Farmer-Centric Data Governance: Towards A New Paradigm

Date published: Feb. 9, 2023

Thematic Area



The potential benefits of digital agriculture are prolific. However, farm data is generally collected by others, and smallholder farmers rely on external resources, like weather data, and proprietary tools that provide specific advisories. Farmers face a paradox: while the use of data holds much potential, control over power, resources, and data governance challenges raise the possibility that farmers do not benefit from their own data. The current data economy is defined by a paradigm of extraction and a lack of consideration of equity, whereby the role of farmers and communities goes unrecognized. Digitalization may actually redirect power and profits away from farmers, unless agriculture stakeholders take deliberate steps to change this trajectory.

Given this breakneck forward momentum, implementing fair and equitable data governance models that prioritize farmer participation while guarding farmers against disadvantages and exploitation is crucial. Empowering farmers with more control over their data is critical to improve and protect their lives. There is an immediate need to design processes for data governance and ownership that places the needs of farmers at the center.

For this reason, there is a pressing need to unpack new forms of data governance and ownership practices that give place to center farmers. User-centric, participatory data governance models can help shift the paradigm. This study moves beyond theory to explore the practical implementation of agricultural data governance practices in low- and middle-income countries. Empowering farmers with more control over their data is critical to improving and protecting their livelihoods.

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