Some of the writeshop participants.

Authors: Lulseged Tamene and Rosemary Nzuki. 

Researchers in Ethiopia have for years generated data and knowledge to tackle agricultural challenges. However, little value has been obtained from these invaluable assets that remain scattered across the region in different repositories and publications.

If the available data is aggregated and harnessed; it could form the building blocks to enhance Africa’s competitive edge in in agriculture.

The Alliance of Bioversity International and International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) has long recognized the value of enhancing scientists’ capacity to create awareness and facilitate further human resource development in data sharing and analysis in efforts to transform agriculture in Ethiopia.

The Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT brought together partners to build a coalition towards sharing soil/agronomy data. In collaboration with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Alliance organized and carried out a training workshop, write-shop and national workshop of the Coalition of the Willing for data sharing in Ethiopia.

Training workshop

A training workshop held between 14 – 18 May 2018 in Addis Ababa focused on the value of data-sharing and data-mining solutions to enhance informed decision-making in agriculture in Ethiopia. The workshop exposed EIAR and regional agricultural research institutions (RARIs) staff to theories and principles of agronomic data analysis; provided practical trainings to those staff members using data collected across the country; and supported the trainees to write manuscripts on fertilizer optimization.

Fourteen participants from EIAR and RARIs attended the workshop facilitated by Dr. Sileshi G. Weldesemayat, an international consultant and expert with training experience across Sub-Sahara Africa. The training was divided into two steps: data preparation and exploration followed by preliminary data analysis.

In the practical part of the training, participants had the opportunity to share and analyze their data.

Participants appreciated the training, but went on to identify the need for a write-shop as a vital next step for the completion of the analysis and write up of manuscripts.

Write-shop

Following this recommendation, a write-shop was held from 12 – 23 November 2018 in Ethiopia. The facilitators were Dr. Sileshi G. Weldesemayat, Dr. Wuletawu Abera (Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT) and Mr. Jemal Seid (EIAR).  Dr. Teklu Erkossa (GIZ) and Dr. Lulseged Tamene also made invaluable contributions during discussions.

At the write-shop, participants worked on cleaning data, augmented with covariates from Geographical Information System (GIS) systems and analysis of data on fertilizer refining for wheat, barley, maize and teff. Following the successful exercise,  five manuscripts were drafted, reviewed/edited by the resource persons, and forwarded to the coordination team for publication.

National workshop of the “Coalition of the Willing”

The Coalition of the Willing (CoW) is a voluntary group of people and institutions involved in agricultural research, established in 2017.

A national workshop was organized from 5-6 June 2018 in Addis Ababato discuss recent advances in digital technology as applied to agricultural sciences and to spot opportunities in Ethiopia.

Objectives included gathering insights into the activities relating to data access and sharing task force, sharing experience on existing policies and guidelines related to data access and reviewing national and international experiences for the same.  In addition, participants discussed the developments in soil/agronomic data analysis and exchanged their experiences on recent methods related to geospatial analysis and data mining.  Finally, they worked on mapping and characterizing institutions and individuals who play the vital role of hosting soils/agronomic data in Ethiopia and discussed modalities on how to share the data.

Participants agreed to establish a technical committee which would oversee the development of guidelines and protocols to standardize soil and agronomic data collection and laboratory analysis.  This was in addition to the creation of a national “think tank” to coordinate discussions on the processes of transforming Ethiopian agriculture through digital solutions.

Following the trainings and workshops, the government has since approved a data sharing policy and CoW member numbers have increased from 52 to over 80.

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