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This chapter provides a historical background on the World Programme for the Census of Agriculture 2010, and outlines the basic characteristics of the new approach for the 2010 round of agricultural censuses covering the period 2006–2015. The new programme uses a modular approach, with a core module carried out on a complete enumeration basis to provide key structural data in conjunction with one or more sample-based census supplementary modules to provide more in-depth data. The integration of the census of agriculture into the overall system of agricultural statistics is emphasized. The changes from earlier agricultural census programmes are also highlighted.

What is a census of agriculture?

1.1. A census of agriculture is a statistical operation for collecting, processing and disseminating data on the structure of agriculture, covering the whole or a significant part of the country. Typical structural data collected in a census of agriculture are size of holding, land tenure, land use, crop area harvested, irrigation, livestock numbers, labour and other agricultural inputs. In an agricultural census, data are collected directly from agricultural holdings, but some community-level data may also be collected. A census of agriculture normally involves collecting key structural data by complete enumeration of all agricultural holdings, in combination with more detailed structural data using sampling methods

Background to the world programme for the census of agriculture

1.2. This publication presents guidelines for the World Programme for the Census of Agriculture 2010 (WCA 2010), covering agricultural censuses to be carried out by countries between 2006 and 2015. It is the ninth round in the decennial programme of agricultural censuses, which started in 1930. The 1930 and 1940 rounds were sponsored by the International Institute of Agriculture (IIA). The six subsequent rounds - in 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000 - were promoted by FAO, which assumed the responsibilities of IIA following its dissolution in 1946

1.3. The first two rounds of the agricultural census sought to provide comprehensive agricultural statistics, including production. For the 1930 round, countries were asked to carry out a national agricultural census during 1929 in the northern hemisphere, and during 1930 in the southern hemisphere. The objective was to obtain global data referring to the same time period. A similar request was made for the 1940 round. These first two rounds were undertaken at a time when there was a large gap in agricultural information, and data sources for agricultural statistics were not well organised, even in developed countries. The agricultural censuses were expected to help fill this gap. However, many countries found it difficult to conduct the census. Adequate resources for maintaining a large field staff were not easily obtained; their recruitment and training were major concerns when professional staff were limited in number; and, completing long questionnaires was a burden for both enumerators and respondents. It was difficult to guarantee data quality, and data processing in the pre-computer era was very time-consuming. For these and other reasons, the first two census rounds proved to be beyond the capacity of many countries

1.4. The 1950 round provided for a more restricted content, concentrating on the structural aspects of agriculture such as farm size, land use and numbers of livestock. Later rounds retained this focus on structural data, but gradually expanded the census content to reflect current areas of concern; the 2000 round gave special emphasis to aquaculture, employment and the environment. The requirement to undertake censuses in all countries in the same year was also relaxed; the 2000 round covered agricultural censuses taken during the period 1996–2005

1.5. In implementing agricultural censuses, governments around the world have increasingly had to balance the need for statistical information against the resources required to produce the statistics. A census of agriculture is very costly as well as being highly demanding on technical and other resources. More and more, governments are under pressure to cut the costs of providing statistical services. Some countries have not had the manpower or financial resources to carry out a full census of agriculture, but have been able to participate in the agricultural census programme by using a sample-based approach

1.6. At the same time as governments face pressure to cut costs, they are also being confronted with increasing and more complex demands for data. There has been growing interest in topics such as food security, the environment, farm labour, and special agricultural practices like organic farming. Where statistical systems are not well developed, there has also been a tendency to use the opportunity provided by the census of agriculture to collect a wider range of data than would normally be the case in such a census. Meeting these additional data needs without over-burdening the census of agriculture has become a dilemma for many countries, especially given the complexity of many of the new topics. The questions needed to adequately cover topics such as farm labour and household food security are too detailed for a census of agriculture in its current form

1.7. In developing the series of agricultural census programmes, FAO has recognized that countries are at different states of economic and statistical development. Countries have been encouraged to develop and implement their census of agriculture tailored to their unique situation, but to be mindful of the need to collect a minimum set of data for international comparison purposes

The census of agriculture in an integrated agricultural statistics system

1.8. In recent years, increasing efforts have been made towards the better integration of statistical activities. Integration, in a statistical sense, means that each statistical collection is carried out, not in isolation, but as a component of the national statistics system. In an integrated agricultural statistics system, the census of agriculture provides certain types of data as part of an integrated set of data on food and agriculture, needed for decision-making in food, agriculture and rural development

