GODAN was formed in 2013 out of a meeting that was inspired by the G8. You can read the backstory here. Although global south governments are a big part of their agriculture sectors, they weren’t prominent in GODAN at launch. With some like the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Mr Willy Bett, taking a keen interest, that is now changing.
Last week, more than 600 delegates descended on the Kenyatta International Convention Centre for the first ever GODAN Ministerial Conference and 4th Agritec Africa International Exhibition. The Conference was hosted by the Government of Kenya and co-convened with the GODAN Secretariat. This was, in my view, long overdue and the beginning of concrete steps to bring governments on board.
Organized along 4 tracks the conference covered productivity, capacity development, data coordination and improving financing for smallholder farmers. These kinds of meetings can easily become talk-shops with people taking time out of their day and money out of their bank accounts to attend, sponsor or participate. However, this was’t the case with this meeting as it was conceptualized as part of a long term process to improve the state of data in the global south.
The main objective was to move the needle in respect to the development outcomes that matter for people living in the global south. Issues such as ending poverty, ending hunger, reducing inequality to name a few. Addressing the barriers to data within and beyond government which keep these outcomes out of reach is what this is all ultimately about. This can’t be done at a conference, it has to be done back in the ministries of agriculture at national and sub-national levels. It takes time, resources, political will and determination to stay the course.
Emanating from the meeting was a strong statement from African countries committing to urgent actions to address these barriers. In addition, countries committed to adopting open data as a means of implementation for the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program. As a result, the ministers agreed to form an African Intergovernmental Network on Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition with a support mechanism hosted in Nairobi, Kenya. The Network makes it possible for us to identify states where the political will is evident in order to collaborate in making the others (grit, cash and time) possible.
There were a number of areas identified by delegates where key priority actions can be taken. These areas as well as the priority actions suggested emerged from 8 parallel sessions held on the second day of the conference. They will now contribute to the agenda and work plan for the Intergovernmental Network as we go forward.
With the emergence of this network, it now becomes necessary to re-evalaute GODAN’s governance mechanism, specifically the Steering Committee. If GODAN’s multi stakeholder composition will include a strong presence of governments, then it is important for ministers responsible for Agriculture and Nutrition to be present in the governance mechanisms as well. Maybe that should be part of the agenda at the next GODAN global summit.