The Ghana Statistical Service, the Bank of Ghana, universities, and other Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) collect data on various issues in Ghana, including food systems and climate change. Efforts have been made by the Ghana Statistical Service to create central repositories where data are stored for easy access and use by researchers, students, and policymakers. Examples include the (i) National Data Archive, and (ii) the Ghana Open Data Initiative. These initiatives have, however, not achieved their potential for several reasons including the absence of human resources and the required hard and soft infrastructure. In particular, there are no dedicated repositories for agricultural and food systems data even though a large number of resources at ISSER and other institutions have been dedicated to such data collection and research efforts.
This challenge leads many researchers and organizations to collect idiosyncratic data (either nationwide or localized), which are mostly not open access. Typically, researchers may use only up to 20% of the data they collect for answering targeted research questions with the rest of the data left unused and yet unavailable to others who may be interested in utilizing such data, leading to a waste of human and financial resources. To address this, ISSER, through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), established the Measurement, Learning, and Evaluation (MLE) Unit in 2013 to provide technical assistance services to the BMGF grantees that were implementing mainly agri-food systems and climate change-related projects in West Africa. The BMGF assistance has allowed ISSER to build the required infrastructure for secure data storage, management, and sharing. ISSER continues to collaborate with national and international institutions and researchers through commissioned research projects and partnerships to facilitate agri-food systems data collection, among a broad spectrum of other datasets for knowledge creation for policy influence.
With some hard infrastructure and human resources in place at ISSER, the proposed project will help the MLE Unit build a centralized agri-food systems data hub through the operationalization of already installed servers. This effort will contribute to the creation of knowledge and evidence that will form the basis for policymaking through targeted agri-food systems research. Aside from agri-food systems research, the project will also store other relevant datasets that would support evidence-based advocacy. Additionally, the project aims to build the capacity of CSOs, NGOs, and researchers to meaningfully interpret research output to non-academic users and to package information appropriately for policy advocacy and influence.