Distinguished participants, resource persons and colleagues,
I am extremely happy to welcome you all, on behalf of FAO and on my personal behalf, to this culturally and agriculturally rich country on the occasion of this important roundtable meeting of Asian countries.
This is the first meeting on the World Programme for the 2010 Round of Censuses of Agriculture (WCA 2010) in a series of similar meetings that will be held in different regions of the world to launch and advocate the Ninth World Programme for the Census of Agriculture.
The 1930 and 1940 Programmes were promoted by the International Institute of Agriculture. Beginning with 1950 this decennial FAO Programme for the Census of Agriculture (WCA) has been helping countries to carry out their national agricultural census at least once every decade using standard international concepts, definitions and methodology. I am happy to note that for each round about 100 countries are taking advantage of this programme in designing their national agricultural censuses. The new programme would be useful to the countries, which plan to conduct their national censuses during the decade 2006 - 2015.
I am pleased to note that participants from 17 countries are participating in the meeting. Interest and enthusiasm of the countries in the new FAO programme for agricultural census is evidenced by the fact that some countries have sent more that one participant to the meeting. I note that you all have long experience in agricultural census and surveys and that you will not only learn from, but also make technical contributions to, the meeting.
Increasing Globalization of economies in the world, and in particular in the Asian countries is leading to a structural transformation of agricultural sector in many countries. Planning process of fast changing economic environment makes an increasing demand on the statistical systems. More recent, more frequent and reliable information on a variety of new subjects is being sought. This calls for more frequent specialized surveys to collect data on a variety of subjects relating to Food and Agricultural sector.
Diversion of agricultural land for urban and industrial purposes on the one hand, and degradation of existing agricultural land on the other raise concerns, which need to be monitored through reliable periodic data. Environmental aspects of agriculture, such as sinking water table, land affected by water-logging, and inappropriate use of fertilizers and pesticides are engaging attention of policy makers in many countries of Asia. The role of data in studying agricultural practices or as an input into policy making process can hardly be underestimated.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
FAO has estimated that the number of undernourished people in the developing world in 2000-2002 was 815 million out of which more than 60 percent are in countries of Asia and the Pacific. Despite the fact that the percentage of undernourished people in the region has been declining over the past decade – from 20 percent in 1990-1992 to 16 percent in 2000-2002, particularly on account of improvements in the countries like China and Indonesia, hunger problem is still a concern and countries need to step up the pace to reach the MDG and WFS targets by 2015.
Country-level monitoring of the progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has thus become an important element in formulating economic development strategies, and countries have begun to focus on the need for MDG-related indicators as a key component of the national statistical programme. A variety of data sources are being sought for this purpose. A census of agriculture is one of the largest national statistical operation undertaken by a country, and its use as a potential source of data for monitoring the MDGs should be taken into consideration in the census planning and design.
The goals of “eradication of extreme poverty and hunger” and “empowerment of women” are particularly relevant to the agriculture sector and often the low ranking of countries on these types of indicators is related to structural causes rather than temporary causes. Data on such aspects is particularly suitable for collection through the agricultural censuses. I am happy to note that the new FAO World Programme for Census of Agriculture has taken cognisance of this requirement and has rightly added “Monitoring of MDGs” as one of the objectives of agricultural census. It gives me immense professional satisfaction to note that the subject of Household Food Security, which is often difficult to measure, has been covered in agricultural census.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
More and more countries are now realizing the importance and contribution of “rural sector”, which goes beyond the “traditional agricultural sector”, in their economic growth. I am glad to note that the WCA 2010 document gives countries an option to use their agricultural census as a vehicle for collecting data on rural sector. The document on WCA gives guidance to countries on how to extend the census operation to non-agricultural households. Many countries, like China, Vietnam and Malaysia have already taken a lead in extending the scope of their agricultural censuses to cover the non-agricultural activities in the rural areas.
For effectively targeting the growth of rural areas data is needed not only on agricultural holdings, but also on communities about availability of rural infrastructure and access to basic services. A community-level data collection may cover agriculture-related data that would not be collected from holdings, such as the area of communal pasture land. Data on whether the community is prone to natural disasters or subject to seasonal food shortages is important for planning to ensure food security at household level. Community-level data would be of immense value in formulating, executing and evaluating community projects.
Given the strong demand for community-level data and value accorded to this type of information, a community-level component has been included in the WCA 2010. I would strongly encourage countries to include this component in their censuses, according to their national circumstances and data requirements. Besides providing the data on agriculture sector, such an approach permits a juxtaposition of data on various economic and geographical aspects of the community. An interfacing of community-level data with climatic data will help in the analysis of agro-ecosystem of communities and will aid in identifying appropriate agricultural practices for ensuring the sustainability of their livelihood systems and ecosystem.
I understand that a few countries, including Cambodia and Indonesia, have been collecting such data through their village socio-economic surveys and that India has also made a beginning in this regard. I hope the participants would find this meeting an appropriate forum for exchange of experiences on this important subject.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Fish products contribute significantly to meeting the protein requirement of our body. The Asia and Pacific region has abundant water resources. With the yield of land reaching the saturation levels, aquaculture is becoming increasingly important source for meeting human food requirements. However, the data on this sector of food cultivation remains week in many countries. FAO has issued “Guidelines for Collection of Structural Aquacultural Statistics” as a supplement to the Programme for the World Census of Agriculture 2000. The new document on WCA 2010 shows how to include aquaculture statistics within the National Programme for Agricultural Census and Surveys.
This inclusion of aquaculture statistics within the ambit of agricultural census can be justified on the ground that agriculture and aqua-culture are often found as inseparable components of a single culture-system, e.g. rice-cum-fish culture system, and that these two activities share common inputs, such as machinery and labour. Integration of aquaculture statistics with agriculture census offers many logistic advantages which will be explained to you during the course of this meeting by my colleagues who have been involved in developing the new Programme.
A well planned agricultural census is a precondition for preparing a national survey programme for the agricultural sector. The data collected through agricultural census provides the essential building blocks for the national Food and Agricultural Statistics System. The agricultural census provides key data which form the basis for planning additional sample surveys for collection of detailed data.
National censuses are extremely large and costly exercises. It has been realized that there exists a considerable commonality between the population and housing census and the census of agriculture. For this reason, FAO has been working closely with the United Nations Statistics Division to explore ways in which the relationship between the two census activities can be strengthened that can save costs and enhance the usefulness of the data.
The WCA 2010 stresses that the opportunity for coordinating the various national census activities should be actively explored at an early stage in the census planning process, and be taken into consideration in developing national statistical plans. Countries should make the necessary administrative arrangements to ensure close collaboration between the census development teams and to ensure that all avenues for coordination are explored.
My colleagues will be dealing with the technical details of the identified strategies for integration of censuses and surveys with in the national statistical system in the appropriate technical session.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
With rapid economic growth taking place in many countries of Asia, I hope that the scarcity of resources for statistical activities will be a thing of the past now. Revolution in IT technology, not only for data processing but also for analysis and building of databases, and its fast reducing costs offer greater opportunity for making optimal use of data collected. I hope that in the light of these welcome developments the countries will find the new World Programme for the Census of Agriculture 2010 as a handy reference book for designing their National Census and Survey Programme for the agriculture, aquaculture and rural sectors.
Before concluding, I would like to acknowledge the hard work of the hotel staff supporting our meeting. I also thank my colleagues from FAO Headquarters and the Regional Office for their dedication and hard work in organizing this meeting.
I wish you all success in your deliberations and a pleasant stay in Bangkok.