Day 4: Actions to be taken in 2018-2021 to ensure smallholder farmers benefit from agricultural data in the future

Day 4: Actions to be taken in 2018-2021 to ensure smallholder farmers benefit from agricultural data in the future

Moving to the present and near future: what actions should be taken in 2018-2021 to ensure smallholder farmers benefit from agricultural data? Which actors would you expect to take specific roles?

Example: if one of the policy changes identified is more institutional collaboration to improve the international, national and local governance of farmers’ data rights, which are the best ways and immediate steps to foster this now? Which actors should take these steps?

Actions à entreprendre en 2018-2021 pour assurer que les petits agriculteurs bénéficient des données agricoles à l'avenir.  

Passons au présent et au futur proche: quelles actions devraient être entreprises en 2018-2021 pour s'assurer que les petits agriculteurs bénéficient des données agricoles? Quels acteurs vous attendez-vous à jouer des rôles spécifiques? 
Exemple: si l'un des changements de politique identifiés est une collaboration plus institutionnelle pour améliorer la gouvernance internationale, nationale et locale des droits des données des agriculteurs, quels sont les meilleurs moyens et les mesures immédiates pour encourager cela? Quels acteurs devraient prendre ces mesures?  

Cuáles son las acciones que deben adoptarse del 2018 al 2021 para asegurar que los pequeños agricultores se beneficien de los datos agrícolas en el futuro?

Moviéndonos al presente y futuro cercano: Qué acciones deberían adoptarse en 2018-2021 para asegurar que los pequeños agricultores se beneficien de los datos agrícolas? Qué actores esperaría Usted asumirían roles específicos? 
Ejemplo: si uno de los cambios políticos identificados es más sobre colaboración institucional para mejorar la gobernanza internacional, nacional y local de los agricultores sobre sus derechos sobre los datos, cuáles son las mejores formas y pasos inmediatos para fomentar esto? Qué actores deberían seguir estos pasos?


Lee Babcock
Lee BabcockLHB AssociatesUnited States of America

The question about how to ensure farmers benefit from agriculture data in the future goes hand in hand with how to ensure farmers can benefit from digital solutions in the first place.  We can't have one without the other.  To this point I recently published an article specific to agriculture digital finance and the need for more human capital but it equally applies to the broader agriculture digital solution space.  The article is here


During 2018-2021 our farmers will be served if we think about how to transfer knowledge to farmers about agriculture data and digital solutions.  Maybe a starting point is the knowledge transfer we currently do about good agriculture practices year after year, season after season.  Maybe another starting point is to amend the national financial inclusion strategies that countries are crafting to integrate agriculture data into their awareness raising and education about the feature and benefits of agriculture digital finance.      

Nicolene Fourie
Nicolene FourieCouncil for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)South Africa

Good day everyone, 

A warm welcome from a cold South Africa on the 4th day of this E-Consultation on the ethical, legal and policy aspects of data sharing affecting farmers. I am Nicolene Fourie and have the privilege of moderating Day 4 of the discussion.  

The objective of the days discussion will be to position ourselves for the  present and near future and to have a discussion to reflect on the required actions that should be taken  in  2018-2021 to ensure smallholder farmers benefit from agricultural data. In addition we should also consider the landscape in terms of the actors and to attempt to define the roles of these actors.   

The discussion will draw on the past three days discussions and relevant literature to propose practical and actionable outcomes. The following documents can serve as reference material for the discussion:

[1] De Beer, J. Ownership of open data: Governance options for agriculture and nutrition. Wallingford: GODAN, 2016. https://f1000research.com/documents/6-1002

[2] Maru, A. et al. Digital and Data-Driven Agriculture: Harnessing the Power of Datafor Smallholders. GFAR, GODAN and CTA, 2018. https://f1000research.com/documents/7-525

[3] Boyera, S. et al. Farmer profiling: Making data work for smallholder farmers. CTA Working Paper 17/09. Wageningen: CTA, 2017.

