FAO cooperates with CGIAR to increase interoperability between food and agricultural information systems

FAO/Jon Spaull

FAO and CGIAR have established a collaboration to enhance data sharing in the food and agricultural domain through the further use and enhancement of the AGROVOC Thesaurus, a multilingual controlled vocabulary that covers terminology related to FAO’s areas of interest. AGROVOC is a valuable tool to classify data homogeneously, facilitate interoperability and reuse. It can ease the collection, storage and use of agronomic data, enabling easy and reuse of the data by humans and machines.

FAO has coordinated AGROVOC since the early 1980s and it has been translated into 40 languages since its inception. CGIAR is a long-time user of AGROVOC. It is the keyword source recommended by the CG Core metadata schema for data sets and publications stored in open repositories and the Global Agricultural Research Data Innovation Acceleration Network (GARDIAN).

This year CGIAR created a Task Group co-chaired by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) that will define the CGIAR collaboration framework to enrich AGROVOC.  This collaboration supports the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture  and the Agronomy Ontology (AgrO) through the Information and Data Management Community of Practice and the Ontologies Community of Practice. Aside from organizing the submission of CGIAR concepts, AGROVOC provides terms from the agronomy domain organized semantically. This work is being expanded to the ontologies of the Open Biological and Biomedical Ontologies (OBO) Foundry useful for the agrifood domain.

Ismahane Elouafi, Chief Scientist at FAO said

Ismahane Elouafi
Ismahane Elouafi



FAO acts as a catalyst and a platform for leveling the playing field so that countries can make evidence-based decisions on the most appropriate technologies and innovations to adopt and adapt in sustaining their food security and nutrition. FAO can only achieve this by collaborating with the global scientific community of experts such as the CGIAR.



Andrew Jarvis, Associate Director General for Research, Strategy and Innovation at the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) noted

Andrew Jarvis
Andrew Jarvis



If agriculture is going to take advantage of the digital revolution, it’s critical that data resources can talk to each other through ontologies and standards – this is a necessary foundation before anything can meaningfully progress.  Bringing CGIAR and FAO together ensures two major players in agricultural research and development are promoting common standards and approaches, for ourselves and for our large partner networks.



This collaboration will bring mutual benefits and strengthen the awareness of AGROVOC within CGIAR, while FAO will benefit from the in-depth field experts contributing to current research terminology in subjects related to the FAO’s work.