Nav: Home

Crowdsourced field data shows importance of smallholder farms to global food production

November 22, 2018

A new global field size data set collected as part of a crowdsourcing citizen science project by IIASA researchers has shown that the proportion of smallholder farms may be much larger than previously thought, contributing much more to global food production.

Smallholder farms are classified as being made up of fields less than around 2 ha in size. Evidence is increasing that such farms make a substantial contribution to world food production, but until now, the data on the number and distribution of smallholder farms has been lacking. Previous estimates have suggested that smallholder farms make up between 12 and 24% of the global total. However, the new research led by IIASA researcher Myroslava Lesiv shows that smallholder farms in fact make up 40% of the global agricultural area.

The study is the first to estimate field sizes at the global, continental, and national level, and covers the entire world, rather than just 55 countries as in earlier studies. The data are much more detailed and denser than anything previously collected. The crowdsourcing method used is a unique approach to quantifying and mapping field size.

The crowdsourcing campaign began in June 2017 using the Geo-Wiki app. It lasted for four weeks and was focused on collecting field size data. The Geo-Wiki app takes high resolution satellite imagery from Google Maps and Microsoft Bing and allows users to visually assess those images, for example for land cover or human impact. In this case, users were asked to assess images of agricultural land.

A field was defined as any enclosed agricultural area, including arable and pasture land, which could be separated by roads, permanent paths or vegetation, and users could choose one of five field size categories - very large (greater than 100 ha), large (16-100 ha), medium (2.56-16 ha), small (0.64-2.56 ha), and very small (less than 0.64 ha).

The user was asked to define which field sizes were present, and if there was more than one field size, which was the dominant size, using either an estimation grid, or with an area measuring tool. Each image was checked by three users and all users were trained in using the app through the use of a video and slides before they began. Users also had to complete ten training images before contributing to the official survey, with feedback given on each. Random 'control' images that had been expertly assessed were randomly shown to users, and if these were incorrectly classified, the user received text feedback. The researchers added this quality control feature to improve the quality of the results. Prizes were offered as an incentive to participate.

A previous Geo-Wiki study in 2011 collected 13,000 unique samples, but this latest survey collected 130,000 samples. The researchers used the 390,000 classifications (from three 'visits' to each site) to create a map and calculate agricultural area proportions at the global, continental, and national levels.

Dominant field sizes across the world vary. African countries such as Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, and Tanzania along with China, India, and Indonesia, tend to have very small fields. European nations tend to have medium-sized fields. Australia, Brazil, Kazakhstan, and the US tend to have very large fields. In some areas, including northern China, central India and Turkey, the field size is very mixed.

The crowdsourced data set is openly available for use in future research, for example integrated assessment modeling, comparative studies of agricultural dynamics across different contexts, or for training and validation of remote sensing field size delineation. Such information could also contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2) - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, according to the researchers. If policymakers have an accurate overview of the global distribution of field sizes, this will provide a better background for decision making related to food systems and agriculture. Field size is a good indicator of agricultural intensity.

"We have filled the gaps in available information on global field size distribution by covering countries where no statistical surveys were carried out and no mapping was done with the help of remote sensing. Therefore, the field size data set we developed provides full and accurate information on the distribution of field sizes to support policy decision making related to food security issues," says Lesiv.
-end-
Reference

Lesiv M, Laso Bayas JC, See L, Duerauer M, Domian D, Durando N, Hazarika R, Kumar Sahariah P et al. 2018. Estimating the Global Distribution of Field Size using Crowdsourcing. Global Change Biology DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14492 [pure.iiasa.ac.at/15558]

More information

http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/research/researchPrograms/EcosystemsServicesandManagement/Geo-Wiki.en.html

https://blog.iiasa.ac.at/2017/09/19/crowdsourcing-for-food-security/

http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/research/researchPrograms/EcosystemsServicesandManagement/event/170522-fieldsizecampaign.html

https://geo-wiki.org/Application/index.php

Contacts:

Myroslava Lesiv
Research Scholar
Ecosystems Services and Management
Tel: +43 2236 807 358
lesiv@iiasa.ac.at

Linda See
Research Scholar
Ecosystems Services and Management
Tel: +43 2236 807 423
see@iiasa.ac.at

Helen Tunnicliffe
IIASA Press Office
Tel: +43 2236 807 316
Mob: +43 676 83 807 316
tunnicli@iiasa.ac.at

About IIASA:

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policymakers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by prestigious research funding agencies in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. http://www.iiasa.ac.at

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

Related Data Articles:

Ups and downs in COVID-19 data may be caused by data reporting practices
As data accumulates on COVID-19 cases and deaths, researchers have observed patterns of peaks and valleys that repeat on a near-weekly basis.
Data centers use less energy than you think
Using the most detailed model to date of global data center energy use, researchers found that massive efficiency gains by data centers have kept energy use roughly flat over the past decade.
Storing data in music
Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a technique for embedding data in music and transmitting it to a smartphone.
Life data economics: calling for new models to assess the value of human data
After the collapse of the blockchain bubble a number of research organisations are developing platforms to enable individual ownership of life data and establish the data valuation and pricing models.
Geoscience data group urges all scientific disciplines to make data open and accessible
Institutions, science funders, data repositories, publishers, researchers and scientific societies from all scientific disciplines must work together to ensure all scientific data are easy to find, access and use, according to a new commentary in Nature by members of the Enabling FAIR Data Steering Committee.
Democratizing data science
MIT researchers are hoping to advance the democratization of data science with a new tool for nonstatisticians that automatically generates models for analyzing raw data.
Getting the most out of atmospheric data analysis
An international team including researchers from Kanazawa University used a new approach to analyze an atmospheric data set spanning 18 years for the investigation of new-particle formation.
Ecologists ask: Should we be more transparent with data?
In a new Ecological Applications article, authors Stephen M. Powers and Stephanie E.
Should you share data of threatened species?
Scientists and conservationists have continually called for location data to be turned off in wildlife photos and publications to help preserve species but new research suggests there could be more to be gained by sharing a rare find, rather than obscuring it, in certain circumstances.
Futuristic data storage
The development of high-density data storage devices requires the highest possible density of elements in an array made up of individual nanomagnets.
More Data News and Data Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.