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New Agricultural Data Tool Can Help Fight the Growing Food Crisis in Africa

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During the United Nations Security Council’s May 19 session on Conflict and Global Food Security, Gro Intelligence’s CEO, Sara Menker, spoke about the growing global food crisis, the confluence of unprecedented factors contributing to this crisis, and its disproportionate impact on lower-income countries. Watch the livestream here.

As part of a broader response to this crisis, Gro Intelligence is collaborating with The Rockefeller Foundation to make real-time agricultural data on African countries publicly available to all. 

With support from The Rockefeller Foundation, Gro Intelligence has launched the Food Security Tracker for Africa, the first publicly available interactive tool on key agricultural commodities for 49 African countries. The tool aims to create data transparency for countries where this has previously been lacking, in light of the unprecedented challenges connected to the current global food crisis. 

Understanding the impact of the global food crisis 

Environmental, economic, and political shocks are driving rapidly rising food prices and limiting access to major crop staples. The resulting crisis has had a disproportionate impact on lower-income countries. In a recent op-ed for The New York Times, Gro Intelligence’s CEO, Sara Menker, and Dr. Rajiv Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation, showed how rising wheat prices have caused the price of bread, an essential staple, to roughly double in Sudan.

Understanding the supply and demand of major crops – corn, soy, wheat, and rice – across Africa on a real-time basis helps acknowledge the full impact of this crisis. Supply and demand balance sheets, which incorporate monthly historical and forecasted supply and demand of major crops, transform all of the forces that drive a commodity’s price into an actionable end-of-year supply number. These “ending stocks” estimates for a commodity help forecast price and identify future areas of risk. 

Currently, this data is not easily accessible in one location, leaving a large gap in the coverage of supply and demand for principal food crops in Africa. As a result, companies across the global agricultural supply chain face a major blind spot. Donors are unable to accurately direct funds. And governments lack essential knowledge as they scramble for alternative sources of supply amid the current global food crisis. 

“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.”  

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.

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.”

Alongside real-time supply and demand balance sheets, Gro’s Food Security Tracker for Africa makes key metrics for 49 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 supply.
  • Gro’s Stocks-to-Use RatioA 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 by the growing season of a specific commodity. This number is then divided by total food calorie demand (domestic consumption + exports) across each of the four crops in the selected region. 
  • 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. 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, suggesting higher risks of food insecurity.
  • PricesPrice 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.

About this partnership 

Gro Intelligence’s partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation represents a unique opportunity for the advantages of cutting-edge technology to advance humanitarian relief programs. When the private sector is leveraged for the public sector, it can help food security initiatives, address inequities, and build a sustainable world for all.  

About Gro Intelligence 

Gro Intelligence works with companies, financial institutions, humanitarian organizations, and governments on forecasting risks to food security that may result in food or hunger crises.  

Our food security platform serves as a single source of truth and an early warning hub that provides up-to-date information, insights, and analysis across the value chain. The platform predicts future trends and promotes proactive, evidence-based decision making to guarantee the food security of our partners.

See more on our work with the public sector here.

For more information visit the Food Security Tracker for Africa here or contact us at support@gro-intelligence.com.

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