1.9. The main advantages of an integrated statistics system are:

-   It is possible to plan and develop a comprehensive statistical programme, without duplication of statistical activities or the release of conflicting statistics, while ensuring the efficient and balanced use of available statistical resources

-   Concepts, definitions and classifications used in the different statistical activities can be made compatible, making it easier to interpret and analyse related data from different sources

-   Any one statistical collection, such as the census of agriculture, can be restricted to a coherent and manageable set of items, in the knowledge that other related data are available in a comparable form from other sources

1.10. The data requirements on food and agriculture in an integrated statistics system are extensive and include data on: the structure of agricultural holdings, agricultural production, farm management, food consumption, household income and expenditure, labour force, and agricultural prices. These data could come from agricultural censuses, agricultural surveys, population censuses and surveys, administrative records, or other sources. An integrated agricultural statistics system involves a multi-year programme of statistical activities, including an agricultural census and agricultural surveys, to provide all the required data

1.11. Planning and implementing an integrated agricultural statistics system requires an efficient organization, trained personnel at various levels, and secured budgetary allocations over a period of years. Efficient organization implies strong cooperation between users and producers of agricultural statistics. Different statistical activities are not always all under the jurisdiction of a single government institution: for example, the national statistics office is often responsible for the agricultural census, whereas the ongoing agricultural production surveys are carried out by the relevant ministry. In these circumstances, establishing coordination among the various agencies is paramount. This is sometimes difficult because each agency may have different mandates regarding the purpose, scope and timing of their work

1.12. Many countries experience a shortage of trained statistical personnel and/or insufficient funds for statistical development, and will require time to achieve an integrated statistics system. Nevertheless, it is recommended that all statistical development efforts be oriented towards the long-term goal of providing a continuous flow of timely and accurate data covering all aspects of food, agriculture and rural development

1.13. Agricultural censuses and agricultural surveys are closely related in that both involve the collection of agricultural data from agricultural production units. For WCA 2010, emphasis has been given to developing the agricultural census within the overall framework of the system of integrated agricultural censuses and surveys. This system can be viewed as having two elements: (i) the agricultural census, which is the nucleus of the system; and (ii) the programme of agricultural sample surveys, based on the agricultural census

1.14. This publication focuses mainly on the agricultural census element of the system. The programme of agricultural surveys is briefly discussed in Chapter 9. Further information on these surveys will be provided in later volumes

Outline of WCA 2010

1.15. In the past, agricultural censuses have been mainly concerned with the collection of structural data for agricultural production units (agricultural holdings). The 2010 programme continues in this vein. Guidelines for taking agricultural censuses for agricultural production units are given in Chapters 2 to 6 of this publication. However, it is recognized that some countries may wish to collect a wider range of data than in the past and two options are provided:

-   Aquaculture is becoming increasingly important in many countries. The option to conduct an aquacultural census in conjunction with the agricultural census is provided. This is discussed in Chapter 7

-   Some countries might like to provide additional agriculture-related data for households that are not agricultural producers but are involved in agriculture in some way, such as those living in rural areas or those deriving income from employment in agriculture. This option is discussed in Chapter 8

1.16. To help countries meet the need for a wider range of data from the agricultural census, while minimizing the cost of census-taking, it is recommended that countries use a modular approach for the agricultural census:

-   A core census module, to be conducted on a complete enumeration basis1 , will provide a limited range of key structural items of importance for national policy-making, making international comparisons, constructing sampling frames, and analysing data at detailed geographic or other levels. The core module is similar to the conventional agricultural census in the past, but with a much more restricted range of items

-   One or more census supplementary modules, to be conducted on a sample basis at the same time as, or immediately after, the core census module to provide more detailed structural data or data not required at lower administrative levels. The sample for the census supplementary modules will be selected based on sampling frames from the core census module. For information on how supplementary modules are conducted in conjunction with the core census module, see paragraphs 3.75–3.76. For information on the sample selection for supplementary modules, see paragraphs 10.12–10.15

1 For countries where a complete enumeration is not possible, the core module can be conducted on a large sample basis (see paragraphs 3.64–3.71).

