A highlight on the recently held Interest Group on Agricultural Data (IGAD) Meeting

During the just ended Research Data Alliance (RDA) 13th Plenary meeting held in Philadelphia, the Interest Group on Agricultural Data held a parallel session entitled, “Agricultural Data Interoperability : Opportunities and Lessons Learnt from Sharing and Re-Using Data”.

This session presented various outputs and contributions from agricultural open data projects and other initiatives consuming and using data to support analysis, modeling or decision support tools.

IGAD Philadelphia meeting succeeds the IGAD Meeting held in Gaborone late in 2018 which focused on Data Collection: State of the Art, Challenges and Solutions.

Programme Highlights

The IGAD Philadelphia was well attended with more than 50 participants who followed the programme which was comprised of a keynote address, panel discussions, presentations and breakout sessions. The meeting opened with a keynote address from Robin Schoen, the Director of the Board Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Panel discussion: quick notes

Thereafter, a panel discussion ‘broke the ice’ into the meeting agenda by exploring further the theme “Agricultural Data Interoperability Opportunities and Lessons Learnt from Sharing and Re-Using Data” which was moderated by Cynthia Parr from the National Agricultural Library – USA. The following sub-questions guided the debate:-

  1. What have been the top one or two barriers to re-use of data that you have encountered?
  2. What simple solution or simple decision has made the biggest difference to interoperability/re-use for your project?
  3. If resources were not limited, what would be your dream goal for data sharing?

The participants highlighted the following barriers, lack of good tools for the re-use of data ( for example to create and re-use FAIR data, lack of awareness of existing tools and resources for digital objects; lack of common formats and lack of common meanings. With regards to possible solutions, participants pointed out that there was a need to re-use and link to other resources and create awareness.

One participants raised the issue of getting concepts of Unique IDs into ISO 11783 (Agricultural Farm Machinery Electronics) and noted this standards was widely used by companies in the industry. There is also a need to design tools that can help document data collection and provide farmers with planning.

The last question on the dream goal for data sharing was well responded by participants – some comments include, “take legacy in situ data and turn it into FAIR data, make FARM data train a reality”; “find optimal path to tackle lack of common meanings”, and including that of increase funding to the IGAD to continue its advocacy of open data standards.

Selected presentation abstracts

There were presentations from agricultural open data projects and the following were of note:

The BonaRes Data Centre – A community driven repository for interoperable agricultural data

In Germany, many excellent data are generated and digitally stored in the field of agricultural and soil research. Unfortunately, these data often cannot be reused by other scientists and thus exploit their full potential. In the BonaRes Data Centre, research data is collected and made available in a standardized form for free reuse via a networked data infrastructure. Once the technical infrastructure is in place, the main task of the Data Centre is to invite soil and agricultural scientists to store their data (for instance long term experiments, field trials, model outcomes) in the Data Centre and provide them for free reuse. 

Maize [Zea Mays (L.)] Crop-Nutrient Response functions in Sub-Saharan Africa: Data extrapolation from field level to regional-scale

This study was based on maize growing areas in SSA using geo-referenced crop-nutrient response functions determined from past and recent research by the Optimizing Fertilizer Recommendations in Africa (OFRA). The objectives of this research were designed to 1) establish relationships between maize crop-nutrient response functions and biophysical variables; 2) determine prediction equations for maize nutrient response functions; and 3) extrapolate maize nutrient response functions using the predictor equations to areas with inadequate measured crop-nutrient response and then evaluate the goodness-of-fit of the extrapolated data by the model.

Evaluation of the distribution of fertilizer to Nigeria farmers in the past and present

The effect of past government policy in stimulating fertilizer demand an d improving fertilizer access ,through the subsidy fertilizer reform program is being recognized. This presentation reviews the new distribution of fertilizer in the past the problems associated. The old Subsidy scheme which was untimely distributed in efficient targeting, poor leakages, in the year 1976. There were inadequate establishment of distribution channels, promotion activities (Banful 2011). And the slow response of private fertilizer sector. Thus this paper evaluate all the different procedures, the problems encountered by the Extension Agent Supervisors ,the impact it will have in the distribution of farming input, Questionnaires were distributed analyzed and Pictures were taken to support the different methods been use. The study recommended the increase in the size of redemption center and timely release of the fertilizer to the farmers by the agro - input dealers and effective program development on the advisory deliver by the agro - input dealers. 

Open data and farmers’ rights

The discourse on open data for farmers invokes the question of farmers’ data rights and the question of ethics. The presentation by Foteini Zampati (Kuratorium für Technik und Bauwesen in der Landwirtschaft (KTBL), Germany) delved into this topic. The presentation acknowledged that open data in agriculture and nutrition can spur innovations that can provide a solution to Zero Hunger.

Yet farmers are vulnerable groups, especially in the developing world and there is a need for data players to apply FAIR principles when handling open data. Most farmers raise concerns about data ownership, privacy, intellectual property and data ownership amongst many other reasons. There is a need for awareness about farmers’ rights and fair distribution of wealth that might emanate from farmers data. The following questions were shared to spark debate:-

  • What ethical principles need to be in place for the handling of data?
  • Who owns data and who has really control of the use of data?
  • What is responsible data?
  • Are farmers reluctant to share their data? If so why?
  • How do we make information accessible to all actors involved in agriculture?
  • What about data protection? What do we mean by the farmers rights to data?
  • What is the state of recognition of these rights in national and international level?
  • What’s the role of GDPR or other legislation in the agricultural sector?
  • How should these rights be implemented in local and international laws, guidelines and policies and how can they be protected?
  • What should be done to include and give more voice to farmers in the mechanisms of data? What role can governments play in this?
  • How can we choose a path to a more equitable and innovative future for all?

For a full review of the programme click here 

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