Linking agriculture and nutrition to open data, open government and the Sustainable Development Goals

By: Tim Davies, Ana Brandusescu and Ben Schaap –

Open Government, Agriculture and Nutrition

Open Government Partnership governments spend more than $1.2 trillion a year on the agriculture sector. We all rely upon complex global supply chains of agricultural inputs and food production for our daily diets: supply chains that are regulated by hundreds of government agencies around the world. As the Sustainable Development Goals outline, there are many challenges ahead if all countries across the world are to deliver sustainable agriculture and food security; feeding a growing global population.

This short think piece provides case studies on the need for collecting, curating and publishing data to improve subsidies, land governance, infrastructure and collaboration.

Farmers harvesting potato2

An Open Infrastructure for Innovation

In Mexico, smallholder farmers can access weather insurance, underwritten by the state insurance company AGROASEMEX, along with other private providers. By bringing together weather data, crop data and insurance payout data, and working with researchers at Harvard University, the Coordination of National Digital Strategy and the Ministry of Agriculture (CEDN-Harvard) were able to identify better thresholds for triggering payouts: as well as visualising the data to communicate the research results and the basis for policy change.

Improving the Transparency of Land Ownership

A number of OGP Action Plans have included commitments to better management and disclosure of land registration. For example Tanzania 2014/16 Action Plan commits to publication of “demarcated areas for large scale agricultural investment (farming and livestock keeping)” through an “easily searchable land ownership database online”, and Brazil’s 2013/14 commitment to “integrate information related to the identification, certification, and destination of public lands” was highlighted by the IRM as a transformative commitment.

Across the world, civil society projects like are using data on land deals to promote greater transparency and accountability of large scale agricultural investments and development projects. As a data collection and visualisation tool, it is a powerful platform to conduct analysis and monitor land use over time.

Subsidies in Need of Standards

Billions of dollars are spent every year in agricultural subsidies, yet analysis has shown that the biggest benefits often go to large scale agriculture, rather than smaller scale farmers. In Europe, the Website, running since 2005 has gathered and analysed data on subsidy payments from national governments. But this journalist-led effort struggles to provide an updated and public picture of subsidies due to the ongoing absence of a common data standard and open data publication, and instead faces high costs to scrape scattered datasets from each European country.

A collaboration of OGP countries to develop common open data standards for disclosing subsidies in agriculture, forestry and fisheries could greatly contribute to more accountable and effective use of vital subsidy funds.

Collaboration Across Sectors

As part of their second National Action Plan the United States committed to work through GODAN on supporting collaboration around agriculture and nutrition data at a national and global level stating that “this initiative will support public and private global efforts to make agriculture and nutrition data more available and easier to access”. Ministries from the Netherlands, United States, United Kingdom and Kenya are some of the existing OGP members also working through GODAN.

New commitments

We invite all OGP participants to:

  • join GODAN, and build global collaborations using the publication and use of open data on agriculture and nutrition;
  • include agriculture and nutrition related commitments in your countries next OGP National Action Plan;
  • contribute to building a library of commitments;
  • Respond to our Call to Action to assist the GODAN partnership in identifying and filling critical data gaps in agriculture and nutrition required to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2

For more information, read the full think piece in English and Spanish.