From niche to known: findings on farm data sharing from Partners in GFAR reflected in World Bank book

By Valeria Pesce (GFAR), Chris Addison (formerly CTA), Foteini Zampati (GODAN

Sometimes—perhaps often—we who work in research for development ask ourselves if and how our findings will get picked up, “taken off the shelf”, to help make a difference on the ground. In GFAR we ask how our partners’ concerns and the findings that emerge from our collaborations can make it into the dialogues and hard-hitting reports of influential organizations. We are thrilled to see this is the case with a newly released book by the World Bank entitled ‘What’s Cooking: Digital Transformation of the Agrifood System’, which delves into the benefits of a digital transformation of agriculture, including findings produced by Partners in GFAR.  

This story is about the challenges and opportunities of agri-food data sharing, in particular farm data. It’s about how Partners in GFAR have been given a new audience and reach to bring their findings to bear on issues directly affecting the world’s smallholder farmers.  

In 2008, we teamed up with several partners to create an initiative called CIARD, where participants discussed issues related to agricultural data. Then in 2014 most of the CIARD partners including GFAR, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation (CTA) and FAO joined the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition initiative (GODAN) and through this partnership we began addressing more precisely the issues of data sharing and data rights in the agri-food value chain. As an information and data explosion transforms agriculture across the world, we asked how smallholder farmers are to benefit from it, how they can grow their capacities to become smart data users and managers, and how they can be protected from exploitation or misuse of their data. 

In the broader context of GODAN and the GODAN Action project, and in close and continuous collaboration with CTA and its Data4Ag project, we conducted a number of activities on harnessing the power of data for smallholders. To name a few: 

The outputs of these collaborations have been mainly short reports, thought pieces and capacity development material, of a rather niche character. The issue of farm data sharing, seen especially from the perspective of smallholder farmers, indeed appears to be a niche issue. To bring this issue to the attention of the public and policy makers, it needs to be part of mainstream dialogues and publications about broader and trendier topics, like digital agriculture. 

The World Bank’s recently released book provides a state-of-the-art comprehensive review of several aspects of the digital transformation of agriculture, deeming the benefits as outweighing the risks. It also devotes a good part of the discussion to the challenges and possible policy options to address these.  

And the good news is, in these chapters, we can find many of the arguments that have emerged in consultations led by GFAR, CTA and GODAN in these last years.  

Even if farm data sharing seems too niche for you, we encourage you to read the book, which has a very broad perspective on the digital transformation of agriculture. We believe you’ll quickly see how these issues are relevant to your field of work in a world that’s constantly changing. Full of insights and interesting examples, the book can also be seen as an acknowledgement of the work of the partners, which made its way to some important chapters. 

In particular, our findings are reflected strongly in the executive summary of the chapter entitled ‘Data governance and competition are major concerns’, where all issues related to the technical, social, and legal challenges of farm data are mentioned—from data ownership, protection, portability and manipulation to digital concentrations, market power and barriers to entry. In the same summary, the discussion of public policies contains many points that we’ve discussed: beyond public open data and FAIR data, covered by a different stream of research, we find the safeguarding of farmers’ data privacy, security and ownership; the need to build on trust; the revision of regulations to avoid data concentrations and lock-ins; and the idea of collective data ownership. The GFAR/GODAN/CTA white paper is cited a few times, as well as CTA papers, a GODAN paper and two publications from two of the colleagues listed at the bottom of this blog post. 

We hope it’s a satisfying feeling for all those who have contributed to this stream of activities to know that their voices have been heard and their views included in an influential vehicle for policy change.  

For those interested in these topics, GFAR is happy to announce that we’ve launched a Collective Action on ‘Inclusive Digital Transformation of Agriculture’, aiming to promote the inclusion of farmers in the design and governance of digital agriculture processes. When farmers are empowered to not only adopt digital technologies to increase their productivity and resilience, but also to be agents of the transformation who have a say in how their data is used, they will be more likely to fully embrace the change. This will help improve the efficiency, transparency and equity of agri-food value chains that incorporate these digital solutions.  

