African countries to combat food crisis with open data

The Global Open Data for Agriculture & Nutrition (GODAN) initiative together with the Government of Kenya and 15 African Ministers including from South Africa, Congo, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Ghana, have agreed to a declaration for comprehensive open data collaboration in the nutrition and agriculture sectors, to combat the global food security crisis. The declaration is historic in that it presents the first time a ministerial level network, focusing on open data for agriculture and nutrition, has been formed. Coincidentally the Conference takes place in Africa, the continent with the largest untapped agriculture potential, proving a major milestone towards achieving global food security worldwide.

The declaration was agreed at the Ministerial Conference on Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition on its closing day, part of the 4th Agritec Africa Exhibition which takes place between 14-16th June at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre. Hosted by the Government of Kenya, GODAN and Radeecal Communications, the conference is touted as the largest worldwide event to convene business leaders, governments from several G77 nations and at large the Global South, for the singular and unified cause of technologically and scientifically revolutionising agriculture through sharing of vital data which are currently hidden or inaccessible. The Conference saw 1,000 high level participants attend, led by Ministers for Agriculture from 100 countries, private sector, academia, think-tanks, civil society, youth organisations, research networks and development practitioners, the United Nations and multilateral institutions especially the African Development Bank (AfDB), UN Economic Commissions for Africa, Asia and Latin America, the African Union Commission, Africa’s Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and international organisations.

The Ministerial Conference on Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition was organised as a result of a commitment made by Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Mr. Willy Bett at the GODAN Summit in 2016 where he accepted a call by GODAN to champion the principles of collaboration and use of open data for agriculture and nutrition within G77 nations and its support for the Comprehensive Agreement on Agriculture and Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) in Africa.

GODAN is an initiative that launched in 2013 and is led by the UK and US governments to propagate for open data in agriculture and nutrition to scientifically combat world hunger and food security. André Laperrière, Executive Director, GODAN opened the conference on 14th June alongside H.E Hon Uhuru Kenyatta CGH, praising the shared interests in progressing with sharing and opening data, stating “This common belief, this common determination, this quest for innovation and progress, is what I see in this room today.” In his closing address, Laperrière reiterated this, saying: “We saw and heard a true commitment towards transparency, progress and innovation as the way to make this planet a better, safer, more transparent, healthier and better fed for all of us.”

André Laperrière, Executive Director, GODAN delivered an address at the High Level Closing Panel for the Ministerial Conference. He was joined by H.E Hon William S Ruto, Deputy President, Republic of Kenya, alongside Mr. Willy Bett, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Republic of Kenya and Sanyal Desai, CEO Radeecal Communications. Laperrière was also keen to point out the power of open data. The conference had seen many panels on the topic of making effective use of open data in agriculture such as improving data coordination across agricultural value chains, and had seen key agricultural figures from across Africa participate including Hon. George Boahen Oduro, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Government of Ghana and Hon. Senzeni Zokwana, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Government of South Africa.

Laperrière said: “We saw the power of open data at work. We saw the power to drive agriculture to the next level. We saw a quest for excellence.”

Laperrière also commended the willingness of so many Ministers and nations taking part. With hundreds of high level figures in attendance, there was much support and discussion in aid of GODAN’s cause of opening data for agriculture and nutrition. He spoke highly of the Ministers, saying: “We saw leadership. These were not just words; we are coming out of this important conference with a world first: the first ministerial network specifically focusing on open data for agriculture and nutrition. Best of all, it happened right here in Africa. That is what I call leadership.”

Speaking about bringing the high-level ministerial conference to Kenya, Laperrière said “The reason we have had this conference here in Kenya is because of the phenomenal support and commitment extended by Mr Willy Bett, the country’s Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, following us connecting with him on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly.
We have now had a full and exciting two day summit, having had the chance to see and hear directly from a wide range of people committed to open data in agriculture and nutrition, all fighting for achieving the common goal of bringing together the end of hunger for us and our children.
We also saw and heard a clear consensus and true commitment towards transparency, progress and innovation as the way to make this planet a better, safer, more transparent, healthier and better fed for all of us. I sincerely extend my gratitude to Kenya for hosting this event, along with its wonderful ministers and country representatives, the organisers, partners and all of those that directly and indirectly contributed to make this conference an outstanding success.”
In closing his speech, Laperrière said: “Excellencies, colleagues: you dared make this happen, and you succeeded. Now the challenge is with all of us.”

Other highlights at the conference included sessions on investing in agriculture data for growth and development and mobilizing stakeholders to improve the state of nutrition data in the global south.

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