CABI has joined forces with the Open Data Institute (ODI) to launch a Data Sharing Toolkit which could contribute to unlocking greater food security in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia through better access to information on soil health, agronomy and fertilizer.
The new resource, made possible thanks to funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), aims to equip development practitioners (Gates' programme officers, their grantees, partners and other donors) with the necessary skills to develop better grants that will foster more access to agricultural data.
Based upon FAIR principles - that is the data should be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable, the Data Sharing Toolkit helps to increase the understanding of good data-sharing practices and the potential benefits, such as greater food security.
The Data Sharing Toolkit - which is accessed via the CABI Academy platform - includes seven eLearning modules with supporting case studies, checklists, cheat sheets and guides to help demystify how to use, collect, share FAIR and safeguarded data for the benefit of a country's agricultural economy.
Example topics of the seven modules include 'Considering data in investments' as well as 'Reusing data from third-party sources' and 'Assessing in-country potential for data sharing.' Meanwhile, case studies provided include 'Improving food security through harmonised soil data in South Asia' and 'Making soil data findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable and open.'
Practical guides - such as 'Developing a data management plan' and 'Deciding how to provide access to data' are also included on in the Data Sharing Toolkit along with country profiles that outline agricultural data policy and legislation for Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Tanzania.
The Data Sharing Toolkit was developed in joint collaboration with senior officials and academics in Ethiopia and India. This work has contributed to the implementation of a soil and agronomic data policy in Ethiopia while training and support around data sharing in India has already caused a shift in attitudes towards FAIR data.
Ruthie Musker, CABI's Project Officer, Data Policy & Practice, said, "Countries within Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are facing significant challenges to feed their growing populations amidst the threats posed by climate change as well as crop pests and diseases.
"By enabling greater access to data on soil health, agronomy and fertilizer, smallholder farmers already strained can be better equipped to innovate and improve their farming practices and, ultimately, increase their yields, livelihoods and local, regional and national food security.
"Not only do we hope to see greater access to data but also, in time, better quality data which will help make services more efficient right across the agricultural value chain."
While the toolkit has been tailored for BMGF programme officers, and their grantees and partners responsible for agricultural projects across South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, it will be available for anyone to access, use and share under an open licence.
Deborah Yates, Principal Consultant at the Open Data Institute, said, "This set of tools has been developed for agricultural projects and has been tailored with those in mind. But the concepts and the ideas in there could very easily be tailored for other domains in other walks of life."
Christian Witt, Senior Program Officer Soil Health, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said, "We've made excellent progress on this important work and I am really pleased with what has been achieved to date. The new data sharing toolkit will help us to mainstream a new approach to FAIR data access within our agricultural development projects."