A high performing tool is getting some well-deserved upgrades to meet agrobiodiversity needs

The Diversity Assessment Tool for Agrobiodiversity and Resilience (DATAR) website, web portal and app, developed by the Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research (PAR) in partnership with the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, are upgrading and upscaling to meet a growing interest in its unique services.

Agrobiodiversity for food systems transformation

Growing populations mean more mouths to feed, and boy is the agricultural sector feeling it!

To accommodate demand, agricultural land has been steadily encroaching on forests, causing degradation, and diminishing biodiversity. What’s more, globalized food systems and Green Revolution agriculture are seeing just three staple crops – rice, maize, and wheat – virtually take over global food markets, despite being ill-suited to adapt to climate change or sustain rural livelihoods in the long-term.

Luckily, the role that biodiversity plays in combatting these challenges is increasingly being included in the conversation surrounding the next steps for food and agricultural transformation for sustainability and resilience, and RFS and its partners heard the call.

DATAR in 2021

RFS Regional Hub partner Bioversity International and the Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research (PAR) released the Diversity Assessment Tool for Agrobiodiversity and Resilience (DATAR) in early 2021 and have been working diligently on its rollout ever since. DATAR is a free, open-source pilot software program consisting of three components – a website, web portal and app – that combine functionalities to help decision-makers design agricultural projects that maximize biodiversity in tandem with benefits to local communities.

DATAR allows users to access information on crops, livestock and, soon, aquatic stock beyond the species level, looking instead at intra-specific diversity. The tool considers the functional traits of varieties, breeds and types and connects users with sources to access the ones most appropriate to their specific context. The platform even boasts the capacity to suggest interventions that help meet gender, age, productivity, income diversification, nutritional and adaptation needs in local communities.

To scale out use of the platform to RFS country projects, DATAR hosts a wealth of resources including training materials, guidelines, videos, and crop information documents online, and is working with the Regional Hub to conduct training for country teams. In July 2021, PAR conducted the first session, a virtual training on app functionalities for the RFS Malawi team, leaving participants keen to hit the field running and use the app to collect some useful data.

Since the first training, another took place in Burundi in November 2021 and preparations are underway to extend it to other RFS country project teams and increase capacity across the Programme.

But that’s not all that’s been in the works in DATAR’s first year! Brainstorming around the platform’s features and capabilities is ongoing, especially as it gets scaled up to meet the needs of the many projects invested in its success in different contexts.

So what’s new from the DATAR platform?

Across its three interfaces, this hard-working program has received some well-deserved additions that were rolled out this month.

The Website

DATAR is funded by projects around the world and is being adapted to increase user accessibility accordingly. The website is where users can register to use the service and is now translated into English, French and Spanish with Arabic, Russian and Chinese soon to come. Stay tuned!

The PAR team also recently launched new brochures to help spread the word about what DATAR is and what it does. The brochures are available in English, French and Spanish on the RFS Knowledge Centre and the DATAR website.

The Web Portal

Freshly launched at the end of February, the new DATAR web portal has had a makeover and is ready to go! 

The web portal is where survey data are compiled and project analysis for biodiversity takes place. In addition to descriptors and use of varieties and breeds, the web portal considers markets, management and institutional barriers that might affect uptake of interventions and varieties. The web portal houses training and instructional videos to help users make the most of its many features.

Dr. Devra Jarvis, Coordinator of PAR and Honorary Research Fellow at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, says that DATAR’s functionalities are as simple as “selecting the project goal and sub-goal with the community, then using a participatory diagnostic approach to collect data with the community and enter them in the APP. You then see with the community if you have the diversity you need to get your goals.  If you don’t, you can select with the community from a portfolio of interventions to improve farmer livelihoods using diversity.”

Simple. Elegant. Invaluable.

The App

Serving as DATAR’s in-the-field representative, the app is used to collect data and carry out community validation once data have been synced with the web portal. This means that data collected can help inform discussions with farmers about using diversity to improve their livelihoods right on the ground.

The newest addition to the DATAR app is the updated livestock data collection capabilities. This will be helpful in ensuring that communities see the benefits of livestock biodiversity in addition to plant species biodiversity on their farms.

What’s next for DATAR in 2022?

Dr. Devra Jarvis, Coordinator of PAR and Honorary Research Fellow at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT looks into the next steps for DATAR:

“In addition to the Focus Group discussions and Household surveys for crop and livestock, new surveys will be made available on the DATAR App during Spring 2022. They will allow collecting more detailed information on the market, management aspects, policies and regulations, and genetic material providers -people providing seeds and livestock semen! - and finetune the understanding of intraspecific diversity for each project”

“Our team is also preparing a great online toolkit to clean and analyse the data collected with scripts ready for use in R to produce meaningful graphs and figures – and that’s really valuable to any project manager!”

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