As part of DFID's contribution to the G8 initiative on Open Data for
Agriculture, a broad survey of key stakeholders in sustainable African
agriculture was conducted to assess current and emerging trends related
to data collection, processing, and dissemination. Stakeholders that
promote and support sustainable intensification of agriculture in Africa
require access to useful data upon which to base their decisions and
evaluate current and future interventions amid limited resources.
Information has value for supporting a decision only if it reduces the
chance of being wrong and a cost of being wrong. Research across many
fields has shown that quantitative decision analysis methods
overwhelmingly outperform expert judgment in identifying the economic
value of information and improving decisions. Therefore a key focus of
the study was to assess the alignment of stakeholders’ perceived data
needs with areas of decision uncertainty.
A total of 281 stakeholders were contacted by email among 11
organizational categories. Of this list, there were 110 respondents to
the online survey with 58 individuals further contributing to in-depth
conversations. Results from the online survey were compiled along with
live interview responses into a centralized database for analysis. In
addition to searching for overall keyword trends and tendencies within
groups, we examined motivations for data and use, and whether these data
were informing specific decisions.
Less than half of respondents (46%) could specify a decision of any kind
in relation to their perceived data needs. Only 36% of respondents
stated data needs that were consistent with their stated uncertainties
and only 15% showed that perceived needs, uncertainties, and data
gathering efforts are aligned. There was broad alignment among effort,
perceived needs, and uncertainties for soil data. In other words, soil
was the most frequently cited uncertainty, the most frequently stated
perceived need, and the most frequently stated focus of current effort.
Market data showed similar high priority and alignment. Climate data is
frequently cited as both needed and satisfying an uncertainty, but is
less frequently cited as a focus of current effort. Biodiversity and
poverty data are frequently cited as a focus of effort but infrequently
cited as a perceived need or uncertainty. Consistent with other case
studies, overall there is evidence of a \"measurement inversion\" where
decisions are either poorly defined or data priorities are disconnected
from the decisions they potentially inform.
Based on the survey results and analysis, we provide recommendations for
improving the collection and use of data in African agriculture.
Comprehensive, centralized web-enabled GIS databases could have large
impact on improving decisions if efforts are prioritized by information
values. Databases and information gathering requirements aimed at
development impact should be based on information values identified by
quantitative modeling of key decisions rather than by routine,
intuition, or purely subjective means. Initiatives to develop awareness
of the key decisions and what data is needed to support them should be
widespread and routine. These will inform decision makers and
researchers on how to spend their limited resources measuring only the
most important information or variables. Researchers should also make
greater use of decision analysis techniques that explicitly handle
uncertain or incomplete data. This may help optimize the use of existing
data for improving specific development decisions.
Clapp, A.; DauSchmidt, N.; Millar, M.; Hubbard, D.; Shepherd, K. A survey and analysis of the data requirements for stakeholders in African agriculture. World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Nairobi, Kenya (2013) 28 pp.
A survey and analysis of the data requirements for stakeholders in African agriculture