1.17. A recommended list of 16 items for the core module is given in Chapter 4. These items are FAO's recommended minimum set of data for the agricultural census. Countries may include more core items to meet additional data needs or for use in creating sampling frames for the census supplementary modules or the programme of agricultural surveys. For example, if an in-depth survey on fertilizers was to be conducted, an additional item on the use of fertilizers may be added to the core module to help select the sample for the fertilizer survey

Figure 1.1: The agricultural census in the framework of the system of integrated agricultural censuses and surveys

Figure 1.1

1.18. Chapter 4 also provides a list of 89 items that could be considered by countries for inclusion in the census supplementary modules. Countries are not expected to carry out all agricultural census supplementary modules or collect all 89 census supplementary items. Instead, each country will conduct one or more supplementary modules according to their requirements. For example, if irrigation and livestock are important to a country, it would carry out the core census module plus two supplementary modules on irrigation and livestock

1.19. For information on the criteria used to determine the suitability of items for the core and supplementary modules, see paragraphs 3.16–3.21. Concepts and definitions for each core and supplementary item are provided in Chapter 11

1.20. A schematic representation of the agricultural census within the framework of the system of integrated agricultural censuses and surveys is shown in Figure 1.1. It shows items under selected headings or themes such as “land” and “irrigation and water management”, according to their suitability for inclusion in the agricultural census core module, in the agricultural census supplementary modules, or in the programme of agricultural surveys

1.21. As well as holding level data, provision is also made for the collection of infrastructure data at the community level, an important need in many countries. Guidelines are provided in Chapter 5

1.22. Emphasis is also given to integrating the agricultural and population censuses, not only through the use of standard concepts and definitions and sharing field materials, but also coordinating the two data collection activities, adding agriculture-related questions to the population census, and linking of data from the two sources. For more details, see Chapter 6

1.23. Some features of the new agricultural census methodology have already been implemented by countries in previous agricultural census rounds. As in the past, it is expected that countries will adapt the guidelines given in this publication to meet national needs

Changes from earlier agricultural census programmes

1.24. WCA 2010 has been developed after a review of country experiences with the 2000 programme and an assessment of changing data needs in the light of developments in agricultural practices

1.25. The main methodological differences between the 2010 and 2000 programmes are highlighted in the previous section (see paragraphs 1.15–1.23). Specific changes to statistical units, data content, concepts and definitions, and classifications are summarized below:

1.26. Statistical unit

-   The statistical unit for the agricultural census, the agricultural holding, remains the same as used in previous programmes (see paragraph 3.23)

-   The concept of an aquacultural holding has been introduced as the unit of aquacultural production in the aquacultural census (see paragraphs 7.9–7.11)

-   Two new concepts - the sub-holding and the sub-holder - have been introduced to better measure the role of household members in the management of the holding, especially women (see paragraphs 3.42–3.52)

1.27. Data content

-   In the 2000 programme, FAO provided a list of recommended items, with some denoted as “Essential”. The 2010 programme presents items under two headings according to their suitability for the core and supplementary modules

-   The list of recommended core items is shorter than the list of essential items from the 2000 programme. However, under the modular approach, a greater range of in-depth data can be collected in the supplementary modules using sampling methods. An extensive, but not exhaustive, list of items for consideration for the supplementary modules is provided

-   A number of items in the supplementary modules are included in the agricultural census programme for the first time:

-   Several non-essential items from the 2000 programme have been omitted from the 2010 programme; namely, presence of a hired manager, area with irrigation potential, soil type/colour/depth and value of forestry/fishery sales

1.28. Concepts and definitions

-   The definition of an agricultural holder has been amended to allow for the possibility of the holder being a group of people (see paragraphs 3.36–3.41)

-   Forest and other wooded land has been re-defined to bring it into line with international standards. The notion of forest and other wooded land as a primary and secondary land use has also been introduced in accordance with international definitions (see paragraph 11.35)

-   The notion of “legal” and “non-legal” has been introduced into the land tenure concept to address the issue of security of tenure (see paragraphs 11.47–11.49)

-   The definition of irrigation has been clarified to reflect the “controlled” supply of water, and the concept of “water management” has been introduced to provide a more complete picture of water issues on the holding (see paragraphs 11.68–11.72)

-   The concept of fertilizer has been clarified to meet with FAO standards. Other organic materials that enhance plant growth but do not come under the definition of fertilizer are also included (see paragraphs 11.130–11.137)

-   The concept of “agricultural household” has been introduced to distinguish between holdings that are primarily agricultural producers and those for which agricultural production is a secondary activity (see paragraphs 11.210–11.214)

-   Employment concepts have been changed to better reflect the structure of employment in rural areas and to be consistent with ILO standards (see paragraphs 11.226–11.233)

1.29. Classifications

-   The land use classification has been changed to clarify land use terminology (see paragraphs 11.20–11.39)

-   The crop classification has been updated to make it more suitable for current needs (see Appendix 3)

-   For the first time, structured classifications have been provided for types of livestock (see Appendix 5) and types of machinery (see Appendix 6)

