Digging Deeper in Agriculture

August 29, 2022 Agriculture, Process & Tools Josh Powell
Program

In Episode 4 of Data… for What?!, Development Gateway’s new podcast, Josh Powell talks to Charlene Migwe-Kagume about our past successes in the agriculture sector, how DG is prioritizing our work, and what Josh and Charlene see as the future of data & digital in the agriculture space.

 

 

You can also listen to Data… for What?! on SpotifyStitcher, and Apple Podcasts.

DG has worked in agriculture since 2015, but it was only in our last strategy cycle that Agriculture was specifically elevated as a strategic area of focus. That decision was largely shaped by several projects, where our experience as data experts allowed us to support partners to map agricultural data ecosystems, collate and unify data sources, and support specific sector policy and service delivery objectives using data and digital tools. Additionally, we saw agriculture as an under-served sector in data and technology, as compared for example to health and education. We felt that we had a unique contribution to make in agriculture at the beginning of our 2018-2021 strategy, and based on the rapid growth and successes of our work, are continuing to scale our work in agriculture through this new strategy.

Building Trust in Data

Our work in agriculture has made clear that, with the right partnerships, our expertise in data and technology does not require us to become experts in the sector in order to add value. Our success has come from our expertise in data and digital combined with our ability to build trust between partners. For example, through Visualizing Insights on Fertilizer for African Agriculture (VIFAA) program, we worked with Africafertilizer.org and other partners to combine and then validate separate datasets from the private sector, government, and civil society. That collated data has been visualized on dashboards to provide a fuller picture of the entire sector. 

We have also built trust in the cashew and seed sector supply chains through improved data governance including MoU’s and data sharing agreements. A focus on improved data governance has allowed us to reduce fragmentation and data silos, which in turn has made data beneficial for decision makers in the private sector as well as those making policy decisions. 

What is the Future of Data & Digital in Agriculture?

There is tremendous opportunity for innovation in the agriculture sector, but a few that we are particularly interested in are:

  • Ethical Use of Remote sensing and Machine Learning – We have seen significant advances in remote sensing and machine learning, which we have harnessed to provide cropland maps in Nigeria and Ghana for the first time since the 1970s. Innovation can drive down costs and allow for more consistent data collection, which we have seen clearly through the cropland mapping.
  • Responsible Data Use – In general, we have increased our focus on responsible data use and data governance and this focus will include the agricultural sector as well. This means looking at data sharing agreements between stakeholders, but also increasingly looking at data governance models that protect smallholder farmers and include them more directly.
  • Creating Partnerships and Combined Approaches – We have also seen that there are many paths to impacting smallholder farmers. Historically we have focused more on upstream policy interventions and support to the private sector that have the trickle-down effect of helping the farmer. As we move further into digital innovations, we anticipate that there will be more opportunities for DG to work directly with smallholder farmers.

We are taking a two week break from the podcast to take this conversation about our work in agriculture to in-person presentations and conversations at AGRF. If you are there, please connect with DG! Otherwise, we will be back in a few weeks for our final episode in this series where we will discuss digital transformation.

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