Day 2: Desired scenarios for a future where data-driven agriculture is successfully adopted by smallholder farmers

Day 2: Desired scenarios for a future where data-driven agriculture is successfully adopted by smallholder farmers

Data-driven agriculture is expected to increase agricultural production and productivity, help them adapt to/ or mitigate the effects of climate change, bring about more economic and efficient use of natural resources, reduce risk and improve resilience in farming, and make agri-food market chains much more efficient. This is in general the positive scenario envisioned for data-driven agriculture.

More precisely, could you describe specific desired scenarios for a future where data-driven agriculture is adopted by smallholder farmers? What would success look like in practical terms?

Scénarios souhaités pour un avenir où l'agriculture axée sur les données est adoptée avec succès par les petits agriculteurs.  

L'agriculture axée sur les données devrait augmenter la production et la productivité agricoles, les aider à s'adapter aux effets du changement climatique ou à atténuer leurs contributions aux effets du changement climatique, favoriser une utilisation plus efficace et économique des ressources naturelles, réduire les risques et améliorer la résilience de l’agriculture et rendre plus efficace les chaînes de valeur agroalimentaire beaucoup. C'est en général le scénario positif envisagé pour l'agriculture axée sur les données.   

De façon très précise, pourriez-vous décrire des scénarios spécifiques envisagés pour un avenir où l'agriculture axée sur les données est adoptée par les petits agriculteurs? À quoi ressemblerait ce succès en termes pratiques?

Cuáles son los escenarios deseados en el futuro, donde la agricultura basada en los datos sea adoptada de manera exitosa por los pequeños agricultores?          

La agricultura basada en datos se espera aumente la producción y productividad agrícolas, ayude a adaptarse y mitigar los efectos del cambio climático, resulte en un uso más eficiente y económico de los recursos naturales, reduzca el riesgo y mejore la resistencia de la agricultura, y genere cadenas agroalimentaria mucho más eficientes.   Esto, en general, es el escenario deseado del futuro de la agricultura basada en los datos. 

Podría Usted describir los futuros escenarios deseados donde la agricultural basada en los datos es adoptada por pequeños agricultores?   Cómo sería un escenario exitoso en términos prácticos?                 


manuel  ruiz
manuel ruiz Peruvian Society for Environmental Law (SPDA)Peru

Dear all, wellcome.

My name is Manuel Ruiz Muller, and I´ve accepted the challenge of moderating this Day 2 of our webinar on Desired Scenarios for a Future where Data Driven Agriculture is Successfully Adopted by Smallholder Farmers. 

More precisely, we are requested to reflect on "describing specific desired scenarios for a future where data-driven agriculture is adopted by smallholder farmers and what would success look like in practical terms". 

A few ideas to get the ball rolling: 

Note of caution: I fully realize that smallholder agriculture is as diverse as agrobiodiversity, and  across the board solutions are not possible and may be even damaging to small holder farmers in certain contexts. So our premise is that we realize these differences and always qualify our broader statements or specify context. Just to give an idea: language barriers are often a limiting factor - many smallholder farmers in the Andes for instance are still illiterate ... 

1. When we imagine "scenarios" I would suggest we consider the socio-economic, policy, legal, institutional frameworks and settings which may be seen as "enablers" for data and information flows and different streams - as noted by the Background Paper paper by the organizers.  So, what are the very specific conditions or aspects for each dimension under which we may envision a succesful data driven agriculture scenario?

For instance, we may have a very good enabling policy environment, but poor technological capacities to deliver data - e.g. limited Intenet or phone coverage. Or we may have some excellent delivery platforms, but strong political and legal restrictions. Or we may also have an enabling regulatory framework but poor incentives for small start ups or entrepreneurs to engage in "micro" context data delivery situations ? Is there something we may learn form, for example, micro-credits and the whole Muhammad Yunus story lending to the poor ? 

Maybe we can come up with some form of "model" scenario, in the understanding that country specificities and context vary substantially, particularly in regards to smallholder farmers and their capacities, expectations, interests.

2.  Maybe we can also reflect a bit on what exactly do we consider "success" as. Are we limiting our analysis to increasing production and productivity and assuming this reflects immediately in better livelihoods, increased food security? Are availability of potent data platforms and uptake of tools a measure of success? It might be interesting to distill the concept a little and maybe fine tune a couple of indicators which could serve in this dialogue.  

