The Feed Assessment Tool (FEAST) has been widely applied across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia as a way to support improved livestock feed interventions among smallholder farmers. At its heart, FEAST supports lively and insightful local focus group discussions with livestock keepers where participants eagerly engage with each other and with researchers. These discussions guide communities, helping them reflect on how things are and how to weigh-up the challenges in improving livestock production for the years to come. These discussions give opportunities for knowledge sharing and act as a catalyst for change within communities.
As a side-effect – a rich residue that scientists can harvest, the FEAST tool generates a wealth of data. This is particularly valuable, since livestock feed data is hard to come by and can be of low quality. Data collected through FEAST is highly structured and standardized across many locations. To help researchers and policy makers realise the full value of this information, we have made substantial revisions to the FEAST Global Data Repository.
Version 2.0.0 of the FEAST Global Data Repository was developed with three priorities in mind – data integrity, functionality and extendibility. Maintaining a high standard of data integrity was of the highest priority in the development process. This focus on data integrity means that all data cleaning and spatial data additions have been built in a way to leave the raw data untouched in a secure database. Our focus on data integrity also led us to make some substantial adjustments ‘under the hood’ to accept non-Latin characters in the database – so FEAST focus group discussions using local place names can simply be uploaded.
The functionality improvements have been designed to improve the experience of visitors, new users and veteran users. The homepage has been refreshed to provide an overview of available data (number of countries, sites, focus groups and fodder hectares enumerated) and to give quick access to visualisations and the full FEAST Global Data Repository. Visitors and registered users can freely view and download visualisations, providing standardised content for exploration and communication. Registered users can browse and download publicly available data using a flexible and feature-rich interface. This download interface allows people to get the data they want in their preferred format.
The final functionality improvement is on data management and spatial data – something that I’m particularly excited about. Veteran users can now better manage their uploaded data, by revising fields and adding spatialized information. These new spatial fields for site and focus group are designed to add value to the data by extracting information from global datasets – which currently includes livestock system and ruminant livestock density. When points and polygons are added to the data, this added value is taken care of by the FEAST Global Data Repository.
We have designed all these functionality improvements with an eye to the future. To encourage future extendibility, we have made all the code open source and have written sections in the popular ‘R’ statistical computing language. This is particularly useful when managing downloads and producing visualisations. To help develop the FEAST Global Data Repository code, check out the links below, or submit R code for new visualisations. This way, all users will benefit.
The FEAST Global Data Repository will continue to grow as long as we invest in facilitating these lively and insightful discussions in livestock keeping communities. The FEAST focus group discussions have acted as a catalyst for change in rural communities; by adding value to feed assessment data we, as a community, then have an opportunity to act as catalysts for positive change in projects, research and policy.
About FEAST: https://www.ilri.org/feast
Global data repository: https://feastdata.ilri.org
Website code: https://hdl.handle.net/10568/111320
R Shiny code: https://hdl.handle.net/10568/111321
News on FEAST and its use: https://fodderadoption.wordpress.com/tag/feast/