Collecting and Applying Data on Smallholder Agriculture During COVID-19

Video chats

05 October 2020 9:00 am - 9:00 am EDT
This event has concluded.

Collecting data and understanding rural and agricultural livelihoods have always been challenging. Now, facing COVID-19 and related restrictions, understanding customers and developing financial solutions that meet their needs is even harder. To learn more, CGAP and AgriFin, the center of excellence on agriculture finance in the World Bank Group, hosted two video chats in early October with a variety of experts.

Below please find recordings of these two chats, followed by a brief summary of the chats, and speaker bios.  

Data Generators Video Chat

Data Suppliers Video Chat

Listen or download audio only version here:

Listen or download audio only version here:

  • Ruth Meinzen-Dick, IFPRI
  • Venu Aggarwal,  60 decibels
  • Tomoko Harigaya, Precision Agriculture for Development
  • Leora Klapper, World Bank
  • Anzetse Were, FSD Kenya
  • Chris Brett, World Bank
  • Ferdi Meyer, Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy
  • Greta Bull, CGAP

Highlights from Data Generators Chat

COVID-19 is changing the behavior and needs of smallholder farmers and service providers 

  • Data from 60 decibels indicates that smallholder farmers want cash, more affordable inputs, and better access to markets to cope with COVID-19. 6 in 10 smallholders had reduced their use of inputs, hiring of labor, and sales of produce due to higher costs (not health concerns or lack of transportation to get to fields). 
  • Precision Agriculture for Development heard concerns from agrodealers about how COVID-19 would affect agricultural production before smallholder farmers. Now most smallholders in their sample are facing lower incomes and anticipating challenges in access to inputs and agricultural production. Kenya may feel more severe effects in upcoming seasons.
  • IFPRI found that respondents to phone-based surveys often answer the survey questions while on speaker phone. This may affect their answers, especially among women. As such they strongly encourage all phone surveys to include a question that thoughtfully determines if respondents are on speaker phone. Analysis should then compare responses disaggregated by gender and use of speaker phone.  

Women farmers can be reached in data collection, but it takes planning and effort. 

  • Women and marginalized groups among smallholder farmers can be reached when collecting data, but it takes intention and effort at every step of the research. Approaches like ex ante stratification, outreach to women respondents from past surveys, and contacting women via male respondents and their groups can generate a more representative sample of respondents. 

Create a range of outputs tailored to various audience and uses. 

  • Each data generator cannot meet the needs of every stakeholder, but they often produce various kinds of outputs to serve different audiences. Disseminate data and supporting documentation through individual websites and dashboards – as 60 decibels and Precision Agriculture for Development do – as well as through trusted aggregators such as the Innovations for Policy Action RECOVR Research Hub.  
  • Avenues like policy briefs, summary reports, blogs, webinars, social media posts, case studies of individual respondents, and small invite-only technical dialogues can help spread the word about your research and its key findings. Local and regional press are a great way to release data and insights as well. 
  • Good analysis will ask the ‘why’ after the ‘what.’ Research outputs should surface root causes and determine what factors are driving the data, in addition to identifying trends.  

Highlights from Data Consumers Chat

What opportunities is COVID sparking for farmers?  

  • Digital platforms are accelerating. Digital platforms linking farmers to markets, inputs, finance and information are becoming more relevant during the pandemic. In addition, whatsapp groups are also playing an increasing role (see for instance in India)   
  • Digital deployments also need physical infrastructure. Digital innovation can radically change agriculture when complemented with investments in physical infrastructure (e.g. warehouses, cold storage etc…). The World Bank contributes to these investments, lending about USD 2.5bn/year to the agriculture sector.  
  • Digital identity for farmers. Digital tools can aggregate a range of rich data points about farmers, such as mobile money transactions, farm location and value chain transactions. This data can be used to offer a wide range of services for farmers, including financing 

How can we ensure that the acceleration of digital solutions does not leave behind the most vulnerable? 

  • Some farmers left behind - Many farmers do not have the capabilities to use digital platforms or do not have the incentives to do so. Some do not have a suitable phone to download apps and use platforms. Some farmers share SIM cards making it impossible to leverage mobile data. In addition, risks of using a digital platform may outweigh returns (e.g. income tax risk, data privacy risk).  
  • Putting women at the center - Women have been more deeply affected by COVID-19, among others because of their lower asset base and increased domestic responsibilities, but they often “do not show up in data” for the reasons mentioned above. There is a need for deliberate efforts to collect data on the most vulnerable segments and target policy actions towards these. 

Does more data lead to less panic? 

  • Fixing bottlenecks - Since the beginning of pandemic in South Africa, BFAP has collected and shared data on the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic on the food system every 48 hours. This tracker has allowed to identify bottlenecks in agricultural value chains and guide Government interventions ( e.g. as an “ essential business” the production of oranges was not disrupted, but the wood pallets to export them were badly needed) 
  • There will be enough food – During the pandemic, South African rice importers shared data showing that there would be no disruption in the availability of rice, which allowed rice prices to remain somewhat stable. There is a need to invest in food availability data as uncertainty can quickly lead to price spikes. 
  • The 80-20 rule – Collecting data during the pandemic is not easy and there is a need to focus only on the key questions that are critical for policy and business decisions 

What’s the role of Government in generating, sharing, and protecting data? 

