Opening up data for agriculture and nutrition: The GODAN initiative


agINFRA_logo_newOne of the hottest topics during the last years have been Open Data. Open Data is a powerful tool for long-term sustainable development by improving the economic opportunities for farmers and the health of all consumers. There have been and still there are are numerous efforts in several sectors, which aim to open up existing data and ensure that future data will be published in an open and interoperable way.

There are several cases for the agricultural sector as well and the one that comes to my mind right now are the agINFRA and SemaGrow projects; the former aims to design the grid- and cloud-based infrastructure for facilitating the management and access to agricultural data of various types, as well as propose a linked open agricultural data framework for the publication of agricultural data as linked data (including data types such as bibliographic, educational, germplasm, soil data, etc.). The latter is working on data intensive techniques to boost the real-time performance of global agricultural data infrastructures; it is obvious that there is a close connection between the two projects, as SemaGrow builds on the outcomes of agINFRA while agINFRA takes advantage of the new agricultural data sources and approaches that SemaGrow brings to the table. Both projects were presented as examples during the G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture, which highlighted their importance not only at European but also at global level.


But why is open access so important for agriculture? 

Open access to research, and open publication of data, are vital resources for food security and nutrition, driven by farmers, farmer organizations, researchers, extension experts, policy makers, governments, and other private sector and civil society stakeholders participating in ‘innovation systems’ and along value chains. Lack of institutional, national, and international policies and openness of data limits the effectiveness of agricultural and nutritional data from research and innovation. Making open data work for agriculture and nutrition requires a shared agenda to increase the supply, quality, and interoperability of data, alongside action to build capacity for the use of data by all stakeholders.




At a global level now, one of the major initiatives (along with the much older and well-established CIARD initiative) is the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) initiative. GODAN is a global initiative that “seeks to support global efforts to make agricultural and nutritionally relevant data available, accessible, and usable for unrestricted use worldwide”. The initiative focuses on building high-level policy and public and private institutional support for open data and encourages collaboration and cooperation among existing agriculture and open data activities, without duplication, and brings together all stakeholders to solve long-standing global problems. 


How it all started

The 2012 G-8 discussions emphasized that opening up access to data is important both for combating food insecurity and under-nutrition today, as well as laying the groundwork for a sustainable agricultural system in the future. The G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture which took place in Washington D.C., between 29-30 of April 2013, included a number of participants who committed to Open Data for Agriculture. Following the conference, the governments of the United States (USDA lead) and the United Kingdom (DFID lead) partnered to form this global initiative.

The GODAN Initiative was officially announced at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Conference on October 31, 2013 (see the video below for the announcement).



Aims and Objectives

In line with global movements for open data and open access, the initiative seeks to:

  • advocate for open data and open access policies by default, in both public and private sectors, whilst respecting and working to balance openness with legitimate concerns in relation to privacy, security, community rights and commercial interests;
  • advocate for the release and re-usability of data in support of Innovation and Economic Growth, Improved Service Delivery and Effective Governance, and Improved Environmental and Social Outcomes.


With a focus on open data for agriculture and nutrition, the initiative seeks to:

  • advocate for new and existing open data initiatives to set a core focus on agriculture and nutrition data;
  • encourage the agreement on and release of a common set of agricultural and nutrition data;
  • increase widespread awareness of related ongoing activities, innovations, and good practices;
  • advocate for collaborative efforts on future agriculture and nutrition open data endeavors; and,
  • advocate programs, good practices, and lessons learned that enable the use of open data particularly by and for the rural and urban poor.


The main principals identified in the GODAN Statement of Purpose, which is expected to be respected by the GODAN members, are the following:

  • Support global efforts to make agricultural and nutritionally relevant data available, accessible, and usable for unrestricted use worldwide;
  • Focus on building high-level policy and public and private institutional support for open data;
  • Encourage collaboration and cooperation among existing agriculture, nutrition, and open data activities, without duplication, and brings together all stakeholders to solve long-standing global problems. 


1st GODAN/CIARD Joint Consultation meeting

CIARD-GODAN-consultationThe two major initiatives on open agricultural data, GODAN & CIARD, joined forces in a joint meeting which took place between 22-24/4/2014 at the FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy. During these three fully-packed days, there was enough time for sessions on how these two initiatives could collaborate and operate in a common way, in order to ensure the optimal outcomes towards achieving their common goals. Several related initiatives were presented during the meeting, combined with sessions on the objectives of the two initiatives, brainstorming sessions, networking sessions, presentation of related work (such as the ambitious Global Agricultural Concept Scheme) etc. You can find a short report of the event at the Agro-Know blog.

The 2nd GODAN/CIARD meeting is expected to take place early in 2015; we will keep you posted of any updates.


Joining GODAN

The GODAN initiative welcomes all those who share this purpose to join as members and to participate in shaping coordinated activities that can deliver on the potential of open data for agriculture and nutrition. In fact, GODAN is the first global open data initiative spanning across public and private entities including donors, international organizations and businesses. In this direction, GODAN is open to public and private entities including donors, international organizations and businesses. Over 80 partners have signed on to the GODAN Statement Purpose by today. You can find the current list of GODAN partners at the GODAN website.

The GODAN initiative is a voluntary association brought together around a shared purpose; this is reflected in the GODAN Statement Purpose which acts as the common link between all GODAN partners and is expected to be used as a guide for the data-related activities of the GODAN initiative. In this context, it should also be noted that there is no financial requirement up front nor commitment required for future. No registration fees, no annual membership fees. There is some expectation (but no requirement as becoming a partner is non-binding) that any organization joining GODAN would use the GODAN Statement of Purpose to guide current and future open data operations.

What you get by joining the GODAN network? As a partner you/your organization will obtain access to the GODAN network of partners who are working on various elements of open data for agriculture and nutrition. You have access to GODAN-related events and outcomes and you become a member of a global network of partners who share their vision about open agricultural data!

If your organization would like to join, click here (registration form) and follow the instructions to enroll your organization. If you have problems with this link, please contact GODAN at


We would like to thank Jaime Adams, Senior Advisor for International Affairs, Office of the Chief Scientist, for her precious help in the preparation of this post.

Leave a Comment.

Can you prove that you are not a bot? * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.