3.  Finally, I´d like to also propose that we reflect on how "success" on the technological front interplays with cultural values and practices which for many smallholder farmers (e.g. Andean campesinos) are part of a heritage and essential "asset" often (not always) in tension with technological advances (not all forms). As data driven agriculture takes form (at the end of the day it is a technological development), how do we concile its potential with strong culture - which is not static, but dynamic and often receptive of change?  

We can start off with these ideas if you all agree.

Here are also a few references which I´ve found interesting read. Quite short and entertaining too. 

Pierpaoli, E. et al Drivers of agriculture precision technologies adoption: a literature review.  Procedia Technology   8  ( 2013 )  61 – 69   Available at, https://ac.els-cdn.com/S2212017313000728/1-s2.0-S2212017313000728-main.pdf?_tid=f12787db-0a5f-4594-8b92-bffa62413b37&acdnat=1527964064_9ac279873f03d70d772191ca9ac3804b

Mondal, P., Basu. M.  Adoption of precision technologies in agriculture in India and some developing countries: scope present status and strategies. Progress in Natural Science 19 (2009) 659–666 Available at,  https://ac.els-cdn.com/S1002007109000173/1-s2.0-S1002007109000173-main.pdf?_tid=de254c20-ac11-4586-823b-fae3cddb33c9&acdnat=1527964479_625bcc54ce1396ea8bce6b2e206aca42

Roach, J. (2016) Can data driven agriculture help feed a hungry world? Yale Environment 360. Available at https://e360.yale.edu/features/can_data-driven_agriculture_help_feed_a_hungry_world

Sparapani, J. (2017) How bid data and tech will improve agriculture: from farm to table. Available at, https://www.forbes.com/sites/timsparapani/2017/03/23/how-big-data-and-tech-will-improve-agriculture-from-farm-to-table/#4919e1ab5989

Jacques Drolet
Jacques DroletIDRGGermany

Thank you Manuel for the interesting introduction. I see a future functional open data exchange where growers, government, and industry data frofit from each other in an open way. Let me explain how it could look like from my corner of the forest: plant protection. Growers collect data on their crop, their pest status and damage. Growers have access to the database of all available tools worldwide. Growers are empowered to contact the industry and governments to get access to what they need (safe and tools that allow them to trade, ex. non-tariff trade irritants). Government regulators will suppoort growers demand to the plant protection industry for the submission of OECD registration packages. All countries (regulators) with the same need get together and collaborate to assess and eventually register what the growers need. The industry make their intention known and growers can support the building of efficacy data. I could go on for another chapter but I think that at this point, it may be obvious to most that this tranparency of information leads to increased safety, "motivates" the plant proteciton industry to make safe products available where they would normally not, make assessment possible for the regulators who is now swamped by work and even in Germany does not delivr to more than 60% of the needs, allow for trade because growers now have access to all the tools they need to avoid trade irritants, and resistance. This would contirbute to establish a level playing field which is now the biggest blockage for agricutlure to become the economic motor it can be. Again I could go on for a long while but the message is I hope clear. Again, to link thihs to the first day on ehtics, we hvae to move from competition to collaboration. Can we? It does not take much in terms of technology and data, as it is all there, but it takes humm, well, social courage. Do we have it?

Robert Katende
Robert KatendeEco Ventures InternationalUganda

Thanks Jacques.

We do need the transperancy!! Transperancy buils higher levels of trust and stronger mutually beneficial relationships. The data should open but not necessarily compromise the capacity of the private sector to enjoy the comparative advantage that comes with better processing and application of the data. That is why i strongly believe we can not 100% replace competition with collaboration/cooperation. What i do see is that there are common grounds where governments, private sector, development agencies and implementing partners and civil society can levergare intentional collaboration to create equity and inclusiveness. For instance, certain types of data should be readily available to everyone irrespective of who have paid for its collection and processing. This will mean that there is no need to collect the same data again from the same source for the same purporse.

Uchenna Ugwu
Uchenna UgwuOpen African Innovation ResearchCanada

Thanks Robert. I totally agree with your point on the need to balance collaboration and competition to create a sustainable system. However, I have doubts if transperancy can play a dominant role in international collaborations funded largely by developed country governments and multilateral corportions. Do you have any suggestions as to mechanisms that can be put in place to ensure such a balance in a multilateral regime? Or can you give an example of an existing regime that models the balanced approach?

