New York | USA | 24 Sep. 2018

In an unprecedented effort to harness the power of data to boost the productivity and livelihoods of the world’s 500 million small-holder farmers, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, a coalition of members of the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development – USAID, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, DFAT Australia, World Bank, FAO, IFAD, BMZ Germany and European Union – together with representatives from Kenya, Ghana and Columbia pledged commitment to produce the largest-ever collection of data for agricultural development across 50 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America by 2030.

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  • The “50 x 2030” initiative seeks to support countries in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2, specifically indicators 2.3 (double agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale farmers) and 2.4. (ensure sustainable food production and implement resilient agricultural practices).

  • The initiative will work with national statistical offices to support the implementation of two well-established surveys—the World Bank’s Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (ISA) as part of the Living Standards and Measurement Study (LSMS) and FAO’s AGRISurvey.

  • The 50 partner countries, all low and lower-middle income countries, will likely include 30 from sub-Saharan Africa, 10 from Asia, and 10 from Latin America and the Caribbean. Selection criteria includes the potential for impact, likelihood for success and available funding.

  • Donors have initially committed three-quarters of the $16.2m necessary to support the first years of data collection efforts. The 50 partner countries will co-finance their agriculture surveys over time.

  • The initiative is envisaged to evolve with new methods of data collection, such as geo-spatial and remote sensing technologies as these develop.

In the wake of new alarming numbers from the 2018 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report that hunger levels have risen for three consecutive years representatives from a broad coalition of Global Platform member organisations, Rodger Voorhies of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Laura Tuck of World Bank, Beth Dunford, Assistant to the Administrator, USAID, Justin Lee, Australia DFAT, José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General, Gilbert Houngbo, President, IFAD and David Beasley, Executive Director, World Food Programme announced their partnership and common vision with representatives from African and Latin American countries, Peter Munga, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Industry, Trade & Cooperatives, Kenya and Prof. George Gyan Baffour, Minister of Planning Ghana and Gloria Alonso, Director Department National Planning, Columbia.

Common vision, partnership and new technology for affordable data collection

The African leaders spoke of the common vision with the donor organisations and their countries’ commitment to combating hunger. Agriculture provides work for a large portion of Africans and their governments seek to develop programmes to meet the needs of millions of smallholder farmers. However, only two out of 44 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have high-quality agriculture data. Without accurate data these programmes will not reach their potential.

Donors and partner government leaders agree that to deliver SDG 2, technology innovation and the affordability of quality data are critical. For both challenges the African leaders see collaboration and partnership as the solution. Tackling the data gap will enable governments to make informed choices, for effective and targeted actions to achieve food security as well as support rural employment. Ghana is implementing an agriculture survey for the first time in 20 years; knowledge gained from the data collected will support their Flagship programme “Planting for food and jobs.”

Partnership to bridge the data gap

Donors of the Global Donor Platform are the driving force behind the “50 x 2030” initiative: USAID, Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), DFAT Australia and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They are working closely with the multilateral organisations, World Bank, FAO, IFAD and World Food Program. FAO will provide the foundation for the initiative’s data collection efforts, whilst experts from the World Bank and FAO, in parallel with their GRAInS Partnership (Global Rural and Agricultural Integrated Surveys), will supervise much of the technical work.

Underlining their joint effort in the United Nations Trustee Council Chamber in New York, agency representatives outlined their commitments to filling the data gap. “Poverty doesn’t give up on victims easily,” admonished Rodger Voorhies. He and Laura Tuck underlined the role of agriculture in the effort to end hunger and as a driver of the waves of poverty reduction in the last decades. Supporting better agricultural data has been part of USAID’s and the Gates Foundation’s strategies for several years. Whilst since 2015, the World Bank has been doubling its effort to address “poverty data deprivation” through IDA financing. Justin Lee reminded the audience that when we speak of data we are speaking of real people. In Papua New Guinea, for example, 1 in 2 children are stunted and 80% of the population rely on agriculture for livelihoods, the last national agricultural survey was conducted in 1963.

World Bank and FAO, responsible for the technical implementation, also highlighted the role of technology to make quality data affordable. The World Bank is already piloting new tools, for example, for real time, high resolution data collection to better detect anomalies in growing conditions to better prepare for food crises. IFAD emphasized the necessity of disaggregated data to ensure programmes to reach small holder farmers and rural communities. For the World Food Program now is the opportunity to improve data availability and introduce new technology. Collaboration and sharing of data are keys for success.

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