[4] Chaves Posada, J. Achieving Farmers Rights in Practice: GFAR Discussion Document. Rome: Global Forum on Agricultural Research, 2013. http://www.gfar.net/sites/default/files/cgiar_farmers_rights_report_final_aug_13.pdf.

[5] Chaves Posada, J. Rights of farmers for data, information and knowledge. Rome: Global Forum on Agricultural Research, 2014. http://www.gfar.net/sites/default/files/rights_of_farmers_for_data_information_and_knowledge.pdf

[6] Jellema A. et al. Open data and smallholder food and nutritional security. CTA Working Paper 15/01. Wageningen: CTA, 2015.

From the preceding days discussions and the literature it is evident that that the value and potential reuse of data is the driving force for open data.  But the impact or potential impact is questioned in the smallholder communities because of the lack of data/ information flowing to the smallholder communities to inform their operations and planning. 

Some initiatives such as the Open Data Journal for Agricultural Research (ODjAR) (http://library.wur.nl/ojs/index.php/odjar/) aim to bridge the gap from a research perspective by providing a mutually beneficial environment for the researchers and potential users alike.  This “opening” of agricultural research data will create an access channel that can inform development in smallholder communities.   

From a governmental and spatial perspective we have initiatives from the UN-GGIM with regional and local governments implementing open data initiatives and the adoption of Spatial Data Infrastructure as governance models to make data accessible.  The above mentioned provides perspective on two potential actors and the roles they can play in the provision and governance of data.  The actors draw on a combination of legal and policy drivers for their actions and mandates.   

With this I would like to open the discussion for today:   What will be the steps required in the present and near future (2018-2021) in terms of ethical, legal and policy aspects to move towards the desired scenarios of open data for farmers /smallholder level?   I am looking forward to this engagement and a robust solution orientated discussion. 

Jacques Drolet
Jacques DroletIDRGGermany

Thank you Nicolene. As for the cold we could exchange place, I am a winter person :-) .

One best talk about what knows best. In my case, access and benefit for smallholder farmers of data relative to plant health (ICM, IPM, including the products) is possible only if we do the following:

1- Have the National, regional, international players (private and governmental) agree on who does what, collaborate, and avoid by all means duplication. Concretely, the owners of data (private and governmental) (ex. FAO, CABI, Agrobase-Logigram, etc ) have to come to the table and agree on a way how this information is going to be made public and how to finance this access. Of course there are ways but that would take us beyond the scope of the day.

2- Smallholders have to experience the positive change that this information brings, in terms of safety, quality of the production, and trade opening (non-tariif trade irritants are gone), level playing field between countries. This means training for one crop/pest scenario/region. Once experienced, they know how to do the next ones.

3- Smallholders have to participate with the regulators (gov), with the IPM promoters and the plant protection products industry to the shaping of the plant protection toolbox. Ideally, and practically once a year, regionally. Again, without duplication... cooperation between institutions and the private sector is the key word. And yes it challenges the way things are done now. And yes it is a paradigm shift that leads to sustainability, ... by experience.

Valeria Pesce
Valeria PesceGlobal Forum on Agricultural Research and Innovation (GFAR)Italy

Thank you Jacques, I like the accent you put on different actors and what is expected of them and the idea that farmers should participate in the shaping of tools..

Your scenario is that of big data providers making their data available to farmers, but I think the idea of co-development or co-design with the farmers is very important also in other scenarios, like precision-agriculture software or cloud/app farm management services.

Not only because then the service responds to the actual needs of farmers, but also because having the farmer involved in the design of the service cotributes to building trust, as the farmer, if really fully involved and made aware of data flows, can see and influence where the data comes from and if and how it is reused.

Given that the topic today is next steps in the near future, I guess a practical recommendation could be for instance to advocate to farmers; associations the idea of negotiating with service providers not only a posteriori on prices and data sharing, but also on co-design of the services.

