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Donors Announce Major Push to Generate Funding for “Data to End Hunger” for 500 Million Smallholder Farmers

By USAID

USAID, BMZ Germany, DFAT Australia, World Bank, FAO, IFAD, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners launch new “50 x 2030” plan partnering with 50 countries to produce largest-ever collection of data for agricultural development by 2030

New York, NY (September 24, 2018)—In an unprecedented effort to harness the power of data to boost the productivity and livelihoods of the world’s 500 million small-holder farmers, a coalition of donors and low-income countries pledged today to seek significant funding for agriculture statistics across 50 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America by 2030. The effort will drive a new era of targeted solutions to food production challenges. Increasing sustainable production by smallholder farmers in the face of climate change and population growth is key to end extreme poverty and progress toward “zero hunger.” The commitment, one of the largest ever investments in collecting data for agricultural development, comes in the wake of new alarming numbers that hunger levels have risen for three consecutive years, and sends a signal that the development community is committed to ensuring its interventions lead to results.

The “50 X 2030” initiative, launched today at an event on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, is an ambitious effort to conduct regular surveys of farming households in 50 low- and lower-middle-income countries by 2030. The effort seeks to make the data, combined with other information sources, widely available to guide governments to make evidence-based decisions to increase agricultural productivity sustainably. The 50 will likely include 30 from sub-Saharan Africa, 10 from Asia, and 10 from Latin America and the Caribbean.

Accurate data are key to helping these countries take the lead in their own agricultural growth and development progress. Donors are contributing to the initial data collection efforts, but the 50 countries will co-finance the initiative over time.

Key partners on the initiative include the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Government of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Government of Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“We’re witnessing today a fundamental transformation of food systems in developing countries, with rising incomes, changing consumption patterns and the emergence of more business-oriented small- and medium-scale farmers,” said Laura Tuck, Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank. “By making agricultural data more readily available in 50 low-income countries, we can help accelerate this transformation, to boost sustainable food production and allow farmers to thrive.”

Two well-established surveys—the Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (ISA) that is part of the World Bank’s Living Standards and Measurement Study (LSMS), and the AGRISurvey from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)—will provide the foundation for the initiative’s data collection efforts. Experts from the World Bank and FAO will supervise much of the technical work.

Basic agricultural data—such as the different crop varieties farmers are planting, how much they are harvesting, and their access to inputs and financing—are often missing in developing countries. But these insights can have a big impact on productivity and incomes. For example, for years, agriculture experts were puzzled by the fact that, in an area of East Africa with plenty of grazing land and surging consumer demand, milk production on small, family-run dairy farms was stagnant. In 2014, a detailed survey conducted with the assistance of the World Bank revealed that production was stymied by a lack of veterinary, breeding and other basic livestock services. These needs were addressed via government programs and production soon began rising.

Recent assessments of available agriculture data show that, in sub-Saharan Africa in particular, basic statistics from the farm sector are often incomplete or unreliable. Only two out of 44 countries in the region are deemed to have high-quality agriculture data. For example, in 2006, there were three competing estimates of maize yields per hectare in Malawi. In Tanzania, estimates of maize yields in 2003 indicated they had plummeted from 3,000 kilos per hectare in 2001 to 755, but with no indication of why they dropped so precipitously. Such confusion can leave the many different players in the agriculture sector—including governments, donors and agribusinesses unsure about where to devote their resources, as evidence pointing to either problems or opportunities is either unavailable or unreliable.

“Kenya welcomes the cooperation shown today, to work with 50 countries in supporting millions of smallholder farmers,” said Hon. William Ruto, Deputy President of Kenya. “Through our Big 4 Agenda, we are committed to achieving food security and job creation through agriculture, and we know that better data is the key to driving our transformation and growth.”

Recent efforts to collect better agricultural data on smallholder farming have revealed its value. Uganda and Tanzania have used the results of more rigorous agriculture surveys to make changes to extension programs, which led to measurable increases in farm productivity. In Malawi, new survey data revealed where and by how much flooding caused by the El Niño weather pattern reduced crop yields. It also provided insight into the impact on household diets. These findings have helped government officials produce a much more targeted disaster response strategy.

With hunger rising after years of decline, experts say the lack of farm-level data is impeding effective interventions that could help reverse this particularly challenging moment for food security. For example, climate change is a known factor, but its impact can vary considerably from country to country and even farm to farm.

Just as good data have significantly improved global health interventions, data can also drive more effective agriculture solutions, particularly as efforts accelerate toward achieving the second of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which includes pledges to end hunger worldwide, achieve food security, improve nutrition, double smallholder productivity and promote sustainable agriculture.

The Data to End Hunger event featured a storytelling segment from The Moth’s Global Community Program, featuring first person human interest stories on data and agriculture.

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