Empowering small-scale African agriculture
The AGCommons (Agricultural Geospatial Commons) Program aims to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa through better research, intervention and decisions brought about by making location-specific information, analyses and tools more accessible.
AGCommons is being developed as an Africa-based service bureau, providing geo-spatial information technology services to extend the reach and impact of existing agricultural initiatives working across the food value chain to improve the productivity and incomes of smallholder farmers. These services are provided through a “commons” approach that allows the open sharing of location-specific information. This encourages users to move away from the personal, ad-hoc management of geospatial information in favor of automated and secure data management services, sharing, and long-term archiving of data and associated metadata.
AGCommons operations and services are now established with a base in Nairobi, Kenya. The technical infrastructure to deliver the initial set of geospatial services, including the ability to host and visualize spatial information, includes:
- A platform for the storage, discovery, analysis and long-term curation of geospatial agricultural data (or metadata) in a coherent network of repositories.
- Advocacy for institutional and individual change towards an open systems approach to the uptake of research results and agricultural data in general.
- Ad hoc specialized data services such as:
- Data Source Discovery—particularly poorly documented or unknown data sources, and profiling these sources to understand their content and structure
- Data Cleansing to ensure quality, accuracy, and completeness
- Integration/harmonization to maintain a consistent view of data across all systems within a location-based framework
- Agricultural Information and Technology Services (AITS) that provide customized, localized, personalized, timely and accurate information to agricultural development organizations and groups working with farmers all along the food value chain, as well as providing the same directly to farmers where possible and appropriate.
Some of the agricultural information services AGCommons has begun to develop include:
- Weather information up to 5-days in advance
- Crop Advisory Tips sourced from the National Agriculture Research Systems (NARS) and/or CGIAR Centers
- Agricultural input supply directory
- Detailed farming information on a variety of crops including staples such as cereals and pulses among others
- Detailed smallholder dairy husbandry practices
- Pest incidence forecast
- Commodity prices – price updates and arrival information of select commodities from relevant markets
- Customized applications and tools developed on the basis of client partners’ requirements. Sample tools already available include:
- A unified data integration platform for agricultural data that tracks the performance of indicators that can be monitored within the various sectors in agriculture.
- Location-intelligent custom web platforms to support data access and sharing.
For more information on the available services, please visit: AGCommons Services
The Program established working relationships with existing service providers and works within the community to build capacities that are currently in short supply locally.
To jumpstart the effort in December 2008, AGCommons identified and implemented five Quick Win Projects that can have real impact on the ground, deliver needed solutions in a relatively short time and offer the potential for scaling up benefits to farmers. Completed in 2009, these projects tested various models on the ground and involved different technologies and links with end-users: working directly with farmers, collaborating at the research level, and creating access to valuable data sets for use on the farmers’ behalf.
AGCommons was launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of their Geospatial Technology Program. It is led by the ICT-KM Program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
For more information on the projects and AGCommons, please visit: http://www.agcommons.org