Day 5: Summarize the salient points of this discussion and recommend priority aspects for the f2f consultation

Day 5: Summarize the salient points of this discussion and recommend priority aspects for the f2f consultation

Please summarize what in your opinion have been the salient points of this discussion and recommend the priority aspects on which our face-to-face consultation should focus.

Résumer les points saillants de cette discussion et recommander les aspects prioritaires pour la consultation face-à-face.    
Veuillez résumer ce qui, à votre avis, a été le point saillant de cette discussion et recommander les aspects prioritaires sur lesquels notre consultation face-à-face devrait se concentrer. 

Cuáles fueron los principales puntos de la discusión y recomendaciones prioritarias que deberían considerarse en la consulta presencial en julio de 2018?

Por favor resuma cuáles son en su opinión los puntos sobresalientes en esta discusión y recomiende los aspectos prioritarios sobre los cuales  la consulta presencial debería enfocarse.

Joshua magbagbeola
Joshua magbagbeolaJoseph Ayo Babalola UniversityNigeria

Firstly, let me acknowledge great contributions made on this all-important topic. Nevertheless, it is equally important to state unequivocally that Literacy level of the small holder farmers should not be taking for granted. Data collection asa basic ingredient here will be a complete mess up if the very source is not adequately attended to. It is on this background that i will like to advocate strongly an informal direct training for the smallhoder farmers in other for the f2f to be anywhere near meaningful.

Joshua magbagbeola
Joshua magbagbeolaJoseph Ayo Babalola UniversityNigeria

Literacy Level Upgrading

This can be achieved via the use of an informal educational system of learning at the level of each smallholder farmer. This model can be likened to that adopted for nomardic education. Also, better means of learning to using individuals with the sole aim of teaching on adequate data collection methods will be most appreciated.

Simone van der Burg
Simone van der BurgWageningen University & ResearchNetherlands

On this last day of the e-consultation my task is to summarize the salient points of this discussion and recommend priority aspects for the face to face consultation in July in Bonn. I do not find this very easy, as all participants have brought forwards very interesting and varied ideas, and I cannot possibly do all of them justice. This is why I have to excuse myself in advance: I have not done justice to you all, and this contribution has become much too long. I hope it is nevertheless a worthwhile starting point that allows to harvest your comments, criticism and additions.

The points that I will bring forwards will focus mostly on the discussion that we had in the first two days. I feel less at ease doing practical recommendations which was the topic of the latter two days. It seems to me that we should first  get clear on what the pros and cons of different scenarios are before we can say anything about what we should do. I would therefore like to use the meeting in Bonn to further elaborate different scenarios that came forwards during these e-consultations, and explore their pros and cons together. It would be great to have as an end-product a catalogue of scenarios that describe alternative collaborations around digital farms for the future, which will help innovators to reflect in a broad and varied way about the possibilities this innovation brings. These scenarios should ideally be coupled to suggestions for the further development of legal approaches that suit them and maybe also examples of technological means that support them. (Peter Johnson, Valeria Pesce, Lee Babcock and myself seem to be open to think about technological possibilities as well, but some contributors to the consultation were not enthusiastic about the proposal to use technology to contribute to solving societal problems)

What do you think of this suggestion for our meeting in Bonn?

Scenarios would, in my view, have to focus on (1) how we want to shape (digital) collaboration and (2) how we manage the data. Both are connected.

Open data/data sharing. Data management is an important theme all through the e-consultation. In later days of this e-consultation open access is put forwards as the attractive prospect to pursue, as Nicoline Fourie’s start of day 4 suggests. In earlier days some contributors defend open access too, such as Jacques Drolet, Peter Johnson, Chadwin Reno and Jeremy de Beer. They defend it on the grounds that open data support cooperation and diminish (or discourage) competition between farms, and allow farmers to be more on an equal footing with the large firms.

Francois van Schalkwyk also values open access in different contexts: it fosters transparency and accountability in governance; replicability, verifiability and efficiency in research; and democratised access for social and economic development. But according to him it is not valuable in all situations. Sometimes it is more pragmatic to give open access to some data, but not to all.

