Women play a critical role in agricultural systems and global food security; according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women make up 43 percent of the agricultural workforce in developing countries and two-thirds of the world’s 600 million subsistence livestock farmers. Gender inequality, therefore, has a significant impact on global agricultural development.

In countries where agriculture is the primary source of income, women are frequently barred from owning land and have restricted access to critical resources like seeds, equipment, and credit. The FAO has found that if women had the same access to land and resources as men, overall food production could increase up to 30 percent—enough to feed 150 million of the estimated 815 million people who are suffering from hunger in the world.

While there is significant funding and the political will to address gender inequality in agriculture, a fundamental problem is a lack of data. Reliable data is at the center of these development projects and has the power to cast light on the individuals and communities affected by gender inequality.

Big Data tools allow researchers to process larger data sets and collect data from new sources like cell phone usage and social media. CGIAR (formerly the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) has developed a new Platform for Big Data in Agriculture, which incorporates Big Data tools into the work of their 15 research centers and 12 research programs to produce actionable insights at a faster pace, a lower cost, and a larger scale.

By leveraging the mobile phone revolution, satellite imaging, and meta-analysis of massive social, health, and economic data sets, the Platform can provide creative approaches to research on gender equality in agriculture.

Read more about how big data will help reduce gender inequality by Elliot Brennan at Food Tank.