THE SMALLHOLDER DATA PRODUCER

Big data is giving rise to a new economy where the largest markets are no longer in producing goods but capturing and processing information. At GeoTraceability we work to put smallholder producers on the map and help organisations recognise them for the work they do in complex supply chains. So, I am interested in what role smallholder farmers play in these changing economies? Will we see them excluded, or is there an opportunity for them to be included in the benefits of this new market?  

We need to rethink the way we engage smallholders to avoid dysfunctional and non-sustainable ecosystems.  We definitively need to reimagine our strategies. So, I’ve asked myself how to include smallholder producers in this new booming economy and ensure they get a fare share?

Different motivations drive diverse stakeholders to participate in development projects; increasing export revenues; securing supplies, protecting brand reputation, providing new financial services to name a few. But all of these depend on anticipated changes at the small producer level; a change in management practices, an increase in quality or productivity, a more sustainable behavior, technology adoption…

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Why then should the small producer not be a data producer and get paid for this?   Each could be a component of a next level M&E system and contribute to data analysis in real time.

At GeoT we help organisations collect data on smallholder farmers. We often get asked whether we own the data? The answer is no, smallholders own their own data.  With the use of a consent form, the individual consents to disclose personal information allowing GeoT to host it and make it available to our customer for a specific usage disclosed before the authorisation is given.  GeoT, our customer and any third-party accessing the data must comply with the provision of the consent form.

The current hype on blockchain is fueling this idea of making a fortune by grabbing data, processing it and selling it or the outcomes of an analysis.  Almost each week someone contacts me to propose a partnership and see if they could use the data we host on hundreds of thousands smallholder producers around the world.

GeoT sells a software services to trace the commodities and raw materials produce by smallholders.  But we also facilitate data collection on their socio-economic background, their practices, the characteristics of their exploitation, the support they receive and the transactions involving them.

All this information has a high commercial and sustainable value.  Our platform can easily manage the quantity of goods produce by each smallholder and can trigger different forms of payment based on this information.  The same way, we could trigger payment based on specific data requirements.

The challenge is not technological but in changing mindset and commercial strategy.

An individual smallholder could hardly expect to receive a premium for selling geo-traceable goods and disclosing data, but an organized group of individuals like a farmer organisation or a coop, could certainly do.

So, we have smallholder cocoa, coffee, palm oil, cotton, gold producers and many others, could we now envisage to have smallholder data producers?

The answer is obviously yes if we want a true inclusive economy in which growth and wealth benefit to all.

If this topic is of interest to you, I will be speaking at the Palladium Positive Impact Summit hosted in London in March 14-15.  The title of my session is ‘Performance and Impact Measurement: Using Metrics to Drive Good Governance’.  The main theme of the Summit is ‘Reimagine Strategy’.