But there’s also criticism on the idea of open access. Hugo Besemer, specifies in a contribution on day one what open data are: ‘Open data is data that can be freely used, reused (modified) and redistributed (shared) by anyone’. He argues –based on a Kenyan report- that not every type of data qualifies to be open. For example, data that point out that farmers are financially poor, do not have to be shared with everyone. Ajit Maru, however remarks that it may be important to share this information with a bank when these farmers ask for a loan, but not with all others (such as the milkman). This opens a discussion about what are data that can be open access, and what data should be shared selectively or not at all.

Ben Schaap adds that we need to take into account also whether organizations are still able to function with a specific degree of openness in the data (too much or too little openness may hinder survival or functionality of an organization). Chadwin Reno remarks that making data open costs money, and asks who should pay for services to make data shared or open, Maru and Robert Katende bring forwards that not everyone possesses the capacity to understand the data (farmers, consumers), and Sipiwe Manjengwa, Geoffrey Wandera, Ajit Maru, Foteini Zampati and Francois van Schalkwyk are concerned about the selection of people who have a role in deciding what data are shared and with whom, and note that we should make sure that farmers have a role at the negotiation table as they are often marginalized. Joshua Toews and Andy Dearden, however doubt whether such a negotiation containing farmers will be fair, as not everyone will have the same negotiation power.T

his brief repetition of the discussion formulated on day one, probably is too focused for this summary. However, I wanted to bring back to mind some of the opinions defended in the e-consultation about whether and what data should be open, what data should be shared and with whom. Not everyone agrees that data should be available to all, open access. So, probably this discussion invites a deeper reflection about what the pros and cons of it are, and how we want to collaborate. Sharing data means giving other people the chance to do something with these data.  It is inviting an interaction with these other people. Therefore, it seems to me that it is worthwhile to ask with whom people desire to interact and for what purposes. Is it enough to simply give data to others, regardless of what they do with it? Or does interaction need a basis of trust and –if the answer to that is ‘yes’- what are then the preconditions for trust?

Reflection about whether we want to share data, what data we want to share, and with whom, requires to consider how we want to cooperate. Contributors to this e-consultation seem to start from very different suppositions regarding this cooperation. Communities of cooperation may be large or small, localized or global, rooted in history or a-historic (and a-cultural?).

Some contributors imagine communities with digital technologies to build on their traditional ancestors. Digital technologies are sometimes introduced as if they revolutionize farms: data would offer farmers knowledge that they can act on and make the traditional knowledge that farmers used to share in their communities obsolete. But some authors define agricultural communities as communities that share knowledge. Juanita Chaves, for example, thinks it is important that agricultural communities continue to share knowledge: this can be high tech knowledge, but also traditional knowledge. Chaves as well as Robert Katende see it as an important advantage when communities  share and appreciate knowledge, including also traditional knowledge. A high-tech community would have to preserve this in their view.

The imagined size of communities also differs. Some contributors seem to start thinking about cooperation on the basis of the entire world population such as Ahanda Sosthène Nicaise does who is worried about valuable knowledge and data going from Africa to other parts of the world without African farmers benefitting from it. Equity, fairness, just distribution and inclusiveness is important here, as well as rewarding people for their contribution. Other contributors tend to think about data sharing in a local way, such as Leanne Wiseman (and myself), who states that we should start with the communities that farmers themselves build. Wiseman writes, for example, that ‘(..) the strong relationships that are built by farming communities are a vital first step in the discussion about who is getting the value from the farm data - certainly in many instances we are seeing that third parties are getting the value at the expense of the data contributors who are working on the land.’ 

Furthermore, contributors sometimes contrast collaboration with competition, and some seem to want to  remove competition from the socio-economic system. This is the ‘cooperative mode’ that Peter Johnson mentions, as well as Jacques Drolet. Robert Katende and Uchenna Ugwu, however, write on day 2 that they think there’s no harm in letting companies profit from the advantage they may have from the use of data. They want to balance collaboration with competition. Lee Babcock also gives examples of combinations of combinations of public and private services to give examples of scenarios in which both can interact, serving to realize the public good as well as private ends (profit).

These are examples of ways of thinking about communities –amongst others- that came forwards in the e-consultation. Depending on what the limitations are of the communities that we want to create/foster (and whether these communities have limitations or if it is simply a ‘kingdom of humanity’), we will probably think very differently about what data we are willing to share – and whether we see dangers in the sharing of data. In this respect the theme of trust, also mentioned by the contributors to the e-consultation such as by Robert Katende and Juanita Chaves, is important. The preconditions for trust in data sharing are likely very different depending on the relationships we engage in, inviting also different considerations regarding the development of mores, principles, rules and laws that offer prohibitions and function to define what counts as ‘misuse’ of data.

