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How Access to Africa Farming Data will Help Eliminate Hunger and Reduce Poverty

08 June, 2014

Source: ICT Africa

Kihara Kimachia

The economic mainstay for the majority of Africans is agriculture. According to the World Bank, "agriculture employs 65 percent of Africa’s labor force and accounts for 32 percent of gross domestic product."
Despite the importance of Agriculture, large swathes of Africa continue to endure biting poverty and suffer from food insecurity. Key to solving the food security problem is being able to map and identify agricultural projects, investments and interventions; a task which policymakers and other stakeholders have found daunting.

Knowledge Gap
Identifying and monitoring agricultural activity is important for a number of reasons. These include:
-Find out who is investing in agriculture and where
-Identify low investment areas
-Guide decision making on where to direct resources
-Enhance collaboration and synergy among stakeholders
-Encourage mutual accountability by tracking how pledges convert into measurable action
-Influence agricultural policy
-Influence agricultural advocacy
-Avoid duplication of agricultural investments and interventions

There have been several initiatives to map agricultural projects and programs in the last few years. Unfortunately, most of this information is available only to the funding agency, implementers and, is almost always country specific. It is fairly easy to obtain information on agricultural interventions from funding agencies such as the UN's Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO) or accessing documentation specific to a country but little work has been done to consolidate information from different sources and making it accessible from one location. AgInvest Africa web portal seeks to fill this knowledge gap by collating data from multiple sources and enabling continuous updates by stakeholders.

AgInvest Web Portal
The portal is the first of its kind in Africa and will support countries in implementing the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) signed by heads of states in 2003. CAADP's work falls under four key issues; land and water management, market access, food supply and hunger, and agricultural research.

As part of the CAADP agreement, many African nations committed themselves to evidence based decision making and demanding accountability from various agencies for specific agricultural programs they undertake. The AgInvest web portal makes it easier for African nations to meet their CAADP obligations.

By navigating the web portal and using its interactive maps, users can get the following information on agricultural projects:
-Project name
-Accurate geographical location
-Project/program objectives
-Project duration
-Project cost/budget
-Funding agency/agencies
-Implementing agency/agencies
-Project Beneficiaries
-Source references

The data is aggregated from various national and regional sources as well as internal research by the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS) which created the portal. As an example on the usefulness of the site, the interactive map allows you to select a country and then filter your search by "funding sources" or "project name". Clicking "submit" brings up a map showing you all the project/investment locations of that particular funding source or project. For example, searching the portal for all USAID projects in Kenya returns a map showing all the locations where the agency is involved in agricultural interventions, the number of projects; the full details of the projects can be viewed by clicking on the map markers (see image below).
One can clearly see how information of this nature is important to a government agency that's planning agricultural interventions or working on policy.

Non-governmental organizations planning agricultural interventions can also use the data to make informed decisions by checking to see if an area is saturated or undeserved.

Ordinary citizens can also use the portal to put politicians to task. For example, if the governor of a region promised to make investments in a certain agricultural sub-sector, constituents can log into the portal after the promised project duration lapses to see if the investments were actually made.
The portal currently maps about 2,000 agricultural projects in 17 African countries with more being added daily by AgInvest staff as well as individuals and organizations that can create accounts on the site and submit missing information.

This development is timely and will go a long way in helping African countries achieve millennium development goal number one; which is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. It is also a sterling example of how ICT is transforming Africa.


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