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Many low-income countries are unable to produce high-quality data that is vital for the sound decision- and policy-making necessary to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 50x2030 Initiative to Close the Agricultural Data Gap is designed to sustainably and efficiently address this problem by building strong, nationally representative integrated survey programs that produce high-quality and timely agricultural and rural data.

Dr Kokeb
Dr. G. Giorgis Kokeb(PHD) “Migration is a centrepiece in development research. This particular policy oriented research is important to me as it opens to learn the landscape of policy making process. It will also open a way for networking.”
To achieve its objective of “increased and sustained evidence-based decision-making”, the agricultural and rural data produced under 50x2030 must be analysed and used for policy formulation, strategic planning, program design, and investments by decision-makers across the agricultural and rural sectors. To that end, the Data Use component of the 50x2030 Initiative, managed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, recently offered competitive grants to local researchers in five 50x2030 partner countries. Qualifying projects are those that demonstrate the use of survey data to generate a practical research output that can be applied by decision-makers to improve development outcomes. One proposal from Ethiopia epitomizes the data to research to policy making value chain that 50x2030 supports partner countries in building.

Linking migration with agricultural transformation in Ethiopia: A winning proposal

Dr G. Giorgis Kokeb, Assistant Professor at the Ethiopian Civil Service University, submitted a grant-winning proposal “Migration, Remittances and Agricultural Transformation in Ethiopia“ that illustrates how data can be used for development impact. Dr Kokeb posits that migration and remittances significantly affect rural agricultural transformation in Ethiopia, but currently there is little empirical evidence available to prove it.

Dr Kokeb’s study examines the effects of migration and remittances on agricultural productivity and technology adoption using data from the Ethiopian Socio-Economic Survey (ESS). The Ethiopian Central Statistical Agency conducts the ESS with technical support from the World Bank’s Living Standard Measurement Study project carried out every other year since 2011 and included under the 50x2030 Initiative as of 2019.

As is the case for many African countries, migration is absent in Ethiopia’s national development policies. Moreover, there is also no specific policy linking migration to food/agricultural production, and the financial infrastructure for remittances in rural areas is very limited.

The goal of the research grant is to support analysis using the migration, remittance, and agricultural data from the ESS, filling in research gaps on this topic that can identify solutions for related policy and infrastructural gaps. The research is designed to contribute to the design of policies and strategies that facilitate a more efficient flow of migrant remittances into national development and allow remitters to invest their income in farm and off-farm enterprises. Greater efficiencies in remittance flows will then enhance agricultural productivity and farm households’ income diversification strategies.

From research to impact

This research project demonstrates the roles and relationships between data stakeholders (as defined the 50x2030 Initiative’s Guide to Promoting Data Use) that are necessary for data-informed decision-making, as depicted in Figure 1.

Agricultural data from research to policymaking

Figure 1: Taking Data to Impact: The Roles and Actions of Data Stakeholders in Data-Driven Decision-Making, presenting a model for the presumed impact of migration and remittances on improved agricultural production from the research perspective.

Dr Kokeb is targeting a broad audience for his research but will prioritize sharing the study’s findings with national leaders, development planners, and policy makers who can transform the research to actions that ultimately improve the livelihoods of Ethiopian farmers.

Dr Kokeb reflects: “Policy makers will understand the importance of developing and implementing a comprehensive migration policy as it facilitates their effort in rural poverty reduction.”

He also notes the research will “create awareness among development planners concerning the importance of integrating migration issues into the sectorial level policy including the rural development policy as it is crucial for enhancing rural agricultural transformation in Ethiopia in the eve of the intensification of rural labour out migration in the country.” It will also help to create “consensus among stakeholders for a need of designing a comprehensive migration policy.”

Moreover, if the research findings confirm the beneficial impact of migration and remittances on increased agricultural investment in rural Ethiopia, this study can be included in the evidence-base for new government policies on migration and remittances towards the goal of rural agricultural transformation, such as Ethiopia’s Ten Year Development Plan: A Pathway to Prosperity (2021-2030).

women drying coffee beans


Ethiopia - Agricultural Marketing Improvement Programme, providing micro-finance support for farmers to purchase post-harvest technologies, such as for coffee drying beds (© IFAD/Wairimu Mburath)

Beyond the focus on policymakers, research findings will also be shared with civil society organizations and funding agencies working in the area of migration (such as International Labour Organization) and academia at large. Additionally, they will be featured at the annual 50x2030 Global Conference in November 2021.

Facilitating the role of data in policymaking

While the path from “data to impact” can seem straight and clear for true-believers in the power of data, experience reveals many obstacles arise along that path. The 50x2030 Initiative developed a Data Use Framework that identifies seven factors that can constrain data use. Dr Kokeb’s experience in Ethiopia demonstrates how those factors must be addressed and resolved to elevate data’s role in the decision-making processes.

Dr Kokeb notes that the availability of reliable data is a pre-requisite for evidence-based policy making yet in Ethiopia, it is difficult to obtain: “Data could improve policy planning and decision making. What is hard to find is a reliable, comparable and comprehensive data until recently in Ethiopia. Specifically, migration related data at both micro and macro level if not missing it is incomplete.

To contribute towards solving data related problems, among other efforts, our university, Ethiopian Civil Service University, is establishing a ‘Data Centre’ with the aim of making available quality data for researchers. I am contributing in this regard,” he says. However, as specified in 50x2030’s Data Use Framework, data availability is only one of several constraints that impede its full use for informed decision-making. For example, Dr Kokeb reports that “most research outputs, though innovative with reliable findings, end up on shelves.

The university provides funding for undertaking research for academic staffs annually but there is less effort by both parties to use research findings to influence policy making. The university is collaborating with senior researchers to provide training on research communications skills with the aim of solving the issue. This suggests that a lack of demand and awareness may be negatively affecting use of data. In this respect, he notes that policy makers often do not think that research is essential for their policies.

This is where the Data Use Component of the 50x2030 Initiative fits in, providing technical assistance, training and awareness-raising designed to address such challenges and constraints. In line with the prescribed 50x2030 approaches, Dr Kokeb describes the remedies he will apply through his research project activities.

He has committed to

  • "Using credible data sources, I will show how important the agenda is for Ethiopia. Both migration and remittances are intensifying with implications for rural livelihoods and the country as a whole. This gives visibility to my issue and helps to gain attention from media, academia and policy makers."
  • "Conduct conferences and seminars (…) to create awareness and convince academia and stakeholders in the area of migration and remittances to create a network of actors from different organizations for a common cause. I will engage with key influencers/police makers and professional associations to convince the importance of the agenda. Currently the Ethiopian government is engaging in economic reforms. To this end an independent council of economic advisors with 16 members was established. I am planning to approach and share my research findings and the importance of the research agenda to the council members. Some of them were my mentors. This opens a way for engaging with policy makers."

Dr Kokeb’s project illustrates the importance of building strong national agricultural and rural data systems to feed broader development programs. Under the Initiative, Ethiopia and other partner countries will be able to harness agricultural and rural data not only for the kinds of policies that his research makes possible, but at a fundamental level within the sector to increase agricultural productivity and sustainable food production. Both of these objectives are crucial to alleviating poverty and hunger and thus to achieving multiple Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 2 (Zero Hunger).

Photo (carousel): Wairimu Mburath, IFAD

Text: Stephen Katz

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