No law yet. A major gap was introduced right in the beginning of this week by Ajit Maru who pointed out that related to farming and agriculture, there are yet no examples of specific national policies or laws that concern with generation, flow, sharing and use of data. There are only non-binding charters and instruments such as through financial support to share data of and with farmers. Contributors to the debate inquired what would be the right timing to shape such laws: when laws are installed too soon, this would leave little space to experiment with possibilities to collaborate in the network around digital technologies.  I would be in favour of postponing the conversation about laws too, as laws and prohibitions serve to preserve trust in a community, and we first need to explore what communities ICT in farming allows to shape and what is needed to help foster trust in that community. However, the e-consultation offered many interesting threads to think about regulation/law, which brings to mind very different communities.

What plays a role in reflections about rules and law is, for example, the theme of data ownership. There is discussion as to whether it makes sense to speak about data in terms of ‘ownership’. Some participants think it does, such as Serah Odende who remarks that this way of speaking connects well to farmers themselves who look at data collected at their farm as ‘their’ data. This explains also why leaving those data to be interpreted by ICT specialists is such a sensitive matter. Other contributors, propose to explore the meanings of the concept in a more creative way, such as Francois van Schalkwyk who thinks of ownership in terms of labour, implying that stakeholders who do something with data, change something about it and therewith develop ownership rights, or Ahanda Sosthène Nicaise who suggests to look at data in terms of copyright or intellectual property rights.

There are also contributors, however, who do not want to think about data in terms of ownership, such as Jeremy de Beer who propagates open data and tends to think that data should be thought of as a ‘common pool resource’, rather than as individually owned. Similarly, Martin Parr argues –referring to several sources- that there are better ways of tackling misuse of personal insights and privacy than closing down data access due to 'ownership': it is better to install regulations and prohibitions on unwanted activities, than to attempt to restrict the flow of data through assertions of data ownership.

Other themes related to regulation include informed consent. Wiseman argues, for example, that farmers should not be overburdened with the responsibility to gather and appreciate information and then decide to share data. She pleads that ‘the onus needs to be placed on the agribusinesses to reveal the way in which they plan to control, store and manage data collected in simple easy to understand ways, rather than placing the onus on farmers to be expected to understand the intracies of data contracts.’ At the very least, Wiseman thinks  farmers should be entitled to ‘portabillity rights’ in relation to their data: i.e. to be able to have their data returned so that they can make use of it themselves in the future. Furthermore, in a different contribution, Wiseman criticizes the theme of privacy which comes forwards a lot in legal discussions about data: but, privacy law governs personal data or personal/consumer information and Wiseman argues that it is unclear to what extent agricultural data would qualify as personal data.  

Some questions

  • Should we strive to realize laws, or postpone it (and first explore possibilities to cooperate)?
  • What goals should these laws serve?
  • What are valuable/desirable ways to cooperate in the network around smart farms?
  • What values are goals for/constituents to this cooperation? What determines the success?
  • Should we think globally or locally about cooperation? (When does it make sense to think globally, when should we think locally?)
  • Who are the insiders and outsiders of this cooperation?
  • Is the cooperation fostered by open access/ data sharing?
  • What are preconditions for trust in open access/data sharing in this cooperation?
  • What role can laws/regulations play in fostering trust?
  • What are pro’s and con’s of different degrees of openness regarding data?
  • With whom should data be shared?
  • Who should bear the costs of making (some of the) data open – or sharing them?
  • What impacts can/will the sharing of data have on the functioning of the organizations involved? And are those changes acceptable?
  • Who can participate in the negotiation about what data are to be shared with whom?
  • How can the negotiation be fair, given that participants have unequal bargaining power?
  • What is a fair distribution of benefits of smart farming, and how can data sharing or access support it?
  • What benefits do farmers deserve when they collect data at their farms and share them?
  • What are the rights of farmers and other contributors to the network around smart farms with respect to the data?
  • Can technology play a role in accounting for the societal needs and values? What roles can it play and what are the limitations of the technological possibilities regarding the societal concerns?
Ajit Maru
Ajit MaruIndependent ConsultantIndia

One key question that we must now consider, in view of the developments in the use of data and information such as AI, Big Data and Blockchain and in turn in farming is "Who is the farmer?" Is he/she who owns the land, makes the decision for the farm and farming or "owns" the data of the farm?

