Fighting hunger with big data: doing it the CGIAR way


Get ready for some serious numbers – by 2030, the CGIAR wants its action to result in 150 million fewer hungry people, 100 million fewer poor people – at least 50% of whom are women, and 190 million ha less degraded land. They have mobilised a tremendous amount of money from their donors to achieve it. And they are now designing the way in which they will make it happen.

Taking a closer look to their recently published progress of work, I was intrigued by two things:

  • They follow a truly transparent process, since they have published quite elaborate and detailed pre-proposals that are still under evaluation. This is part of implementing their open access and open data policy, since they consider that the knowledge that their scientists are producing is a public good for humanity.
  • They have big data on the spot. They consider it important for their work. They have foreseen funding a dedicated CGIAR Big Data Analytics Platform separately funded, as a horizontal activity that will try to support and harmonise relevant work taking place across their whole research portfolio during 2017-2022.

You can also take a look online at the five initial proposals (Expressions of Interests) that some of the CGIAR centers have submitted in response to this call. You will probably be impressed by the emphasis that they put on a variety of big data issues. You will like some extremely interesting ideas that these proposals have (like funding a large number of small, innovative, risky pilots that will try to pitch their solutions to the group – similar to the way that startups try to sell their ideas to investors). You will see all the big players (IBM, Google, ESRI) being listed as partners. You will see the complexities, as well as the opportunities, of putting such a big data platform in place that will support and inform the whole research portfolio and activities of the CGIAR.

This great work, is very similar to what we try to do in Europe through the Big Data Europe coordinating platform.  In my mind, this should be a liaison to be made and a collaboration to be established. Let’s see what happens.

Top image; From the film the Hunger Games


  1. I was always amazed by the way that a global network of research centers like CGIAR operates; after the implementation of policies that define and facilitate openness in their outcomes, this becomes even larger. To me CGIAR is a fine example of how agrifood information and knowledge management should be implemented and on top of that, how research data should be reused for the public good.

    The use of big data for poverty alleviation and food security is challenging but really promising at the same time. We will be keeping an eye on how things are progressing in this field and try to support any related effort to the extend possible 🙂

    BTW, there is a wealth of information on the CGIAR Big Data Analytics platform here (PDF)


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