Lee Babcock
Lee BabcockLHB AssociatesUnited States of America

These concerns about the strata of data align with the reality of public, consortia and private decentralized ledgers.  I have a global agribusiness client that captures alot of data on their proprietary platform that will eventually move onto a private blockchain.  As part of their data collection they have also geotagged schools, churches and health clinics - that have been largely 'off grid' -  which they would be happy to make available as a public service.  Policy guidance should include govt support behind a national public blockchain(s) so that entities like my client could share those geotagged location data.  In addition, my work with the client has included network orchestrating a digital agriculture strategic alliance with multiple partners for which in the near(er) future will be served by a partially decentralized (consortia) blockchain whereby partners have mutually agreed on various strata of data validation, verification and consensus. 

Uchenna Ugwu
Uchenna UgwuOpen African Innovation ResearchCanada

Thanks for painting an interesting scenario Jacques. The image you painted would help farmers to see agricultural technology as something they participate in, not some external influence to which they need to be defensive. 

However, considering the current flow towards less centralization, as pictured by events such as Brexit, some of the parties being elected in  European countries, as well as some of the policies being adopted by the Trump government in the USA, do you see this scenario as being practical? Wouldn't it be more feasible to seek a less centralized, bottom-top approach, with regulation being carried out at the domestic or regional level?

Ahanda Sosthène Nicaise
Ahanda Sosthène NicaiseInternational consultant FAOCameroon

La circulation des données necessaires pour l'amelioration de la production et de la productivité agricole me semble t'il doit etre centralisée pour un meilleur controle de la qualité de ces données.

Une structure de recherche, traitement et circulation des données est necessaire. Ceci est valable pour le flux de données descendant chez les producteurs et le feedback et autres données produites chez ces derniers et devant ^etre diffusées.

Mais ceci nest pas aussi facile à mettre en place et demande une bonne reflection car qui gere les donneés gere le pouvoir de construire ou de détruire.

Nous avons essayé ceci par le système d'alerte précoce et d'information sur les marchés pour les producteures agricole. Cette expérience reste encore à améliorer

Juanita Chaves
Juanita ChavesGFAR SecretariatColombia

Hello to everybody. My name is Juanita Chaves and as another moderator of this e-consultation I am very happy and impressed of the active participation and very good comments, ideas and arguments you have all contributed since yesterday. I encourage you to continue this dialogue and exchange of ideas on legal, policy and ethical inter-linked aspects of open data affecting smallholder farmers.

Juanita Chaves
Juanita ChavesGFAR SecretariatColombia

Perhaps when thinking on how success should look like, it is relevant to identify the ethical principles that are the basis of the new escenarios we are looking for.

For me, one of the basic ones is equity. Yesterday one participant talked about the existing asymetry between farmers and agrobusiness. For sure, there is inequality when we talk about accessing and using agricutural data. Promotion and protection for the generation,  flow, exchange and use of data and knolwedge is different if we are talking about data or information by smallholder farmers or agrobusiness. The lack of equity comes because of the lack of value society gives to the different types of data and knowledge. Science and modern technologies seems to be better valued than traditional knowledge, innovations and practices.

How to reach a success scenario where these two sectors (the formal and informal) could trust each other, recognize each other and co-exist? How to strengthen the joint collaboration between them to achieve major global goals such as food security, human health, poverty reduction, empowerment of vulnerable stakeholders, conservation of our environment, and other major collective precepts which should be the metrics for agriculture and food systems?

I agree that raising awareness and capacity building is needed. I also agree that recognizing the role of smallholder farmers and their contributions in generating, exchanging and making available data/information for further knowledge generation is important. But we also need to establish multi-stakeholder platforms where different stakeholders have a voice, particularly farmers, and we start building channels of communication and trust between them, where we stop talking among ourselves and start talking and understanding others needs, points of view, values and challenges. 




Robert Katende
Robert KatendeEco Ventures InternationalUganda

Many thanks Juanita for the insight. You point out a key aspect about traditional knowldge that is borne by the farmers especially in the developing world. This knowledge is vital in driving adaption of new technologies - seed varities, agronomy practices, agro-chemicals, etc. A good scenario would be that governments and development agencies put resources in collecting this traditional knowledge and making it vaialble for reaserchers and practitioners so that they can become cognisant of why farmers do what they do. Some of those practices are based on a deed understanding of key ecosystem aspects, seasons, labour, seed varieties and so on. Driving behavoural change among farmers towards impronved technologies and parctices requires an understanding of these key aspects.