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BOI Research is finalizing its first report using HARA data

The first research report in which HARA data has been used will soon be released by our partners at BOI Research. Their periodic report is currently centered around the production of rice in Indonesia but will also include other crops in the future.

The research company plans to publish the report annually. This does not rule out the possibility of publishing more often if their work surfaces new relevant data.

“The report is roughly done, although everybody is still working on it. […] We want to talk about fertilizers as well, but it helps to talk to farmers and cooperatives first, and along the way I think the report will get slightly bigger and bigger, depending on the topics that we hear.” — Ingmar van den Brink, co-founder of BOI Research

The reports created by BOI Research uses government data as a basis and then tests the validity and accuracy of that data with data they uncover themselves, and data supplied by HARA. In doing so, they try to figure out what the exact rice production in Indonesia actually is.

Currently, data availability in the agricultural sector is generally inconsistent. Moreover, it is often only offered at a provincial level, so it cannot be used to zoom into a more local, granular level. The reports created by BOI Research will help fill this gap in knowledge.

Working with local insights

The data provided on the HARA Data Exchange is used by BOI Research as a supplement to the data they collect through their own fieldwork. This fieldwork is at times very challenging. For example, the team has to deal with a lot of language barriers due to the plentiful local dialects that are spoken in Indonesia.

BOI Research is currently working on a systematic sampling survey — a probability sampling method — with farmers from Java and Sumatra who cover 70% of the rice production in Indonesia. Taking the island of Java as an example, Ingmar splits up the island in a raster of different areas. One of the methods they employ is to reach out to farmers, cooperatives, and traders in each of the designated areas. On the phone, they try to figure out how much they know is being produced.

“If you got this big puzzle of Java, with all these blocks where this cooperative works, or this farmer works, we try to figure out how it is produced there based on what they can tell us.” — Ingmar van den Brink, co-founder of BOI Research

By calling on these local resources, BOI Research is able to keep a record of what is happening on the ground. This way they can easily find out if there is a production problem because of a drought, too much rain, or any other complications that might be relevant for the report.

The above local sampling approach came with the necessary challenges. The insights from the traders were not as useful as expected. Only 10% of the rice production comes from big traders, and the other 90% comes from the traditional market (with millions of small and medium traders). This is one of the reasons why it is hard to obtain reliable data on rice production.

To get more reliable data on rice production, BOI shifted its focus towards interviewing smallholder farmers. They figured that one of the reasons for the miscalculation on rice production can be due to the fact that farmers are using their own local terms to estimate their land area.

HARA sees this as a true validation from the market that is very hard to obtain reliable data on rice production. To overcome these challenges, one of the data points HARA is collecting is the polygon of the farmer, which indicates the actual land size.

An example in a larger area

The data from HARA will be used as a showcase of Bojonegoro, within the larger area of Java. HARA’s pilot project in Bojonegoro has already attracted over 26,000 smallholder farmers in the area, which is a good amount of the estimated total of 382,000 smallholder farmers in the region. But even with the help of HARA, creating an accurate report still needs extra work.

“We have to figure out if this [total] number [of farmers] is actually correct. It’s good to know what people say, now we have to figure out if it’s actually true. Because if you start to multiply everything, if the base is not 260 but only a 100, then we’re very off even if the HARA data is very correct. So that’s the puzzle, we have to go back to how many people are producing and then we can start coming up with numbers.” — Ingmar van den Brink, co-founder of BOI Research

The value of accurate data

Having good data is the first step to many improvements in the sector. For example, prices might drop significantly for the consumer, and Indonesia might even take its rightful place as a rice producer of the region. However, currently a lot of decisions are being made on faulty assumptions.

The data is especially valuable because of the reliable insights it gives on what is happening on the ground, in this case in rice production. For example, traders in rice need to know how much rice is coming from central Java, how much is coming from Sumatra, etc. Without this information, they might be focusing on the wrong area to buy up rice.

“If we talk about having sufficient food, then having good data is a first step to actually making a good strategy. For everyone, at every level. […] At the very first level I think what we are trying to do now is to have the right assumption. Everything that was made 30 years ago, is now being questioned. And I think that’s the first step.” — Dian Irawati, co-founder at BOI Research

The research reports created with the help of HARA will also give a more clear picture of who owns what, and how much is actually produced per region. This is one of the very direct uses of the data in the short run. A lot of effort is already being made to help make Indonesian farmers produce better. However, there is little insight into what the lagging areas are. The reports will help single out what areas need more help, and in which areas things are already looking good.

“In some areas the production is maybe only 4 to 5 thousand tons per hectare, in some areas even up to 9. It’s good to know if that’s really happening. So, if you see where there is already 9 happening at the time, you might want to forgo those areas because those farmers already do it right. You might want to focus your money and attention to the areas where they only produce 4 or 5 per year because they really don’t earn as much.” — Ingmar van den Brink, co-founder of BOI Research

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