As Africa strives to overcome the challenges of climate change, pest attacks and now COVID-19, there is a need for investment in strong data systems that build resilience frameworks to support the continent's agricultural rejuvenation plans.
Speaking at the Building Resilience Through Data and Digital Platforms session, experts at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) virtual summit agreed on a need for all stakeholders to engage in relationships that encourage data-sharing as a way of getting the best out of the industry when faced with shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brian King, Leader of the Platform for Big Data in Agriculture at CGIAR, explained that digital innovation can be combined with agricultural analytics to create important tools for building resilience in food systems.
"Through analytics and digital innovation, we are beginning to see data as an important tool for managing COVID-19 shocks", he said.
Other panellists spoke of a need to have data-driven agricultural solutions designed around the needs of the farmer. In this regard, Ms. Salah Goss Senior Vice President, Global Markets, Humanitarian and Development at Mastercard, recognized that the most impactful data systems for resilience are those that are administered as 'two-way streets'.
"It is important to make sure that farmers get the information they need to be more productive, but equally important is a feedback loop that farmers will give to data providers to make sure that it (the information given) is meeting real challenges," Ms. Goss said.
To quicken the path to data solutions for Africa's farming challenges, Ms. Alesha Miller, the Vice-President of Strategy and Partnerships at Digital Green, urged industry players to consider building relationships that encourage the sharing of data among innovators.
"There has been a tendency for replication of interventions and it is now clear that in order to get localized, highly-customized solutions for farmers we must figure out how to collaborate," she said.
The session concluded with agreement that strong data management and collaboration plans will give rise to sturdier data-driven decision structures that keep the African agriculture industry stable in the midst of emerging challenges.