In May this year, The Economist ran a cover story that said that the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.
Data is to this century what oil was to the last one: a driver of growth and change, the article said.
Given the overwhelming importance of data in modern-day planning and decision-making, it is frightening to realise how vast the information vacuum is, especially in policy-making, with regards to what we know about food security, land ownership, land use patterns and the smallholder farming sector in South Africa.
I recently participated in a workshop hosted by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to review South Africa’s first biennial report to the African Union Commission on the progress SA has made in implementing the Malabo Declaration on agricultural growth and transformation in Africa.
Many of the fields in the report remained blank as DAFF simply could not find the answers.
Some of the information that was not available dealt with early childhood nutrition, the number of farmers that had access to advisory services and secure land tenure, and the use of improved seed and animal genetics by smallholder farmers.
Last year, researchers from the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies and the Southern Africa Food Lab said that the most significant obstacle they encountered while working on a study of the role of the private sector in supporting small-scale black farmers to participate in agricultural value chains was “the lack of reliable official information about the extent and profile of black farming in South Africa”.