Data items and questionnaires

1.30. The purpose of this publication is to present broad principles and guidelines for the 2010 round of agricultural censuses. It makes recommendations on the items to be included in the census and the concepts and definitions to be used. It does not make recommendations on the questions to be asked in the questionnaire to collect those data. Each country needs to develop its own questionnaires and field procedures to collect the data in a manner suited to national conditions, based on the recommended concepts and definitions provided in this publication

1.31. Often, several questions are required to provide a given agricultural census item. Some items, such as activity status (Item 0801), involve abstract concepts, which cannot be collected directly from respondents. For example, one cannot ask a person if he/she is unemployed; instead, one asks a series of questions about the person's work activities to determine if the person satisfies the conditions for unemployment (see paragraph 11.237)

1.32. The willingness and ability of respondents to supply information also influences the way questions are asked. For example, to collect data on farm area, one may need to ask questions about the different types of land (to ensure that it is fully reported), to use local units (if the respondents are not familiar with hectares), or to ask specific questions about land registration documents for each member of the household (if land is registered in different names)



This chapter examines why it is important for a country to undertake a census of agriculture. The uses of agricultural census data in a variety of economic and social fields are described. Special emphasis is given to the use of agricultural census data to help in monitoring progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, and in analysing poverty, food security and gender issues. Using agricultural census data for planning and policy-making in other areas is examined and examples are provided. The use of agricultural census data for improving current agricultural statistics is also highlighted.


2.1. Statistical needs for agricultural planning and policy-making are very broad. The primary needs are for current agricultural statistics produced on a regular basis, such as crop and livestock production, and most countries have established an ongoing system for the collection of these data. Current agricultural statistics are usually collected through administrative reporting systems and/or through sample surveys. Current agricultural statistics are needed to monitor current agricultural and food supply conditions and to provide information to help governments and others in short-term decision-making

2.2. Countries also have other agricultural information needs, apart from current agricultural statistics. A census of agriculture provides fundamental data on the organizational structure of agricultural holdings, such as farm size, land use, land tenure, livestock numbers, and the use of machinery, as well as the number of holdings with each crop and livestock type. Structural information of this type has a wide range of uses, which are examined in this chapter

2.3. One feature of a census of agriculture is that it involves the collection of data at the individual holding level. Many countries compile current agricultural statistics based on reports from local officials because they do not have the resources to collect data directly from farmers in sample surveys. This reporting method of data collection is cheap and easy, but data quality often suffers because of poor reporting and the lack of sound statistical concepts and procedures. In these circumstances, a census of agriculture can be invaluable in providing a statistically sound source of agricultural statistics

2.4. Another advantage of a census of agriculture over administrative reporting is the wider range of data that can be produced. In an administrative reporting system, aggregated data are usually forwarded up through the various administrative levels. This means that, in a crop reporting system, for example, the only data available would be province or district totals for crop area. In an agricultural census, data are collected and processed at the holding level. As well as getting data on the total area of crops planted, for example, an agricultural census would show the number of holdings with each crop, the distribution of crop area, and the average crop area planted, as well as cross-tabulations with other items, such as area planted classified by household size. An agricultural census can also provide data for any specific geographic area, even non-standard groupings. These aspects greatly enhance the usefulness of agricultural census data

Monitoring the Millennium Development Goals

What are the Millennium Development Goals?

2.5. In the United Nations Millennium Declaration of 2000, governments around the world committed themselves to sustainable economic growth, focusing on the poor and with human rights at the centre. The Declaration called for combating poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women

2.6. To help track progress in meeting the commitments of the Declaration, a set of time-bound and measurable Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was developed. The MDGs comprise a framework of 8 goals, 18 targets and 48 indicators to be used to assess progress between 1990 and 2015, when targets are expected to be met. Monitoring of the MDGs will be done through the 48 basic MDG indicators, supplemented by other background data to provide for more in-depth analysis. For more information on the MDG indicators, refer to Indicators for Monitoring the Millennium Development Goals - Definitions, Rationale, Concepts and Sources (UN, 2003)

MDG indicators

2.7. Country-level monitoring of the progress towards the MDGs has 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 collections undertaken by a country, and its use as a source of data for monitoring the MDGs should be taken into consideration in the census planning and design

2.8. The new modular approach used for the current round of agricultural censuses, based on the census core and supplementary modules together with the programme of agricultural surveys, enhances the usefulness of the agricultural census/survey programme as a source of data for MDG monitoring. Countries could look to carrying out regular agricultural surveys, based on the agricultural census frame, to provide additional MDG-related data to complement the data collected in the agricultural census. For example, the decennial agricultural census could provide basic gender indicators (such as sex of holder or sub-holder) for each district or village, while annual agricultural surveys could provide more in-depth gender-related data (such as activity status by sex) at the national level