Learn more about this Collective Action here, with a first phase set to kick off in Latin America with our partner FORAGRO. Partners willing to contribute to this action or start a parallel one in another region can contact us at gfar-secretariat@fao.org


This blog is part of the GFAR Partners in Action series, celebrating the achievements of our diverse network of partners who are working together to shape a new, sustainable future for agriculture and food. Each month we will be showcasing stories related to a key theme in agri-food research and innovation. The theme for April is ‘Digital transformation of agriculture’.  
 
Join the conversation in the comments below or share this article on social media using #GFARinAction.  

Disclosure statement 

One of the authors of this blog post, who participated in the above consultations and collaborations, conducted some of the background research reused in the World Bank book. The World Bank had contacted GODAN as a reputable body for matters related to agricultural data and was then directed by GODAN (thanks Foteini Zampati) to GFAR. 

 
Acknowledgements 

We would like to mention two people who have been there since the beginning of this journey and well before—true pioneers who shaped most of this conversation. One is Ajit Maru, the initiator of this stream of activities in GFAR in 2004, now retired, a profound thinker who has always pushed us not to shy away from complexity and controversy. The other is Hugo Besemer, formerly at Wageningen University, who unfortunately is not among us anymore, a brilliant and wise advisor to us all. 
 
We would also like to thank all the partners and people below who have contributed in different ways, apologizing already if we’re missing some names (remind us and we’ll update the list). 

Contributors to publications, MOOC and webinars: 

 (Alphabetic order by first name, affiliations are those at the time of the collaborations) 

Contributors to publications, MOOC and webinars: 

Anneliza Collett (Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, South Africa) 

Annick Sezibera (CAPAD Burundi) 

Athanase Birba (FEBAP Burkina Faso) 

Caroline Figuères (CTA) 

Chipo Msengezi (CTA) 

Chris Addison (CTA) 

Dan Berne (Lagom Ag Initiative) 

David Muwonge (NUCAFE Uganda) 

Didier Muyiramye (CTA) 

Elizabeth Nsimidala (Pan-African Farmers’ Organization & EAFF) 

Foteini Zampati (GODAN) 

Ilkay Holt (FAO) 

Imma Subirats (FAO) 

Jacques Drolet (International Development of Regulatory Globalization) 

Jeremy De Beer (University of Ottawa & GODAN) 

Juanita Chaves (GFAR) 

Leanne Wiseman (Australian Centre for Intellectual Property in Agriculture & Griffith University) 

Nicolene Fourie (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, South Africa) 

Oweyesiga Hamlus (IGARA Tea Factory Uganda) 

Peter Ballantyne (ILRI) 

Shawn Sullivan (independent expert) 

Simone van der Burg (Wageningen University & IoF2020 EU project) 

Stephan Boyera (CTA) 

Stephen Kalyesubula (Makerere University)

Suchit Anand (GODAN)

Valeria Pesce (GFAR) 

Participants in expert consultations & workshops: 

Alice Namuli Blazevic – Katende, Ssempebwa and Company Advocates (KATS Uganda) 

Ana Brandusescu (GODAN

Arianna Giuliodori – World Farmers Organization 

Caroline Muchiri – Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) 

Chris Addison – CTA 

Christian Merz – GIZ 

Daniel Martini – KTBL 

Edward Katende – Uganda Agribusiness Alliance 

Fatma Ben Rejeb – Pan-African Farmers’ Organization (PAFO) 

Foteini Zampati – GODAN 

Francois Van Schalkwyk – Open Data Intermediaries & Economic Ownership Rights project 

Frank Begemann – German Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE) 

Godwin Cudjoe – ESOKO Ghana 

Hanns-Christoph Eiden – German Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE) 

Henning Knipschild – German Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE) 

Ismael Sunga – Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) 

Ivo Hostens – CEMA-AGRI 

Jacques Drolet – International Development of Regulatory Globalization (IDRG) 