I would be curious to hear the opinion of someone from the private sector (hardware/software suppliers and data service providers) on this.


Lee Babcock
Lee BabcockLHB AssociatesUnited States of America

To extend your excellent point number 2, to ensure positive benefit to farmers we must consider the ethics of artificial intelligence as regards avoiding the unintentional - as well as intentionally malevolent - bias coded into the algorythm.   While the 'highest use' of blockchain is giving farmers ownership and control of their data, the 'highest use' of agriculture artificial intelligence is that we program it to have better ethics than we have.  The flip side is that the 'lowest use' of blockchain will be if the private sector monopolistically controls the flow and ownership of agriculture data and the 'lowest use' of artificial intelligence will be its unchecked intentionally malevolent design so as to manipulate outcomes not unlike financial marketplace manipulation.

For 2018 - 2021 it seems we should design and support a research path specific to our sector as is being discussed in medicine, transport, real estate and elsewhere.  Such research will further inform our thinking.  Finally, that thinking should be multi-disciplinary and include inputs from blockchain and data science experts.    

Simone van der Burg
Simone van der BurgWageningen University & ResearchNetherlands

I agree with Valeria Pesce and Lee Babcock that it is worthwhile to involve ICT experts in the discussion about desired social consellations around smart farming. Technologies can foster relationships, but also put them under pressure. As soon as we know how we want to foster our communities around smart farms, it would be good to consult ICT specialists in order to find out what technological possibilities there are to build/foster those communities and avoid the dangers.

Samuel Abanigbe
Samuel AbanigbeBdellium Consult LtdNigeria

Nice submission Jacques.

But a quick addition is the involvement of the data user, that is, the smallholder farmers in development of an innovative agricultural data, considering the fact that each of the climes, most especially the developing nations have both social and intellectual materials challenges in diverse manner. Hence, cohesive collaboration of all stakeholder involvement through action research procedures in data development will be key for the future.

Ahanda Sosthène Nicaise
Ahanda Sosthène NicaiseInternational consultant FAOCameroon

Il est urgent a mon humble avis de commencer par un "rapid appraisal" qui permettra devaluer la situation par rapport a chaque continent ou à des pays ou regions a situation particulière.

Par ailleurs un observatoire pourra etre mis en place pour capter des eventuelles changements et apporter les modifications si necessaire.

La sensibilisation des Etats se fera alors à base des données scientifiques avec un accompagnement le cas echeant dans lelaboration de la reglementation, lois et autres politiques

Valeria Pesce
Valeria PesceGlobal Forum on Agricultural Research and Innovation (GFAR)Italy


In my opinion it is urgent to start with a "rapid appraisal", which will allow us to assess the situation comparatively for each continent or for countries or regions in particular situations.    

Furthermore, an observatory could be put in place for capturing changes and applying modifications if necessary. 

At that point, advocacy to countries wlll be based on scientific data, supporting them if the needs arises in the implementation of regulations, lawsand policies.  


Jeremy DE BEER
Jeremy DE BEERUniversity of OttawaCanada


Thanks for kicking off discussion Nicolene. In our GODAN research on ownership of open data, we identified 4 strategies for action:

- Institutional cooperation

- Model frameworks

- A certification scheme

- An international treaty

Some of these are long term, while others can be short term.

For example, an international treaty to ensure fair and equitable benefit sharing for farmers is years or probably decades away.

By contrast, action can be taken toward a certification scheme immediately. The idea is to develop a way for stakeholders in the data ecosystem to recognize — through a certification mark — that tells other stakeholders that farmers’ rights have been respected when it comes to the data. Think: “Fair Trade” for data. That’s the concept.

While no individual can make this system a success alone, together we can all take steps to interrogate the data we give and take, asking ourselves whether all in the data value chain have been treated fairly.

What do you think? Could it work?