The new FAO Agroinformatics Platform expands now Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform for more data-driven solutions for FAO four Betters and SDGs achievement
The power of Digital is not more to be proven, recognized in FAO Strategic Framework as key accelerator to enable progress, sustainable development and achieving the SDGs, opening the path towards the Agriculture of the Future.
‘Over the last months, FAO has been working tirelessly towards further enabling tools for evidence-based decision-making, accurate natural resource management, improved production and strengthen early warning systems through FAO AgroInformatics field of work and the Organization's Digital for Impact stream that it strongly supports for the new Digital Agriculture that we want to power- as geospatial technologies and agricultural data represent a unique opportunity to find new ways of reducing hunger and poverty through more accessible and integrated data-driven solutions’ says Dejan Jakovljevic, FAO CIO and Director of the Division of Digitalization and Informatics (CSI).
In this perspective, building on the first and still growing success of the flagship FAO Hand-in-Hand Geospatial platform, the technical arm of FAO Hand-in-Hand Initiative, more developments have been made, more digital capabilities have been developed and FAO's new Agroinformatics Platform (AP) aims to showcase through its expansion all these new possibilities and horizons that are opening now to enable more targeted interventions on the ground. Besides data, more elements have now been incorporated, jointly with more content in terms of knowledge and information and new techniques, besides geospatial, like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).
This new realignment of objectives and scopes intends to bring several benefits to the Organization. The open access FAO Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform was recognized as the best collaborative platform towards data-driven agriculture, winning the World Excellence Award at the Geospatial World Forum (GWF) 2022. It is a digital public good that helps analyze and compare data on food and agriculture, so that interventions can be more targeted to reduce poverty, hunger and increase economic development. Since its launch in 2020, it now unlocks over 2 million of data layers from different domains and sources to serve as a key enabling tool FAO's HiH Initiative and to help digital agriculture experts, economists, government and non-government agencies, and other stakeholders working in the food and agriculture sector.
‘We now want to position the new Agroinformatics Platform as the main underlying platform to support digitalization and digital transformation of world agrifood systems, including various initiatives, programmes and projects in FAO and member countries, such as the Hand-in-Hand Initiative (HIHI), the Digital Villages Initiative (DVI) and more’ explains Zhongxin Chen, Agroinformatics Lead of FAO Division of Digitalization and Informatics. ‘What we want to reflect is that the expansion of scope and digital capabilities available with the Agroinformatics Platform is taking us much further in our original digital journey as the platform has been consistently upgraded and expanded in data, functions, and services to continue bringing together successfully geospatial and statistical data for more targeted agricultural interventions and turning data into actionable information for sustainable agriculture’ he adds.
‘With this change, FAO Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform is still an essential component of the FAO AgroInformatics Platform, but the latter offers much more as our overarching structure, for the benefit of all users and the data they want to source and will be able to use for their projects, also and especially in the field, through tailored policy and decision making’ says Karl Morteo, FAO IT senior officer and platform technical lead.Regarding the latest developments and progresses, the Hand-in-Hand Geospatial platform has been and is still growing worldwide. The platform has been developed to serve geospatial data experts and non-technical users to produce data maps or create compelling impact stories. It is now widely used in member countries, by more than 90 organizations and various users around the world that benefit from its more than 2 million layers and 5400 datasets already published- this having been facilitated by over 60 training workshops held since the launch of the platform for Hand-in-Hand and for specialized geospatial platform applications such as the Rift Valley Fever. Notable training sessions completed include HiH Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Gambia….
The launch of a new revamped HiH Geospatial Platform website also facilitates the sharing of training materials, including information about projects, technical documentation and videos, all available there and through a dedicated HIH GP Youtube Playlist. ‘As FAO partners with other agencies and works on coalitions, we have established several geospatial platform subsite including: water, aquamaps, water-accounting and as the Hand-in-Hand initiative expands, regional and country-specific subsites are increasingly requested including in the Latin America and the Caribbeans region, the United Republic of Tanzania, Kenya, Yemen and many more. We have also recently translated the interface in English, French, Spanish, Chinese and Russian, facilitating access to information for a much broader audience of users worldwide’ further explains Morteo.
Over the last years, the Organization also been developing fit-for-purpose agro-informatics tools and strengthening a digital public goods approach to amplify the adoption of innovative digital solutions, policies and practices globally, with in particular FAO's new membership in the Digital Public Goods Alliance since May 2022. This underscores FAO’s commitment to the development and championing of digital public goods that will help achieve sustainable agrifood systems through FAO four betters and contribute to the SDGs- helping FAO contribute to making digital tools and knowledge products more accessible to farmers and transforming agricultural practices to empower rural households, young farmers and entrepreneurs.
Having the Agroinformatics platform now as FAO major umbrella for its digital initiatives, projects etc, is another step to further accelerate this Change. Among several examples the solutions that are on FAO Agroinformatics platform, as not limited to HIH GP, but reflecting FAO expanded digital capabilities include:
- FAO Digital Services Portfolio, designed to disseminate information in the food and agriculture and related sectors and scale up agricultural services for smallholders, extension services and family farmers and now further promoted by a new website, has strengthened advisory services, with implementation in new countries with tailored advisories and new capabilities– including in Iraq, Zanzibar, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
- WaPOR- FAO open data portal for Water Productivity Remote Sensing- that you are all familiar with as well is another near real-time database using satellite data that allows monitoring of agricultural water productivity that assists countries in monitoring water productivity, identifying water productivity gaps, proposing solutions to reduce these gaps and contributing to a sustainable increase of agricultural production.
- The Rift Valley Fever (RVF) Early Warning Decision Support Tool (RVF DST) is another tool based on the geospatial platform used to build capacity for early warning and forecasting at the country level and demonstrates how near real-time modelling, risk forecasting and digital innovation can enhance preparedness and anticipatory actions.
- The FAO crop calendar data has been reviewed, quality controlled, integrated and expanded and will officially be launched in November during the meeting on the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
FAO is continuing and strengthening work on early warning systems, through the World Information and Wearly Warning Systems, AMIS, etc... aiming at creating new suites for example in Central Africa Republic through CA-SAP system, based on the geospatial platform, currently under development to provide near-real time multi criteria risk analysis for the country... All this is part of the Agroinformatics larger work.
‘The journey to better support FAO users and all stakeholders across all the globe with now the Agroinformatics platform, as the new overarching structure, is ongoing, still building on the Hand-in-Hand Platform and supporting the Digital for Impact and the wider Digital Agriculture, but we are now better equipped and stronger to turn advanced information and data, including food security indicators and agricultural statistics, into action, for sustainable progress and concrete change’ concludes Jakovljevic.
Check the Agroinformatics Platform video trailer here
Find more about FAO CSI Agroinformatics work and myriad of projects on Agroinformatics new website here
Follow Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform news and technical developments on HIH GP website here
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