2.9. Coordinating the agricultural census with the population census may also provide opportunities for a wider range of data for monitoring the MDGs. Population censuses provide a lot of data specific to the MDG indicators, such as child mortality, school enrolment, the gender indicators, and perhaps even income/poverty and literacy. If the agricultural census data could be linked to the population census data, it would open up the possibility of providing these MDG indicators for specific groups of farm households. For example, child mortality and poverty/income indicators could be available for different types of farm households, such as rice farmers, livestock holdings, and small/large holdings

2.10. One problem in using the agricultural census for monitoring the MDGs is that it normally covers only agricultural holdings. Thus, indicators provided by the agricultural census relate specifically to agricultural holdings, not to all households or even all rural households. WCA 2010 provides the option to widen the scope of the agricultural census to cover all rural households (see Chapter 8), which might provide more useful MDG measures. The need for such MDG data might be an important factor in a country deciding to widen the scope of the agricultural census. Despite the limited coverage of the agricultural census, it can still provide valuable supplementary MDG measures, as well as a better understanding of the factors influencing the MDG indicators, especially agricultural production issues such as farm size and cropping systems

2.11. Agricultural censuses are normally undertaken every ten years and this provides a good basis for monitoring the MDGs over time. Many countries will carry out at least two agricultural censuses during the 1990–2015 MDG reference period. Often, the agricultural censuses are conducted in the early years of each decade, which can be especially suitable for MDG monitoring

2.12. An agricultural census could provide a range of data of interest to the MDGs:

-   Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. This goal calls for halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. Two MDG indicators are used: the prevalence of underweight children under five years of age (Indicator 4); and the proportion of population below the minimum level of dietary energy consumption (Indicator 5). Data from a supplementary household food security module would help to better understand changes in the structure of agriculture and their effect on household food security. For example, the prevalence of underweight children could be analysed in relation to such things as farm size, cropping systems, agricultural practices and land tenure to better understand why people are food insecure

-   Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education. Some data relating to enrolment ratios in primary education (MDG Indicator 6) are often available from the agricultural census. This enables enrolment data for different groups of households to be analysed, and the factors contributing to low school enrolment, such as farm labour requirements and distance from school, to be studied

-   Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women. MDG Indicators 9–11 relate to gender disparity in education and non-agricultural employment. The agricultural census does not directly provide these measures, but it provides a range of data related to the role of women in agricultural production activities and the participation of rural women in non-farm economic activities. For more information, see paragraphs 2.27–2.31

-   Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability. This calls for “integrating the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reversing the loss of environmental resources”. An agricultural census collects a range of environment data related to irrigation, soil degradation, use of mineral fertilizers, and use of pesticides. An agricultural census may also be useful for two specific MDG indicators

-   Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development. MDG Indicator 45 refers to the unemployment rate for persons aged 15 to 24. These data are available from the agricultural census for household members of agricultural holdings. If the scope of the agricultural census was widened to cover all rural households, more meaningful MDG-related data relating to the rural sector could be provided

2.13. The community-level data collected as part of the agricultural census could also provide data to help in monitoring the MDGs, especially for Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability. The community survey could provide data relating to several MDG indicators for this goal:

-   Indicator 25: proportion of land area covered by forest

-   Indicator 30: proportion of population with access to safe drinking water

-   Indicator 31: proportion of population with access to improved sanitation

2.14. WCA 2010 has been formulated with the MDG indicators in mind. Particular attention has been given to ensuring that concepts and definitions for the agricultural census are consistent with international standards and with the requirements for monitoring the MDGs. For example, the definition of forestry used in the agricultural census to measure forestry activities on agricultural holdings should be consistent with the MDG forestry concept, so that the census data can be meaningfully related to the relevant MDG indicator

Poverty monitoring and analysis

2.15. Achieving sustainable economic growth with the focus on combating poverty has become the key development goal for governments around the world, as reflected in the MDGs and, in particular, Goal 1. Most of the poor live in rural areas, often in isolated conditions, where they face problems of poor natural resources, underdeveloped infrastructure, lack of access to markets, fluctuating commodity prices, lack of employment opportunities, and vulnerability to natural disasters. The agricultural census helps to better understand the causes of poverty and provide baseline data for monitoring poverty alleviation programmes

