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An Ethiopian farmer in Bale, Robe area in Oromia regional state tilts his plot of land

Addis Abeba, February 04/2019 – Gates Foundation has awarded, CABI, an international not-for-profit organization working to provide information to solve problems in agriculture and environment, $1.49 m to help boost food security in Ethiopia and India “through better access to data on soil health, agronomy and fertilizers,” a statement sent to Addis Standard says.

“The grant will see CABI encouraging and enabling governments, universities and research organizations in the two countries to see the benefits and apply best practices regarding the sharing of data which, ultimately, will help farmers grow healthier and profitable crops and lose less to pests and diseases.”

The funding, to be spent over the course of the two-year project, will focus on ensuring available data on agricultural development [and] is based upon FAIR principles – in that is must be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable – and can be monitored to assess the success of newly created data management systems.

The grant is partially an answer to the joint donor statement made by the Gates Foundation, DFID, and USAID at the CFS44 on the role that donor organizations play in good data management in agricultural programs, CABI said.

Last year, CABI, the ODI (Open Data Institute) and GODAN (Global Open Data for Agriculture & Nutrition), worked with Gates Foundation to explore how to enhance data access and sharing within agriculture programmes in four regions, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha (in India), Ethiopia and Tanzania. This latest award will this time focus on Andhra Pradesh and Bihar regions of India and Ethiopia as a whole.

The project, which will continue to work with the ODI, “will strive to build effective data sharing and access for improved decision making in agro-advisory services through improved facilitation of common data standards and exchange protocols among national partners.”

It will do this by holding workshops, creating learning materials, monitoring and evaluation, the creation of new tools focused on promoting data sharing, as well as in-country support from specially trained advisors.

In India it is hoped the project will lead to a range of improvements including stakeholders more fully understanding the importance of data access and integration in soil and agronomy and, therefore, better use of that data amongst government or industry to help inform agro-advisory services for farmers and extension workers.

Meanwhile in Ethiopia, it is anticipated that the work will go one step further culminating in supporting creation of national data policy and designed databases on how to access and share the data more easily.

Martin Parr, CABI’s Director, Data & Services, Digital Development, said, “The creation, management, curation and dissemination of information about agriculture – including soil health, agronomy and fertilizer – is crucial if we are to help ensure food security in regions, countries and the world in general.

“We are grateful to the Gates Foundation for this latest grant which will enable us to work in partnership to continue and develop vital work to advocate and implement fair and more open access to agricultural data in India and Ethiopia.

“Not only will access to open data help farmers decide when to fertilize, plant or harvest but researchers will be able to access crucial information, policymakers will be able to use it for evidence-based investments and other groups can use it to make services more efficient across the agriculture value chain.”

As part of the proposal for the grant application, CABI identified common challenges relating to current data sharing practices in the two regions in India and Ethiopia. These included differing levels of trust between holders of data, where data exists it is not generally very discoverable and the monitoring of data management is not emphasized enough by project donors.

The approaches to mapping data sharing systems and the identification of the aforementioned, and other, barriers to data sharing developed previously with the ODI are already starting to be used in CABI’s own programs – most notably Plantwise which is a global initiative that helps farmers lose less of what they grow to plant health problems.

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