With 30,000 surveys, researchers build the go-to dataset for smallholder farms

Top-down projects for improving the lives of poor farmers were often unsuccessful because they didn't systematically consider the diverse rural households survive and thrive. To tap this local knowledge, scientists and development agencies began surveying households to assure that research and development schemes were on target. But the surveys were not designed to be compared with one another, lacking what scientists call "interoperability"—meaning one organization's household surveys could not be compared with another's. For big-picture analysis, much of the data was of little use.