Welcome to the GODAN Summit 2016 Blog Series. Each week, we will post a blog written by a participant of our Summit held in New York City on September 15-16. This week's blog is written by Winnie Kamau.
Leaders are Urged to Open Agricultural Data
As the world gathers in Marrakech, Morocco to celebrate the gains of the famed world Paris Agreement dubbed COP21 made in France 2015, I would not help but reminisce one special Summit that I attended at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). I had the privilege to speak at the Summit during the Africa Open Data (AODC) event dubbed -Connecting the Continent: Open Data for Africa. Here we were a panelist of 6 people and we discussed the great initiatives happening in Africa and the challenges faced. It was my first time coming to America and I had some first-hand hilarious experiences in New York. I bet you will laugh your heart out. Speaking at the Summit I had an opportunity to share the work that I had done and the collaborations we had entered into as Association of Freelance Journalists (AFJ). I could easily write a book on Data Journalism as there are so many intriguing insights and also some challenges that would really shape the use of data and communicating with data. I shared of a Drone Story on the use of Drone technology that is revolutionising Agriculture. One collaboration we entered with as AFJ through our Online Publication Talk Africa is with AgriTools which is a multimedia research Journalism project that seeks to tell stories of youth using ICT in Agriculture. This project is funded under the European Journalism Center (EJC) with the founder Elisabetta Demartis. At Talk Africa I must blow our own trumpet- we publish only development and human interest stories; no politics. We realised that most of the media houses had dedicated their space to politics leaving out the most important stories that touch you and I and that is in development. The Drone story caught the eye of the Government of Sierra Leone represented by their delegation led by Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Madam Marie Jalloh. This is a story that had mentions during the Summit in New York.
But one thing is key for both journalists to understand and appreciate data and the producers too we need to learn how to communicate with data. Collaborations and capacity building in the use and communicating with data will be a key gateway in fighting food insecurity not only in Africa but the world at large.
Some of the insights I was able to pick during the Summit during the opening ceremony was the use of data as a key component to fighting food insecurity. This dominated the summit that was organised by the Government of Kenya alongside, the United Kingdom and United States Department of Agriculture made it clear that data was the new frontier for a food secure world.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP) over 800 million people are struggling with hunger and malnutrition with the most affected are women and children. Pundits say this crisis can best be solved with making agriculture and nutrition data open.
Kenyan Cabinet Secretary of Agriculture, Willy Bett in his opening remarks at GODAN Summit emphasised on the use of data in making key decisions “In Kenya alone, agriculture contributes 26% to its GDP. We need to embrace a system where decision making in that system is evidenced based and can be shared. This would and it will not only help in generating more wealth in the country but it will also help in the investment.” adding that “We are living in exciting times and we are seeing a lot of involvement and realization on the role of Agriculture not only in eliminating poverty and creating food security but also in contributing significantly in development in African countries.”
As Kenya is leading in many frontiers especially in agriculture and technology, the Cabinet Secretary, Bett said Kenya was leading in the construction of an Integrated Agricultural Information System(IAIS) which is set to be launched next year “The office of the Deputy President together with the ministry of agriculture in which I lead will take the lead in championing the open data revolution in Kenya with a complete integrated agricultural information system for data sharing set to be in place by December of 2018”.
This transformative change in the agricultural sector cannot be achieved without the citizens engagement. Kerry Kennedy, the Director of the Robert Kennedy Foundation noted “We can transform the citizens need by having access to information not only on the high level but also the grassroots level that transforms lives.” Adding “I view data as important not only is it the right thing to do to provide food and medicine to the people of the world who need you can say have a right, it’s not charity it’s a right and we need to assert those rights and we need to make those rights statistical.”
At the summit there was an interesting petition that was being signed calling on Leaders to Open the Food Security data. This campaign led by Global Citizens through Judith Rowland is calling on leaders to respond to 25 trillion dollars commitment they have made. The Petition was signed and presented to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Judith emphasised on the need to open up data “Food and security is part of the heart of our campaign. We are calling on world leaders and private sector leaders to make data on Global Food Security open”.
Other commitments given by the Kenyan Government at the Summit included support of the GODAN network activities as core business of the Ministry of agriculture and Infrastructural implementation of a new roadmap for improving agricultural statistics that includes use of elaborate ICT and modern technology to support data generation and analysis for sharing.
About the author: Winnie Kamau is a Data Journalist and is a founding member of the Association of Freelance Journalists. She resides in Kenya.