Youth can be helpful allies in the collection of quality data to scale for modeling
This is one of a series of blogs written by our Youth in Data delegates who participated in the 2020 CGIAR Convention on Big Data in Agriculture. The global event was held virtually 19-23 October, 2020.
I was particularly interested in crop health monitoring, yield prediction and crop type classification through crop modeling, remote sensing, and machine learning. As a co-founder of a startup, the Convention sessions served as a guide and learning experience for my professional goals as well as my personal interests.
The most important key takeaway points from my experience during the sessions is that there are limitless possibilities on use of the methods mentioned previously in order to help scaling up agricultural activities. Most smallholder farmers across the African continent, are grappling with diminishing yields on their farmlands, inability to access markets, pests and diseases. among others. Creating actionable tools for farmers to maximize their limited resources to increase yields and access markets to increase food security, builds resilience around the food systems. At the end of the day, agriculture is the most sustainable venture worth fully investing in it rather than thinking of it as a side hustle. So, as the research sector has been asking themselves for the past decades: How could we help them? Can we use data to monitor, predict, and advise farmers on what to do? Can the new technology that uses big data help in creating a digital extension service specifically tailored to them?
All the above can only be possible if we get access to data. Many of the speakers in the conference, mostly the ones biased towards machine learning, were decrying on the availability and the quality of data in the Agricultural ecosystem. According to them, there is not enough ground data to help in training and validating the same hence hindering scaling of models to increase accuracy. So, how can Youth in Data help with this matter and change the present and future life of farmers, researchers, and the data-driven sectors?
This process began a couple of years ago. CGIAR, their global partners and the youth, with their zeal and exuberance, have come together to formulate avenues and platforms that help in the collection of quality data with labels. For example, most farmers in East Africa relied on rain fed agriculture, but thanks to new data as of 2021 they will be able to start planting most crops as from March and harvest them by November. This is a great opportunity for the farmers since they get a chance to learn how to use new technology such as data collection on parameters like field boundaries, land preparation activities on the identified fields, fertilizer application, occurrence of pests and diseases yields, among many other parameters. On the other hand, this data collection will help researchers, scientists, and developers to develop new tools that have a purpose and achieve farmers goals.
I believe that all of these data driven projects serve the big organizations and the youth as an opportunity to combine the knowledge, experience, and new trends forming a melting pot that will lead to success. The youth presents the present and future with the opportunity to start the conversation and synergize on different niches and strengths to make sure that innovative ideas are implemented and have continuity.
Stephen Kory Korir is a young Data Enthusiast and is the Co-Founder and CEO of a startup called Data Driven Agriculture (@AgricultuteData in Twitter). He strongly believes that in order to achieve a sustainable, data-drive, equitable and FAIR future for all, the responsible of the decision-making process must rely on youth making them their allies since the younger generation plays a key role in the new agricultural ecosystem.
At the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture, we believe that if we are to achieve a sustainable food future, it is vital that today’s youth are able to access the agricultural research sector and that pathways are provided for them to contribute to the transformation needed.
As a part of that commitment, each year we host a free Youth in Data Digital workshop alongside our annual CGIAR convention on Big Data in Agriculture. For more information about this workshop and our other youth initiatives, please see our page here.
Featured Photo: ©2016CIAT/GeorginaSmith
November 20, 2020
Stephen Kory Korir
2020 Youth in Data Delegate