2.16. Rural poverty is strongly related to the structure and efficiency of the agricultural production industry. Shortage of land is often one of the main causes of poverty, and agricultural census data on farm size and the types of cropping systems can help to understand whether farm households have sufficient land to support their needs. Employment data for household members highlights the extent to which households need to supplement their farm incomes through work off the holding

2.17. Many poor farmers seek to be self-sufficient in food, carrying out traditional forms of low productivity production. The agricultural census crop data can underline the potential for raising farm incomes through crop diversification and the adoption of high value crops. Farmers are often unable to raise their living standards because they cannot access services that might enhance their productivity, such as credit, extension and veterinary services. The agricultural census data can help to highlight problems in these areas. Data on the degree of farm mechanization and the types of inputs used can help to identify other factors constraining farmers from increasing their agricultural productivity

2.18. The community-level data collection, introduced for the first time in the 2010 programme, can provide a useful source of data on infrastructure issues affecting farmers' incomes, especially relating to the access farmers have to agricultural produce markets. Community data on the economic activities in the commune can also help to understand whether farmers and their families have alternative employment opportunities

2.19. Some countries have a system in place to identify which communities are poor, and this can provide the basis for an economic status measure in the community survey. This can be valuable in analysing the agricultural characteristics of holdings in relation to whether they live in a “rich” or “poor” community. The agricultural census could highlight whether communities are poor because, for example, farm sizes are too small, because farmers do not have access to irrigation, or because there is not sufficient crop diversification. The relationship between poverty and aspects such as land tenure, access to credit, and the use of extension services can also be of interest

2.20. Usually, income and poverty data at the household level are not directly collected in an agricultural census. However, under the modular approach for WCA 2010, a country could include such data in a small census supplementary module, if required. Another approach is to develop proxy income/poverty measures from other data collected in the agricultural census, such as farm size, land tenure, and ownership of farm machinery. Additional simple proxy measures could be included in the agricultural census to help in poverty analysis work. Data on ownership of specific assets can be particularly helpful in this regard

Food security monitoring and analysis

2.21. The goal set by the World Food Summit in 1996 to halve the number of undernourished in the world between 1996 and 2015 has become a key focus of governments around the world. The importance of combating hunger while achieving economic growth is one of the cornerstones of the MDGs, as reflected in Goal 1. A wide range of data is needed to monitor progress towards this goal, and the agricultural census can play a role in this regard

2.22. On the food availability side, data from the agricultural census helps in understanding the structure of the food production industry and the constraints faced by farmers in increasing agricultural production, as well as suggesting strategies for increasing agricultural productivity. Cropping patterns can be studied along with information on the use of irrigation, farm machinery and improved varieties of seed to help develop programmes for increasing food production

2.23. The agricultural census also addresses food access issues. A new element in WCA 2010, the collection of community-level data, can be especially useful in this area. For example, data on the presence of agricultural produce markets and other infrastructure in the community can help to assess the effectiveness of the food distribution system

2.24. Issues related to stability of food supplies, such as weather conditions and exposure to natural disasters, can also be studied from the community component of the agricultural census

2.25. The agricultural census also provides broad economic, social and environmental indicators to show the background against which the food economy operates. The agricultural census can help in studies of environmental issues that may affect agricultural output, such as forest cover, and the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Household data from the agricultural census may also highlight social issues affecting food security, such as changes in demographic patterns and household structures

2.26. The inclusion of a census supplementary module on food security is an important initiative in WCA 2010. This could provide direct measures of household food security, such as whether the household faced food shortages, when the food shortages occurred, reasons for the food shortages, and the effects on household eating patterns. Anthropometric data for children would enable the effects of food insecurity on nutritional status to be directly measured. This would also be invaluable for examining the nutritional status of children in relation to other data collected in the agricultural census, such as purpose of production, land tenure and type of crops grown. This would help answer questions such as whether subsistence farmers, or farmers not owning their own land, are more prone to be food insecure

Measuring the role of women in agriculture

2.27. Goal 3 of the MDGs acknowledges the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women as key elements in advancing social and economic progress. Women are often disadvantaged because of discriminatory social norms and legal institutions, and this may be reflected in disparities in literacy, educational opportunities, participation in the labour market, and the allocation of work on the family farm. The agricultural census has an important role to play in providing gender data related to agriculture to help monitor progress towards achieving gender equality goals. Efforts have been made to bring a greater gender perspective to WCA 2010 to help in addressing these issues

2.28. The contribution of women to agricultural development is often not well-understood because of the lack of data and the problems in accurately measuring women's involvement in agricultural production activities. The agricultural census can be an important vehicle for studying the social and cultural patterns of agricultural and rural development as they relate to women, the distribution of agricultural work within households, and the interactions between different household members in the management and operation of agricultural holdings. For more on gender issues in agricultural censuses, refer to Agricultural Censuses and Gender Considerations: Concepts and Methodology (FAO, 1999)

