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Open Data, Agriculture And Nutrition: The Case Of Zimbabwe

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

The need to provide better robust access of timely and accurate data for policy makers, farmers and private sector to inform agriculture and nutrition interventions and activities has been widely acknowledged. Despite the exponential increase in the volume and different types of data, about one in nine people on earth suffer from malnutrition and hunger (2018 World Hunger and Poverty Statistics). Open data mechanisms and processes have been identified as having great potential in strengthening data processes and mechanisms in agriculture and nutrition. Open Data is defined as data that anyone can access, use and share as defined by the Open Data Institute.

Nutrition Challenges

Food and nutrition security in Zimbabwe has been one of the key priority areas for the Government of Zimbabwe as stated by the United Nations 2017 report. With 76 percent of the rural households considered poor and 23 percent extremely poor, on average, households spend over half of their income on food and 33 percent suffer from food deprivation (Sachs et al. 2017; ZimVAC 2017). In the recent years they has been a decrease in households consuming an acceptable diet and an increase in households consuming a poor diet, as defined by the food consumption score. Overall, 10 percent of rural households experienced severe hunger in 2017, based on the household hunger score (ZimVAC 2017). However, the number of food-insecure households reported in the 2018 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Report shows an unstable pattern, with women and children most affected. Zimbabwe is experiencing three forms of malnutrition, that is, stunting, anaemia and overweight as classified in the Global Nutrition Report.

Despite government’s commitment to national and regional strategies such as Scaling Up Nutrition (2011), Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program, and national policies such as Food and Nutrition Security Policy (2013), National Nutrition Strategy (2018), Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (2018), National Food Fortification Strategy (2018) and the National Social Protection Policy Framework (2016), food security and nutrition challenges remain key policy issues. There is need to raise awareness on open data as mean to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goal on ending hunger, achieve food security, improved nutrition and transform agriculture and nutrition policies.

Open Data Challenges

Despite global recognition and acknowledgement of the critical role open data plays in agriculture and nutrition. In view of the aforementioned nutrition challenges, key questions such as:

  • Do policy makers (at different levels) and open data intermediaries have the capacity and skills to access, evaluate and analyse open data?

  • Is there nutrition and agriculture data in Zimbabwe, and how accessible is this?

  • Is open data utilized addressing nutrition challenges in Zimbabwe?

  • At national level how do we ensure the inclusivity, in lieu, of the potential digital divide effects of open data?

  • Who are the stakeholders within the open data and nutrition sector?

However, evidence has also shown that they exist weak open data ecosystem/ infrastructure in Zimbabwe, as potential open data advocates and users face challenges such as difficulties in accessing data, lack of skills and knowledge on how to access open data, institutional barriers, poor data quality, weak inter-linkages between the demand-supply sides of open data.

Looking Forward

In a bid to address the aforementioned challenges and questions, the Zimbabwe Evidence Informed Policy Network (ZeipNET) with support from the Global Open Data on Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) will be implementing a two day Open Data in Nutrition capacity building workshop which will seek practical interventions to address how open data in agriculture and nutrition can be leveraged in seeking solutions for nutrition challenges in Zimbabwe.

The capacity building workshop will also seek to impart knowledge, skills and raise awareness on open data, how it is shared and used, and how to access different types of nutrition open access databases and networks. The evaluation of open data sources for credibility, bias and quality and develop practical implementation plans to integrate open data systems within existing institutional data systems. Case studies of open data as a de-risking tool will also be proffered and showcased. The world’s leading report on the state of global nutrition, the Global Nutrition Report will also be showcased. The report is data-led and highlights what nutrition progress has been made and what challenges remain. It is envisaged that an open data working group will be formed which will focus on developing context specific holistic integrated approaches on open data in agriculture and nutrition. The working group short-long term mandate will be to:

  • To capacitate key institutions within the open data value chain to access and use open data,

  • Provide robust recognized guidelines on data standards, data sharing and data quality,

  • Promote cohesion and inter-linkages between the demand-supply open data value-chain,

  • Establish a cross sector focus group for private sector to open their data

About the author: Gilchriste Ndongwe is a programme manager at the Zimbabwe Evidence Informed Policy Network (ZeipNET). His professional interests are on the use of evidence (data, research information, citizen knowledge) in development and policy making.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in published blog posts, as well as any errors or omissions, are the sole responsibility of the author/s and do not represent the views of ZeipNET, its secretariat, its trustees, its partners, or its funders; nor does it imply endorsement by the afore-mentioned parties.

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