Another key question is (and going against the original grain of this e-consultation) should issues be only discussed around benefits of using data and information for the "farmer" whoever he/she/it may be?  Or how it brings greater efficiency, better economics, higher quality, safety and transparency in the entire Agri-food systems?

Lee Babcock
Lee BabcockLHB AssociatesUnited States of America

Great questions. The view at Grameen Foundation when I was leading digital agriculture was that we should, instead, define the unit of measurement as the 'plot manager' as opposed to farmer.  Often the woman does the actual work on the plot but is not the unit of measurement because she is not the 'farmer' thus propagating gender inequity by the very way we define the unit of measurement.

As to your other query, my view is that anything that promotes greater efficiency, better economics, higher quality, safety and transparency for the supply chain.....results in benefit to the plot manager.  My rationale is that by digitally connecting plot managers/farmers to the supply chain they become for the first time formal, transparent participants in the supply chain and its economic activity.....as opposed to the current disconnected and cash based reality that dooms them to informal and non-transparent supply chain relationships.     

Michael Brobbey
Michael BrobbeyGlobal Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN)United Kingdom

Thanks to you all for an engaging dialogue on the salient pointys discussed throughout the course of the week. I think  what I would like discussed at the f2f consultation is how law can be created to provide the necessary rights or protection for farmers. Indeed Ajit's point about what is a farmer is something which needs to be explored be it a broader definition such as 'plot manager' mentioned by Lee or a definition which is outlined within law. It is important that there is a clear and unfied definition of a farmer so that problems affecting them could be resolved effectively. I think having responsibilities outlined for governments within national legislation is key to hold them accountable in providing adequate training such as capacity development and data literacy to farmers. These are things I am keen to advance and explore at the f2f meeting. 

Ajit Maru
Ajit MaruIndependent ConsultantIndia

If the "plot manager" makes the decision aboy the plot, it would address the gender inequity we all would like to address. We did this in with milch animals in dairy milk cooperatives in India. 

My first question was also in context of algorithms and artificial intelligence that will surely be used to make farm decisions in the near future. Even now, in the GeoAgri Gujarat project I mentioned previously, we anticipate making suggestions and recommendations to farmers. Since the same suggestions and recommendation would also be available for review, for example by Insurance providers, whose farming decision would be legally considered for an insurance claim? Would the GeoAgri Project and the Universities backing it be liable to a "malpractice" suit? These are real questions that are now making it difficult to implement the project?

I fully agree that many of us (as seen even in this e-consultation) fail to see "the current disconnected and cash based reality that dooms them to informal and non-transparent supply chain relationships" and carried away more with emotions around perceived "ownership" rather than use and usefulness.


Samuel Abanigbe
Samuel AbanigbeBdellium Consult LtdNigeria

Thank you Simone.

Indeed, it challenging to do this abstractions for a 5 days discussion on the subject of agricultural data for smallholder farmers. Interestingly, one should be mindful of the goal (s) of this conceptualization, which is primary on food and nutrition increase in the world.

Therefore, some of the salient point I can put forward for the f2f meeting in July should address all or some of the following: 1. Literacy advocacy 2. Social infrastructural development 3. Participatory approach through stakeholder involvement in data innovation development 4. Private sector involvement as the major driver of the data access and sharing procedure 5. Baseline survey development of some of the ICT needs/data needs/technology needs of farmers that can prompt productivity in developing nations 6. Review of some of the traditional technologies available in farm communities that are responsible for agricultural data as well as the evolution of data usage in farm productivity.

G Kruseman
G KrusemanCIMMYTMexico

Please read our (Robert hijmans (UC Davis) and mu self) op-ed blog post on ethics, data confidentiality and privacy in relation to using data for smallholder farmers in our target geographies:


Ajit Maru
Ajit MaruIndependent ConsultantIndia

The blog is an interesting interpretation of GDPR for research, and more so in the context of ARD. One possible gain would be that it can force a discussion in FAO, CGIAR and other such Institutions on use of data which these Institutions have been sidestepping so far.

(By the way, I could not post a comment on the website as the Captcha was not there/did not work). Also interestingly it asked for my name, e-mail and website!