24 September 2018: The largest-ever financial commitment on agricultural data for development was announced at a high-level side event on SDG 2 on zero hunger. Officials from governments, international organizations, and philanthropic organizations discussed aligning country visions and donor commitments to deliver SDG 2 and grow enough food to feed the world. The event served as the launch of the ’50 X 2030′ initiative to make data from farming households widely available and address the needs of the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers.

The event titled, ‘Data to End Hunger,’ took place on 24 September 2018, on the margins of the 73rd UN General Assembly (UNGA) high-level week in New York, US, organized by the governments of Kenya, Ghana, and Sierra Leone, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Bank, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A performance from The Moth’s Global Community Program showcased the importance of data through storytelling, as three storytellers from Africa shared stories from their childhoods.

The project aims to conduct regular surveys of farming households in 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, ten in Asia and ten in Latin America, by 2030.

Opening the meeting, Claire Melamed, CEO of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, stressed that the SDG targets and indicators are only as good as the data available to monitor them. Rodger Voorhies of the Gates Foundation announced a US$12 million contribution to the 50 X 2030 Initiative. Still under development, the project aims to conduct regular surveys of farming households in 50 low and lower-middle income countries by 2030, and then make the data, combined with other information sources, widely available. The 50 countries will likely include 30 in sub-Saharan Africa, ten in Asia, and ten in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Key partners on the initiative include the Gates Foundation, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Government of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Government of Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the World Bank, FAO, the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development, and the governments of Ghana, Sierra Leone and Kenya.

Laura Tuck, World Bank, said the initiative will put the countries in the drivers’ seat, being country-demand driven. She added that where there is demand, the World Bank will help countries bridge funding needs to close the data gap through the International Development Association (IDA).

Jose Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General, highlighted that there are currently 821 million people hungry in the world, and most countries lack the capacity to monitor the SDGs. Gilbert Houngbo, President of IFAD, underscored the need for disaggregated data to ensure no one is left behind in the efforts to end hunger. He called for making technology accessible and available to small holders to enable credible data. He emphasized that we cannot end hunger, ensure improved food security and nutrition, or demonstrate that agriculture is sustainable unless we can measure accurately what we have achieved.

A video presentation highlighted that there are currently 500 million farmers struggling in the world. The next decade will be essential, it said, as with better data they can find ways to double their yields and defeat hunger.

Following the video, delivering remarks on behalf of the President of Kenya, Peter Munya, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, Kenya, noted that his country represents an exciting market for data, with mobile penetration having reached 90%, and 70% of the population having access to financial services. Observing that 25% of African start-ups are in Kenya, he emphasized the country’s need for a skilled population, a vibrant technological ecosystem, and a private sector that continues to lead. He further highlighted the need for: new data sources, including Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT); multi-stakeholder collaborations, especially with academia and the private sector; and using data for better decision making and building resilience.

Gyan Baffour, Minister for Planning, Ghana, on behalf of Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana, said the SDGs have put pressure on countries to immediately pay attention to data. He noted that data is an expensive endeavor, and governments are in the position of choosing between investing in data or in the issues that the people they govern see as priorities. Observing that SDG implementation has come at a time of data revolution, he emphasized that countries need significant support and input to learn how to interpret, manage, and use the data obtained from new sources. He said the 50 X 2030 initiative is a critical opportunity to that end. [Event information][Press release on 50 X 2030 initiative] [SDG Knowledge Hub sources]