The agricultural sector in Southern Africa is one of the most important economic drivers in the region, accounting for nearly 30% of GDP and providing employment to over 20 million people. However, the region faces many challenges that need to be addressed for the sector to realize its full potential.
One of these challenges is the lack of reliable and harmonized data on which national and regional agricultural policies rely. The limited access and/or unavailability of reliable quality information is a setback for policymakers who face difficulty in planning and implementing well-coordinated regional responses to threats that negatively impact productivity and trade in the region.
To address this, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is rolling out an Agricultural Information Management System (AIMS) training workshop for the national AIMS Focal Points from SADC Member States under the European Union (EU) funded project: Support Towards the Operationalization of the SADC Regional Agricultural Policy (STOSAR).
This workshop is a welcome initiative aimed at equipping participants with the knowledge and skills to develop and implement a harmonized approach to data collection to ensure consistency, accuracy, efficiency, standardization, and comparability of data across different sources and locations.
Officially opening the AIMS workshop, Dr Babagana Ahmadu, the FAO representative for South Africa, emphasized the importance of reliable agricultural data adding that, “Data is a critical component of agricultural development, and its effective management and dissemination are essential for enhancing productivity, food security, and facilitating economic growth.” He also highlighted that “Access to reliable and valid data is critical in the development of technically sound and needs-driven policies to move the SADC region forward, towards fulfilling its commitments to the Regional Agriculture Policy (RAP).”
Dr Ahmadu urged the AIMS training participants to interact and network with one another to gain exposure to best practices and innovative approaches that can positively contribute to the standardization and harmonization of national data that will be aligned to meet regional and national needs.
Mr Winston Makabanyane, the Africa Trade Director in the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) commended FAO, the SADC Secretariat and the EU for implementing the STOSAR Project well. He acknowledged that the AIMS component of the project was responsive to the needs of SADC Member States who had previously been struggling with accurate and timely agricultural data saying, “The AIMS platform will provide timely, reliable, quality data to decision-makers at the touch to a button, which will eliminate any assumptions that may lead to conflicts and unfair trade.”
This training is a progression of the SADC Agricultural Information Management System (AIMS) platform that was launched in September 2022 to generate agricultural data for evidence-based decision-making for the region. The SADC AIMS platform is a web-based application with 12 modules for collecting, storing and analyzing various agricultural information.
The system is hosted on a high-end server that was installed at the SADC Headquarters data centre in February 2022. In addition, thirty-two (32) computers were procured for the 16 SADC countries to ensure they had the infrastructure for setting up a functional AIMS system at the national level.
It is expected that participants will be equipped with hands-on experience in the use of information management tools and technologies and an opportunity to exchange ideas and learn best practices in the field of agricultural information management.