Research & Innovation

Data Driven Insights for Sustainable Agriculture (DISA)

Partnership for data driven smallholder farmer support in Africa

The population of Africa is estimated to double by 2050, increasing the demand for food, yet productivity is rapidly declining with 65% of African soils degraded due to human and environmental pressures. The COVID-19 pandemic has also affected food production and supply systems, resulting in volatile and rising food prices. Women comprise 60-80% of the smallholder farmers in the region and have been disproportionally affected by these challenges.

We are working with partners in Rwanda to connect diverse stakeholders along the agricultural data value chain by adopting nature-based solutions that restore the soil and increase productivity, while building evidence-based models of the food production systems across the region. The project aims to use technology like satellite imagery, artificial intelligence and machine learning to pinpoint and quantify indicators of interest for soils and landscapes that are resilient to climate shocks. This data can then be transformed into ready-to-use insights to inform decision making on the viability of regenerative agriculture and scaling sustainable healthy foods for all, while unlocking various finance mechanisms (carbon markets, government subsidies, green funds, etc.) for smallholder farmers who adopt nature-based solutions and regenerative practices.

Key Insights

  • Regenerative Agriculture is a term that encompasses many different types of farming practices that rebuild soil organic matter and restore degraded soil biodiversity, improving both carbon and water retention. 
  • Key partners in this project are Leapr Labs Rwanda, Mila-Quebec AI Institute, Planet, and Future Earth Canada. We are also working closely with many leaders on the ground such as World Agroforestry (ICRAF), WaterAid, the World Resources Institute, Rwanda’s Regional Research Centre for Integrated Development, Bridge2Rwanda, Rwanda Environment Management Authority, the University of Rwanda and more.
  • Our project began with field visits in different regions of Rwanda to map out farmers applying regenerative practices and to what extent. The collected data will help with ground-truthing when analyzing satellites images.
  • Acquisition of satellite images data is now underway with explorations of how data can be used to achieve project objectives on the ground. 
  • We continue to meet with public, private, and government stakeholders to seek synergies and funding opportunities for this initiative. 
  • Overall, to sustain the future of food systems in the face of depleted natural resources, compounded by climate change, Covid-19 and conflicts, farmers can lead a transition to agricultural practices that regenerate landscapes. The adoption of both nature-based solutions and cutting edge-technology can assist. 
  • Data can be leveraged with the full consent and participation of women, youth and other marginalized groups, to provide insights and recommendations on how to enhance the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable food systems, leaving no one behind!

To understand more about sustainable agriculture, check out the following resources:


Poster on "Principles to Follow in Natural Farming." Natural Farming has no strict rules, only principles to guide you as you learn to become a better natural farmer. (For full poster text, please download the PDF version from the link below.)

Source: Poster created by Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa. You can download the PDF version and learn more on their website >


Source: United Nations – Zero Budget Natural Farming: An Agricultural Revolution is Taking Shape in India

Expert Advisory Committee

Gaétan Marceau Caron
Director, Applied Research Team, Mila

Kaspar Kundert
Senior Advisor, GIS and Geodata4Africa

Cornelia Schimidt-Kundert
Senior Advisor, GIS and Geodata4Africa

Allison Cohen
Applied AI Lead, AI for Humanity, Mila

With support from

FRQ logo
Climateworks Foundation logo


Sustainability in the Digital Age logo
Future Earth logo
Mila logo
Leapr logo
Planet. logo