2.29. The identification of the agricultural holder provides the basis for comparing the characteristics of holdings operated by men and women. Analysing aspects such as area of holding, cropping patterns, and use of different agricultural practices can help to focus on the problems faced by women in operating agricultural holdings. In WCA 2010, the concept of agricultural holder has been modified to recognize that the agricultural holder could be a group of persons - for example, a husband and wife. This should better reflect the realities of farm management practices, especially related to the role of women. The agricultural holder concept is often difficult to apply because of a gender bias in the reporting of data; in WCA 2010, countries are strongly urged to address this issue in the design of questionnaires, development of field procedures, training of field staff, and management of the data collection operation

2.30. Data on the economic activity of each household member can be used to study the division of labour within households and the responsibilities of women for work on and off the holding. Data such as the employment characteristics of women, and the time worked during a twelve-month reference period in her main job, on the holding, and in all other jobs, can be of particular interest. The problems in collecting accurate employment-related data, especially for women in rural areas, have been acknowledged in WCA 2010, and improved guidelines for the collection of these data have been provided

2.31. Data on sub-holdings and sub-holders, introduced for the first time in WCA 2010, enables the specific crop and livestock activities undertaken under the operational/management responsibility of women to be analysed. For example, if women tend to be responsible for managing livestock, the census would provide information on the number of women performing this role, their demographic characteristics, main occupation, the time they spend in work on and off the holding, and the type of livestock they manage. The division of managerial responsibility in the household can also be studied - for example, how many sub-holders there are and who are they - and the role of women in decision-making can be assessed

Agricultural planning and policy-making1

1The remaining sections of this chapter have drawn heavily on material presented in Looking into Agricultural Statistics: Experiences from Asia and Pacific(Colwell, 1977).

2.32. As highlighted in paragraph 2.4, an agricultural census provides the opportunity to analyse the characteristics of agricultural holdings and their agricultural production activities, as an aid to helping the government and others in effective planning and policy-making

2.33. The use of the agricultural census for policy-making and planning in relation to poverty and gender issues has already been noted in previous sections. Other examples of planning and policy issues that can be analysed using the agricultural census are:

-   Study of a specific crop. Census tables specific to agricultural holdings with the particular crop - for example, coffee - can be used to measure the number and location of coffee growers, the distribution of coffee growers by plantation area, cropping systems used by coffee growers, labour requirements for coffee growing, etc

-   Study of a specific livestock production system. Census tables specific to agricultural holdings with the particular livestock type - for example, sheep - can be used to measure the number and location of sheep producers, the distribution of sheep producers by flock size, the integration of sheep raising with cropping activities, etc

-   Structure of agriculture in a particular area. Census tables relating to the particular geographic area, such as a district, can highlight the main crops grown and livestock raised in the district, the agricultural practices used in the district in comparison with other districts, employment characteristics in the district, etc

-   Inter-relationship between crop and livestock production. Census tables can be prepared showing the number of holdings with specific combinations of crop and livestock types

-   Sources of farm labour. Census tables can be prepared to show the types of farm labour inputs for specific farming systems and the role of household and outside labour

-   Farm typology studies. The agricultural census can be useful for classifying holdings by type, as an aid to developing agricultural development policies. For example, holdings can be sub-divided into whether they are subsistence or market oriented, and different policies and programmes can be developed for each group

-   Studies of small holdings. See Box 2.1

2.34. Agricultural census data are suitable for in-depth agricultural research in support of planning and policy-making, involving the use of specialized statistical methods such as correlation and regression analysis. Using these techniques, it is possible to quantify the relationships between different characteristics, to better understand the reasons why farmers make certain decisions, and their likely response to particular policy actions. Agricultural censuses often provide the only way to do this type of analysis due to the availability of individual holding data. For example, regression techniques could be used to study the relationship between good agricultural practices and characteristics such as household size, holder's age, holder's education, and access to extension services, to understand the main factors affecting agricultural practices. The analysis might show that, for example, good agricultural practices are not strongly related to whether the holding used extension services, suggesting the need for strengthening the extension services

Improving current agricultural statistics

2.35. A decennial agricultural census cannot be used as a source of current agricultural statistics because it is does not provide data frequently enough. However, the agricultural census can provide reliable current data relating to crop and livestock production for the census year, and this can be useful as a benchmark for improving current crop and livestock statistics. The inclusion of crop production data in the programme for the first time is a considerable help in this regard

