FSD's event showcases the importance of farmer-centric data governance principles

On the 18th of April, the Fair & Smart Data (FSD) Spearhead hosted the second event of its farmer-centric data governance event series. The event, titled “The Business Case for Farmer-centric Data Governance in the Global South,” aimed to explore the desirability, feasibility, and viability of applying farmer-centric data governance principles in the data ecosystem. Through this event, FSD continued the important dialogue on shaping the future of farmer-centric data governance in agriculture.

Event Overview

Amidst the evolving landscape of data governance, the second instalment of the Smallholder Farmers' Data Governance series delved deeper into the crucial issue of implementing a farmer-centric approach in the data management of organisations. 

The event started by introducing FSD's farmer-centric data governance principles and their relevance. Next, the event featured four compelling case studies:

  1. Kvuno, presented by Candice Kroutz Kabongo
  2. Agricultural Development Denmark Asia (ADDA), presented by Mikael Jonsson
  3. FarmTree, presented by Steffie Rijpkema
  4. Identi, presented by Jeremias Lachman

The event concluded with a short reflection on the cases and next steps regarding the event series and efforts by FSD.

Opening: A reminder of FSD’s Data Governance Principles

After the introduction to the event by Ron Cörvers, the FSD programme lead, the researcher Niklas Mensing emphasised the importance of developing farmer-centric data governance principles, stipulating that the more powerful and well-resourced stakeholders within the smallholder farmer data ecosystem should commit to fair treatment and compensation of the smallholder farmers. More information on the principles can be found here.

The Four Cases

Candice Kroutz-Kabongo introduced Kvuno, a social-inclusive business that provides smallholder farmers with essential digital tools and support. Their approach includes facilitating digital relations, offering access to smartphones and digital literacy programmes, and employing motivation mechanisms to encourage positive behaviour changes. They deploy a farmer ID system, using physical cards to connect farmers to their fields and build comprehensive farmer profiles. As a data custodian, Kvuno claims that farmers retain ownership of their information.

Next, Mikael Jonsson introduced the ADDA business case, which enables an organic certification system of smallholder farmer groups via a digital data platform. The data collection starts with the registration of farmers, facilitated by local advisors who gather essential field data. Real-time data sharing enhances transparency and efficiency throughout the certification journey, complemented by regular monitoring. Informed consent is provided, while market access will be secured for the farmer groups through certification and/or EUDR compliance. 

Afterwards, Steffie Rijpkema introduced FarmTree, a digital tool that helps to plan, design, and implement agroforestry projects. The tool uses a specific database and open-source data and can be integrated with other services like survey apps and remote sensing tools. It can also be connected to reporting or plot planning for clients. Going forward, the aim is to provide farmers with access to valuable information and knowledge to help them conduct their own business case analysis.

Last, Jeremias Lachman, a post-doctoral researcher at UNU-MERIT, introduced the case of Identi, a non-profit spin-off of Agros. Identi offers the possibility to create digital IDs for smallholder farmers, putting them at the centre of the data ecosystem. The ID allows smallholders to share their profiles while different activities are being registered in their profiles. Moreover, digital IDs allow smallholders to store, manage, and share data with their consent. They can connect them, for instance, to microfinancing opportunities, agricultural input services, and traceability platforms.

In general, the four cases highlighted the opportunities and challenges associated with data governance frameworks. The issues of informed consent, data sharing, privacy, and ownership have been prevalent factors across the different cases and are considered to be at the core of data governance. This indicates that data governance is crucial across different digital agricultural business models and emphasises the need for farmer-centric governance structures.

Outlook and Conclusion by FSD

The event concluded with a summary from Sidi Amar, who outlined the future activities of FSD, focusing on a key initiative: developing a farmer-centric data governance checklist. This tool, designed to be freely accessible online, will enable organisations to assess whether their handling of farmers' data aligns with FSD's farmer-centric data governance principles. The introduction of this checklist will mark a significant step towards establishing an industry-wide standard for data governance. However, achieving the long-term ambition of a certification scheme or industry standard will require additional trials and feedback, forming new partnerships, and securing further funding. Thus, if you are interested in working with us on the topic, feel free to reach out via e-mail: fsd-sbe@maastrichtuniversity.nl

In his closing remarks, Amar introduced the third data governance event theme, which will explore the infrastructure and frameworks necessary for effective data sharing and integration.

Event Recording

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