A CABI team have highlighted their work on enabling FAIR and responsible data practices at a workshop in Ethiopia. The workshop focused on raising awareness on the recently adopted data sharing initiatives Soil and Agronomy Data Sharing (SADS) directive and the National Soil Information System (NSIS). 

Dr Negussie Efa, CABI’s representative in Ethiopia, and Mike Rose, CABI Associate, attended the three-day event. The Ministry of Agriculture of Ethiopia (MoA) organized the workshop with support from CABI and the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ).  

Enabling FAIR data access  

Most smallholder farmers have limited access to agricultural information or advisory services. Likewise, other key stakeholders in the agriculture sector lack access to quality and reliable data. Digital development and the application of data can help bring practical knowledge and solutions to farmers. This leads to donors increasingly investing in technology-focused grants and projects. 

As the worldwide agriculture sector relies increasingly on technologies that are driven by data, delivering FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) and responsible data practices is an imperative.  The impact of a FAIR-informed approach includes reducing waste, loss of data, and duplication of effort. In the long-term, this can potentially lead to improved decision-making, greater yields, food security and sustainability.  

The training workshop follows extensive groundwork to address FAIR data access challenges in Ethiopia, through awareness raising to promote usage of the recently approved SADS Directive and NSIS. These challenges were experienced by previous data repositories that had been developed in Ethiopia. It was found that data was not reusable and lacked clear mechanisms for sharing. 

CABI and the Open Data Institute (ODI) recognized this problem and engaged with the MoA, Coalition of the Willing (CoW) and GIZ to co-develop the SADS directive. This aimed to improve data collection, data quality, data standardization and interoperability, data management, sharing and use.    

The MoA then worked with partners to create the NSIS. This data sharing initiative aimed to harness FAIR data processes to share soil and agronomy data generated in Ethiopia. 

The workshop in Ethiopia focused on raising awareness on data sharing initiatives in Ethiopia (Credit: Mike Rose)

Focus on people 

Sixty experts and various regional and national representatives attended the three-day workshop. They were from agriculture offices, research institutes, universities, and non-governmental and international organizations.  

In his opening speech, Kiflu Gudeta, Desk Head of NSIS at MoA, thanked CABI, ODI, GIZ, CoW and other partners for their pivotal contributions through the development of the Directive. He also acknowledged financial support from CABI and GIZ for holding this important workshop. 

Dr Negussie Efa then gave opening statements at the workshop by presenting an overview of CABI’s work. This included that of the organization’s digital data policy and practice team and outlined previous engagement and work in Ethiopia. 

He underlined how CABI’s focus was on investing in building relationships. In addition, understanding how stakeholders work, interact, and the need to share information. Dr Efa also underlined the importance of investing in people and improved processes to ensure proper FAIR practices. This is because the approach has more chance of success than a strict technology-first method. 

“Delivering FAIR data practices is as much about people as it is about technology 

The focus on the people in the soil and agronomy sector was key to developing and implementing the SADS directive and maintaining that engagement will in turn lead to its success,” he said. 

Engagement, partnership and collaboration 

Dr Efa also highlighted how proper engagement, partnership and collaboration with key partners was instrumental in the creation of the SADS Directive. 

“We should continue to create awareness and promote both SADS Directive and NSIS in various ways if they are to be widely adopted and used effectively. 

Apart from facilitating soil and agronomy data management and sharing, the lessons and experiences gained in developing this directive will play a critical role in informing and stimulating other sub-sectors of agriculture,” he said. 

Mike Rose, a CABI and ODI Associate, supported co-creation of the SADS directive. He outlined how critical it was to bring together those responsible for implementing the FAIR data components of the directive. These included ways that connected FAIR with their daily work, to help them better understand the requirements placed on them. 

“When developing the directive, we were keen to learn from previous data sharing policy development initiatives in Ethiopia that did not involve those who would be implementing in the policy creation activity – and consequently were unsuccessful,” he said.   

Raising awareness of data sharing initiatives

Participants were introduced to the legal and technical aspects of SADS Directive, as well as NSIS database and its operations.

CABI also used the opportunity to meet with key stakeholders and discuss a new project to analyse the national agriculture data governance and policy landscape. This will feed into the development of a Digital Agriculture Roadmap for Ethiopia.  

Stakeholders at the event noted how the experience of CoW is serving as best practice, showcasing and triggering interest in efforts to develop similar guidance in other agriculture sectors. This is in addition to raising awareness about the need to develop comprehensive databases based on agreed standards. 

Additional information 

Main image: The workshop in Ethiopia focused on raising awareness on data sharing initiatives in Ethiopia (Credit: CABI) 

Project page  

Find out more about CABI’s work on enabling FAIR and responsible data practices through the project page ‘Enabling FAIR data sharing and responsible data use’ 

FAIR Journal 

Learn more on the topic through the FAIR Journal –  a bite-sized digital magazine-style resource of key insights, emerging knowledge, advocacy, and learning around the FAIR Principles.

Case Study 

The lasting impact of advocating for and facilitating FAIR-informed practice in soil and agronomy – the case of the Coalition of the Willing (CoW) and Ethiopia’s Soil and Agronomy Data Sharing (SADS) directive 

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