  • Drawing the line between public and private roles. Companies that own data have a large advantage over those that do not. On the other hand, such advantage creates incentives for private sector to invest in data. Drawing the line between proprietary data and public goods is not an easy task. Government need to find ways to collaborate with private sector on data generation, management, sharing and protection of data.  Industry organizations have a key role to play to facilitate such collaboration.  
  • Fiscal space. Fiscal space in African countries is very limited, which makes it hard to convince Governments to invest in data management 
  • Good examples. The FinAccess household survey research program is a good example of Public Private Partnership on data. It is a joint initiative between the Central Bank of Kenya, FSD Kenya and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics that measures the access, usage, quality and impact of financial services in Kenya. The data can help policymakers identify barriers to financial inclusion but also allow Private sector actors to identify new market opportunities. In India, Government’s investments in improving the national ID system has also allowed brought significant benefits for financial inclusion. 


Panelist Bios

Data Generators Panelists

Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Senior Research Fellow, IFPRI, has over 25 years’ experience in transdisciplinary research. One of her major research areas deals with how institutions and policies affect the way people manage natural resources, especially land and water. She also studies gender issues in agriculture, with a particular focus on gender differences in control over assets, and the impact of agricultural research on poverty, including co-developing the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index.  She is the author of over 150 peer-reviewed publications based on this research. Much of her research has been in South Asia and Africa south of the Sahara. She received her PhD and MSc degrees in development sociology from Cornell University and her bachelor's degree in anthropology from Washington University.

Venu Aggarwal, is Director at 60 decibels, a tech-enabled social impact measurement and customer intelligence company spun out of Acumen that makes it easy for organizations to listen to the people who matter most. Its proprietary approach, Lean DataSM, brings customer-centricity, speed and responsiveness to impact measurement. Ms. Aggrawal leads 60 Decibels’ work in Agriculture. Prior to 60 Decibels, she worked at Acumen for 6 years. Ms. Aggrawal started her career as management consultant at McKinsey & Company and PRADAN, a grassroots non-profit in India focused on livelihood generation. She holds a Masters in Public Affairs from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and a Bachelor of Science from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University.

Tomoko Harigaya, is Director of Research at Precision Agriculture for Development, a global non-profit that provides actionable information to enable smallholder farmers to improve their wellbeing. Ms.Tomoko holds a PhD in Public Policy from Harvard University. She has over 10 years of experience working with development organizations and government agencies on evaluation research. Ms. Tomoko has previously worked at Innovations for Poverty Action and consulted for Grameen Foundation.

Moderated by Leora Klapper, Lead Economist in the Finance and Private Sector Research Team of the Development Research Group at the World Bank. Ms. Klapper's publications focus on corporate and household finance, banking, entrepreneurship, and risk management. Her current research studies the impact of digital financial services, especially for women. She is a founder of the Global Findex database, which measures how adults around the world save, borrow, make payments, and manage risk. Previously, she worked at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and Salomon Smith Barney. Ms. Klapper holds a Ph.D. in Financial Economics from New York University Stern School of Business.

Data Consumer Panelists

Anzetse Were, Economist, FSD Kenya is a development economist with over ten years of experience working in Africa on Economic Research, Analysis and Strategy Development with a focus on Macroeconomics; Manufacturing; Private Sector Development; the Informal Economy and Sino-African Relations. She has a Masters in Economics from the University of Sydney (Australia) and a Bachelor’s degree from Brown University (USA). Over her career, Ms. Were has worked with African governments, private sector, development finance institutions, non-profit organisations, as well as academia and think tanks. She is currently an Economist at FSD Kenya and resides in Nairobi, Kenya.

Chris Brett, Lead Agribusiness Specialist with the World Bank and part of the Agriculture and Food Global Agricultural Practice, is based in Washington DC. He has a master’s degree in Management for Agricultural Development from Cranfield University in the United Kingdom. He has more than thirty years’ experience of working within the public private and voluntary sectors in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Prior to working with the World Bank, he worked for 9 years as the Global Head of Sustainability for a large multi-national agricultural supply chain management company. As part of the senior management team, Mr. Brett supported the company’s transition from a trading-based company to a global agri-business supply chain management company. From 2001 to 2007, he undertook a range of consultancies for leading development organisations and the private sector including the World Bank, International Finance Corporation, African Development Bank, European Union, United Nations Development Programme, commercial banks and infrastructural development companies. He also worked for 6 years in Central America as a Private Sector Development Advisor (1995-2001) for the UK Department for International Development.

Ferdi Meyer, Managing Director, Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy, grew up on a crop and livestock farm in the North-West Province of South Africa. After 20 years at the University of Pretoria, he became an extra-ordinary professor at the University of Stellenbosch in 2020. He was one of the founding members of the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) in 2004. Through his leadership, BFAP has grown from an informal network of partners in academia, public and private sector to a non-profit company that is internationally recognized as an independent think tank on the African continent, serving the agro-food, fibre and beverage sectors. As Managing Director of BFAP, he has been leading the team on a vast range of national and international strategic projects and initiatives. These include the agricultural chapter of the National Development Plan for South Africa, strategic sector and investment analyses for a number of private sector firms, and end-to-end value chain projects in a number of Eastern and Southern African countries. He specializes in agricultural market, trade - and policy analyses, value chain analytics, strategic foresighting and scenario planning.

Moderator Greta Bull is the CEO of CGAP and a director at the World Bank Group. Ms. Bull has 18 years of experience in development finance, primarily focused on small and medium enterprise finance, microfinance, and digital financial services. She has worked with both financial services providers and policy makers in Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia. Her clients have included banks, microfinance institutions, mobile network operators, and FinTechs. Before joining CGAP, Ms. Bull was a manager for Financial Institutions Advisory Services at the International Finance Corporation. Other career highlights include serving as director of the Finance, Banking and Enterprise Division at DAI Europe and holding senior-level positions at the Eurasia Foundation.