The Ghana Statistical Service, the Bank of Ghana, Universities, and other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) collect data on various issues in Ghana, including on 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 resource and the required hard and soft infrastructure. In particular, there are no dedicated repositories for agricultural and food systems data even though a large amount 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 with the aim of providing technical assistance service 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/researchers through commissioned research projects and partnerships to facilitate agri-food systems data collection, among a broad spectrum of other datasets for the purpose of knowledge creation for policy influence. With some hard infrastructure and human resources in place at ISSER, the proposed project will help the MLE Unit at ISSER to 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 policy making through targeted agri-food systems research. Aside 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 properly interpret research output and to package information appropriately for policy advocacy and influence.
In collaborating with NGOs and CSOs to execute the project, our main role will be to support NGOs and CSOs that who are already in the advocacy space to enable them do more effective evidence-based advocacy. This will be in the form of training on how to correctly interpret research evidence and form policy messages based on such evidence. On the flip side, there is the problem of appropriate communication of research evidence by academics in the way that is easily usable by NGOs and CSOs in the advocacy space. This raises the need to train academics researchers on how to communicate their research in a way that is accessible to policy advocacy institutions such as NGOs and CSOs.