FAO’s call to action for unlocking agricultural data to achieve the SDGs

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) invites collaborators from all sectors to join forces to unlock agricultural data for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). High quality data is fundamental to empower decision-makers to design development interventions, and policies to achieve the targets set out by the 2030 Agenda. Traditionally, the national and international statistical system have played the role of the primary data producers. On the other hand, the data revolution has brought about brand new players in the field of data production. Due to new low cost data collection technologies, coupled with the latest analytical methods such as machine learning, private companies, research institutions, and the academia are increasingly collecting high quality data to inform their investment decisions and policy analysis. This trend presents a major opportunity for the global statistical community and new data producers to join forces.

This new initiative aims to build collaboration between FAO and new data producers to increase the stock of data accessible to all for free and under open data principles, which is fundamental to improve the availability and quality of SDG data. It will leverage FAO historical role as the leader in statistical data for food and agriculture, as well as the new role of custodian UN agency for 21 SDG indicators.  The objective is to work with all types of institutions to help transform their data assets into global public goods. Therefore, for example, private sector data could inform FAO’s analytical and flagship publications, as well as contribute to enrich FAO’s statistical databases.

What we’re looking for

Institutions, especially from the private sector, which hold data assets containing the following types of information, are encouraged to make a proposal specially:

  • Farm level data (crop and livestock production, area harvested/planted, use of labor, income/expenditures/capital investment, environmental impact, inputs, etc.)
  • Food losses – Anywhere in the supply chain
  • Water usage and area irrigated
  • Food Consumption

The data should not already be published, and should be as detailed as possible. For example, data at the farm level, household level, or individual level hold the most analytical potential. Note that FAO is looking for voluntary contributions of data, this call does not imply any exchange of financial resources.

Provided data will be processed and acknowledged by FAO in accordance with FAO’s rules, policies and practice.

Selection process

The Office of Chief Statistician (OCS) is responsible for the selection of the applications with support from the Partnership Division. OCS is responsible for the overall coordination and governance of the FAO’s statistical work. OCS plays a quality assurance role in the development of methods and standards for food and agriculture statistics and in the provision of technical assistance and capacity development to member countries.

Proposals will be evaluated against a set of criteria to ensure that there is a balance across a wide range of data assets covering agriculture. 

FAO will consider the following aspects when evaluating proposals:

  1. Relevance and impact– data assets are aligned with the thematic areas and contributes to the gaps in the existing publically available agriculture statistics information;
  2. Analytical value and/or potential for innovation– data assets are highly granular representing high potential for variety types of analysis, and use of innovative methods;
  3. Authenticity – data assets with confirmed origin and integrity of data. 

Only proposals meeting the criteria above will be considered.