New Agricultural Data Tool Can Help Fight the Growing Food Crisis in Africa
During the United Nations Security Council’s session on Conflict and Global Food Security, Gro Intelligence’s CEO, Sara Menker, spoke about the growing global food crisis, its disproportionate impact on lower-income countries, and the policy actions that can be taken by governments around the world to mitigate these effects.
As part of a broader response to this crisis, Gro Intelligence is launching the Food Security Tracker for Africa, the first-of-its-kind, interactive tool that makes real-time agricultural data on 49 out of 54 African countries publicly available in one location. With The Rockefeller Foundation’s support, this information will make it easier for countries around the world to navigate the unprecedented challenges connected to the current global food crisis.
The Food Security Tracker for Africa provides free access to real-time data about the supply and demand of major crops, including corn, soy, wheat, and rice for African countries. By combining data on drought, crop conditions, prices, supply and demand all in one place, users will be able to develop more effective solutions and emergency response plans to the growing shortages of key agricultural commodities across the continent.
Environmental, economic, and political shocks have caused rising food prices and created shortages of major crop staples worldwide. At the same time, companies across the global agricultural supply chain face significant blind spots, donors are unable to accurately direct funds, and governments are left scrambling for alternative sources of supply without the necessary full knowledge of where it is needed most. In response, Gro is collaborating with The Rockefeller Foundation to give the public greater access to critical data, which will help fill the gaps in accurate supply and demand coverage for major crops in Africa.
“The world must act now to respond to the global food emergency and alleviate the human suffering and global instability it is causing,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “Gro Intelligence’s powerful new tool gives global leaders the data they need to not only respond to the crisis in the short term, but also lay the groundwork for a more stable, sustainable food system over the long term.”
Understanding the Impact of the Global Food Crisis
Even before the war in Ukraine, the World Food Programme (WFP) estimated 810 million people did not have enough to eat. According to recent data from the International Monetary Fund, poor country households spend up to 60% of their budgets on food, compared to just 10% for the average household in advanced economies. Unable to weather the shock of rising food prices, lower-income countries are also being asked to pay out more than $300 billion in interest payments and debt repayments while many global organizations focused on food security are facing significant funding shortages – as Ms. Menker and Dr. Shah explained in a recent New York Times op-ed.
“By combining cutting-edge technology and humanitarian relief efforts and leveraging the private sector for public use, our collaboration with The Rockefeller Foundation will help strengthen food security initiatives, address inequities, and build a sustainable world for all,” said Ms. Menker. “With this new tool, governments, companies, and humanitarian organizations will be better equipped to anticipate food shortages, direct relief, and improve strategic planning in response to the unprecedented level of supply and demand shocks that have caused global food insecurity.”
Leveraging the Power of the Gro Platform
“To create a more comprehensive picture, the Gro team, which includes both domain experts and technologists, leveraged our platform and the scaling power of our machine-learning models to quickly and accurately provide needed data,” said Will Osnato, Senior Research Analyst at Gro Intelligence. “With support from The Rockefeller Foundation, we will offer agricultural balance sheets that denote supply and demand of corn, soy, wheat, and rice for the next year. In addition, the tool has been tested and reviewed by our analyst team and methodologies are made available to fully encompass the transparency and objectivity of our platform.”
In addition to real-time supply and demand data, this tool makes useful metrics for 49 out of 54 African countries publicly available for the first time, including:
- Gro’s Production Forecast – Production estimates are calculated using Gro’s machine learning-based yield forecasts, which incorporate real-time environmental data and historical production data to predict available supply.
- Gro’s Stocks-to-Use Ratio – A country’s reserves of a specific crop is an indicator of food security. A stocks-to-use ratio shows the relationship between stocks and usage. Gro’s Stocks-to-Use Ratio is calculated as total food calorie stocks at the end of the marketing year – a period of one year designated to production analysis of a specific commodity. This number is then divided by total food calorie demand (domestic consumption + exports) across the four crops in the selected region. It is highly correlated to prices over the season.
- Cropland-Weighted Gro Drought Index (GDI) – The proprietary Gro Drought Index is the world’s first high resolution global agricultural drought index. The GDI measures drought severity on a scale from “0” (no drought) to “5” (exceptional drought). The index is global, offering data on the continent, country, state, and district level and updates weekly on the interactive tool and daily on the Gro platform. The values shown on the tool are weighted by cropland area at the district level for each country.
- Crop-Area Weighted Vegetative Health Index (NDVI) – NDVI is a key satellite-based indicator of plant health, used to forecast crop production, supply, and price. Lower NDVI signals lower levels of production.
- Prices – Price series were selected based on Free-on-board (FOB) export prices from the largest import supplier for the selected country. If the country is not a significant importer, then representative global prices were selected.