Decision Science

Making good decisions under the uncertainties faced by farmers

Our approach is heavily rooted in decision science, with the aim of improving the quality of decision making by farmers and support services.

Farming anywhere is typified by high investment risks, due to uncertainties in weather, pests and diseases, labour availability, responses to inputs, market prices, and climate change, to name a few. Risks are particularly acute in sub-Saharan Africa smallholder systems due to large spatial and temporal variability in all these factors, coupled with large impacts due to low incomes, vulnerable households, and the high price of inputs. High decision risk also stifles adoption of improved practices. The scarcity of reliable data further impairs delivering sound agronomic advisory to reduce decision risk. And yet current agronomic advice fails to communicate risk to farmers, or to help them learn how to reduce risks or promote opportunities.

iSDA deploys decision analysis (Luedeling & Shepherd, 2016) to provide a structured approach to clarifying decisions, specifying desired outcomes, designing alternatives, identifying the sources and magnitude of uncertainties, and gaining insights into the best options given stakeholder preferences. Analysing the decisions of farmers and their support services in iSDA pilots is a key starting point for the design of effective decision support and advisory systems.

Decision science also provides a structured way to combine multiple sources of uncertain information to provide the best possible advisory. For example, iSDA combines information from the international scientific literature, remote sensing data, weather data, the expert knowledge of iSDA and local agronomists and extensions workers, and information from farmers. The various types of information are quantified and coded in the form of probability distributions, including elicitation of estimates from local experts. We bring this information together using Bayesian Networks, which represent the uncertain relationships between input data and advisory outcomes.

A major innovation of iSDA is to deliver this approach to farmers through easy-to-use, interactive mobile phone applications based on cloud services. Our apps are designed to be easily accessible learning tools that enable farmers, extension staff and aggregators better understand yield and profit drivers, risks, and trade-offs.

Our approach is heavily rooted in decision science, with the aim of improving the quality of decision making by farmers and support services.

More about our research and technology.

iSDA continues to build expertise in critical areas of agronomic research and technology development.

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Decision Science

Making good decisions under the uncertainties faced by farmers

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Diagnostics

Understanding what is constraining yields and profit

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Spatial Agronomy

Spatial agronomy is fundamental in providing low-cost advisory

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See our technology in action

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