Jeremy De Beer – University of Ottawa 

Juanita Chaves – GFAR 

Kakha Nadiradze – Georgia Association for Farmers Rights Defense 

Leanne Wiseman – Australian Centre for Intellectual Property in Agriculture 

Manuel Ruiz – Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental 

Michael Brobbey – GODAN 

Nicolene Fourie – CSIR South Africa 

Shawn N Sullivan – Independent lawyer 

Siegfried Harrer – German Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE) 

Simone van der Burg – Wageningen University & IoF2020 EU project 

Sipiwe Manjengwa – Zimbabwe Community Technology Development Organisation (CTDO) 

Stephen Kaleysubula – Youths in Technology and Development Uganda (YITEDEV) 

Tom Van den Steen – Rikolto 

Valeria Pesce – GFAR 

Participants in e-consultation: 

 Ahanda Sosthène Nicaise – FAO – Cameroon  
Andy Dearden – United Kingdom  
Ben Schaap – GODAN & Wageningen University and Research – Netherlands  
Chadwin Reno – Ministry of Agriculture,Livestock and Fisheries – Kenya  
Federico Sancho – IICA – Costa Rica  
Francois Van Schalkwyk – Stellenbosch University & SBC4D – South Africa  
Geoffrey Wandera – Youths in Technology and Development Uganda – Uganda  
George Madoda – Aid for trade logistics – Tanzania  
Gideon Kruseman – CIMMYT – Mexico  
Hugo Besemer – Self employed/ Wageningen UR (retired) – Netherlands  
Jacques Drolet – IDRG – Germany  
Jeremy de Beer – University of Ottawa – Canada  
Joseph Macharia – Founder Mkulima Young – Kenya  
Joshua Magbagbeola – Joseph Ayo Babalola University – Nigeria  
Joshua Toews – Open African Innovation Research – Canada  
Juanita Chaves – GFAR – Colombia  
Lee Babcock – LHB Associates – United States of America  
Martin Parr – GODAN & CABI – United Kingdom  
Michael Brobbey – GODAN – United Kingdom  
Moses Odeke – ASARECA – Uganda  
Peter Johnson – Ayadee – El Salvador  
Robert Katende – Eco Ventures International – Uganda  
Samuel Abanigbe – Bdellium Consult Ltd – Nigeria  
Saripalli suryanarayana – Professional Engineer-Administrator – India  
Serah Odende – African Harvesters – Nigeria  
Sipiwe Manjengwa – Community Technology Development Organization – Zimbabwe  
Thembani Malapela – FAO – Italy  
Uchenna Ugwu – Open African Innovation Research – Canada  

Viviana Palmieri  – FORAGRO-IICA
Yash Ramdharee – Mauritius Cane Industry Authority – Mauritius 

Participants in f2f training: 

 Alpha Mtakwa – Sokoine University – Tanzania 
Charles Mbuthia – Commodity Associations, KENAFF – Kenya 
Donald TCHAOU – TIC – Agro Business Center – Benin 
Geoffrey Wandera – PAYOFAG farmers group – Uganda 
Hervé Bondonga – Producer and trainer – DRC 
Herve Bouagnimbeck – Support Group on Sustainable Development – Cameroon 
Javier Texeira Orihuela – Comision Nacional de Fomento Rural Uruguay – Uruguay 
Johannes Abbot – Farmboek – South Africa 
Koketso Ramoonwa – Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation – Botswana 
Kunal Tiwari – Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development – India 
Lynette du Plessis – TAU South Africa – South Africa 
Moses Odeke – ASARECA – Uganda 
Nike Tinubu – Nigeria Cassava Platform – Nigeria 
Shepherd Mulwanda – Whyfarm Zambia – Zambia 
Sipiwe Manjengwa – Community Technology Development Organization- Zimbabwe 
Tereza Chelule – KENAFF – Kenya 
Thomas Kwaku Dzandu – Ahinsan Vegetable Farmer’s Association – Ghana 

and all online attendees of the MOOC! 



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