Workshop on Census of Agriculture 2000

(WCA 2000)

Structural Aquaculture Statistics Hat-Yai, Sonkhla, Thailand,

28th. February-3 march 2000




Within the programme of support to national preparation of holding the 2000 round of the World Census of Agriculture, the FAO Statistics Division and the Fishery Department's Information, Data and Statistics Unit (FIDI), in collaboration with the National Statistical Office of Thailand (NSO) held a 5-day training workshop at which representatives of 14 Asian countries participated. This workshop concluded a series of meetings held in recent years in Asia, where the aquaculture sector is of growing importance, to foster the knowledge of the sector and improve its monitoring. In particular the fifteenth session of the Asia and Pacific Commission on Agricultural Statistics (APCAS) held in 1994 recommended the inclusion of aquaculture in the agricultural census programme (WCA 2000 programme).

The objective of the workshop was to discuss different technological and methodological aspects of undertaking an agricultural census and their application for collecting structural data (e.g. size and type of culture facilities, employment, infrastructure etc) on aquaculture, not only -as it was the case in past rounds of the WCA- by means of very few questions concerning the structure of mixed agri-aqua farms, but through the promotion of a comprehensive inquiry of the structural characteristics of households or economic units practising exclusively fish farming.

A participatory approach was adopted for the workshop. Country reports presented by the participants were interspersed by lectures/ discussions by FAO staff and resource persons on agricultural census taking. Topics included methodological aspects of frame surveys; merits of complete enumeration and sample coverage; quality control and sampling and non-sampling errors; census items in general and aquaculture in particular -including demographic characteristics and employment; tabulation, analysis and dissemination of census results. Items considered essential (e.g. area, types and ownership of culture facilities, seed or ongrowing production activities) for aquaculture were discussed in greater detail. Part of the discussions was on the use of new technologies for conducting census and collecting routinely data and on the importance of planning from early stages the computerized processing of the collected data and their analysis.

A special session was devoted to the NSO, Thailand, on their approaches and experiences of conducting their fishery census.

The workshop sessions took the form of short lectures followed by active participation by all the participants on pertinent issues and constraints relating to including the collection of aquaculture structural statistics within the WCA 2000 programme, other possible mechanisms (e.g. population census, fishery census, livestock census) for collecting structural data and on aquaculture statistics in general.

The purpose of collecting structural and production aquaculture data was stressed and the increasing need for such data in monitoring access to and competition for natural resources, such as land and water, as well as efficiency of land use was emphasised. Although the primary objective of the workshop was to focus on the agricultural census, some participants (e.g. Bangladesh, The Democratic Republic of Korea and Nepal) indicated by way of their country papers and comments that aquaculture monitoring as a whole was in its infancy. Others (e.g. Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea) reported that the census was inextricably linked with detailed aquaculture sample surveys and annual production surveys. The participants indicated that in many countries all approaches for aquaculture monitoring face fundamental but common problems. Monitoring was often hampered by lack of or an outdated aquaculture frame or listing which made the verification of collected data difficult. Some participants mentioned that inland aquaculture is poorly or not properly recorded due to lack of a frame, while the large numbers of scattered and remote locations of aquaculture units in rural areas was difficult and costly to record. Majority of the participants identified the definition of aquaculture and its separation from fisheries a major problem and considered the FAO tabular guidelines on classification of fisheries activities into aquaculture, enhanced and traditional capture fisheries of practical value in this regard. In addition, discussions also revealed that poor intra- as well as international harmonisation of aquaculture terms (e.g. definition of aquaculture) and variables (e.g. pond area, size of facilities, etc) have hampered the collection of quality data at the grass roots level. Some participants stated


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that the lack of a proper national statistical system made collection of aquaculture statistics a challenge and this together with the lack of or poor capacity to access and disaggregate, aggregated data (e.g. China) made the verification of aquaculture data problematic for the national statistical office. In this regard the participants appreciated presentations on new information technologies (such as specialised computer software) at the workshop. Other considerations included low national priority for monitoring the sector and inadequate allocation of financial resources, particularly when the information has to be collected from a large number of small villages (600 000 in the case of India).

The decision to invite national participants, from the Department of Fisheries (DOF) as well as the NSO was vindicated by the common observation and discussion that co-ordination, co-operation and integration required between the DOF and NSO for monitoring aquaculture was minimal at best. In this regard the outcome of the recommendations on national actions for the improvement of aquaculture monitoring from an earlier SEAFDEC/FAO consultation held in Bangkok in September 1999 on variables and terminology was emphasised.

It was reassuring to note that the workshop had stimulated country participants to explore further the mechanisms for including aquaculture questions on structure or strengthen the questions already planned within the WCA 2000 programme or other censuses such as population census to obtain a frame for detailed aquaculture survey.

Methodological improvements are always timely and commendable. The collation of annual aquaculture statistics reported to FAO by Member and Non-Member countries has been an ongoing activity in FIDI since 1984. At the local and national level the accuracy of these data is a prime function of the national capacity and amount of resource available to understand the structure of the sector. This structure provides the basis from which sampling frames can be derived for the routine collection of the aquaculture data and derivation of indicators that are required for timely and appropriate sector development and tracking of policy. Accurate knowledge of structural characteristics also provides the basis on which aquaculture production and other data can be measured and verified.