Box 2.1: Use of the agricultural census to study small holdings - an example
In many countries, farm sizes have been declining in the face of high population growth and shortages of land, raising questions about the viability and efficiency of small holdings and the need for government programmes to assist small farmers. Data from an agricultural census can be used to study small holdings. This can be done by preparing census tabulations classified by area of holding to enable the characteristics of small holdings to be analysed in relation to other holdings.
Some issues that could be examined using agricultural census data are shown below.
 Study of small holdings: issues highlighted by the agricultural census 
 IssueAgricultural census data 
 1.How have farm sizes changed over time?Number of holdings, area of holdings, average size of holding, number of parcels - for present and past agricultural censuses. 
 2.How many small farms are there and where are they?Number of holdings classified by area of holding (e.g., less than 0.50 ha, 0.50–0.99 ha, etc.) and geographic area (e.g., district). 
 3.How equitable is the land distribution?Percentage of holdings in each area of holding group and percentage of farm area in those groups. 
 4.Are small farms cultivated more intensively than large farms?Average cultivation intensity for each area of holding group, number of holdings classified by area of holding and cultivation intensity (e.g., under 1.00, 1.00–1.49, etc.). 
 5.Are agricultural practices on large farms better than on small farms?Number of holdings classified by area of holding and use of specific farm practices, such as farm machinery, improved seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, etc. 
 6.How many households do not have sufficient land to support themselves?Number of holdings classified by area of holding and household size. 
 7.To what extent do households on small farms rely on outside work to supplement farm income?Number of holdings classified by area of holding and economic activity of household members on and off the holding. 
 8.What role does livestock play in supplementing the farm income on small farms?Number of holdings classified by area of holding and whether the holding has each type of livestock. 
 Source: Colwell, 1997. 
The above analysis would help to highlight the problems faced by small holdings and suggest ways in which those problems could be overcome. For example, the census tabulations might show that small holdings use less fertilizer than large holdings, especially in certain provinces. This might suggest the need for some support to be provided in those provinces to help improve the productivity of small holdings.
The census can also be used to cost different policy options. For example, if the government is considering providing fertilizer to each small holding in certain provinces, this proposal could be costed using data from the agricultural census, by estimating how many small holdings would be entitled to this benefit.

2.36. For crops, the agricultural census usually provides the most reliable data available on the area and production of each crop at each administrative level for the census reference year. This is especially the case for minor crops, where the current statistics are often weak. The census data could provide a base for estimating crop area and production in the following years. For example, the current crop area could be obtained by estimating the change in the crop area since the census reference year

2.37. Current statistics on permanent crops are often weak because of data collection difficulties, especially for trees not grown in plantations. Census data on production can provide benchmark production figures. Data on the number of productive and non-productive trees can be used to project future production trends

2.38. Current livestock production statistics are often weak because of the lack of data on herd structures. The agricultural census can help in this regard. Census data on livestock numbers by age, sex and purpose, together with data on the population dynamics of livestock herds such as take-off and reproductive rates, can provide a base for projecting livestock numbers in future years for use in estimating milk and meat production

2.39. Often, countries find it difficult to reconcile crop or livestock data from the agricultural census with the current agricultural statistics obtained from sample surveys or administrative collections. Sometimes, there are good statistical reasons for differences in the statistics. The geographic area covered by either collection may be incomplete, such as urban areas being excluded. Certain types of holdings, such as small holdings, may be omitted from one or the other collection. Concepts and definitions may be different; for example, in the treatment of mixed cropping. There could be inconsistencies in the reference periods or in the definition of crop seasons. Sub-national data may be inconsistent because the agricultural census collects data on the basis of where the holder lives, not where the land or livestock are located. If sampling is involved, the sample results will not be exact because of sampling errors. Countries should seek to quantify these and any other statistical factors to explain the reasons for discrepancies in the data

2.40. In the end, discrepancies between data from the agricultural census and the current statistics may come down to differences in the data collection methodology and the quality of data associated with each data source. This especially applies where the current agricultural statistics are based on administrative reports. Often, an agricultural census provides the only source of statistically sound data, and countries should take advantage of the opportunity provided by the census to improve the current agricultural statistics

Providing baseline data for monitoring agricultural development projects

2.41. Typically, an agricultural development project aims to achieve certain outcomes in a defined project area. Baseline data are needed to help assess whether the project has been successful. An agricultural census provides detailed structural data for small geographic areas, making it an ideal source of baseline data

2.42. Agricultural censuses can be tabulated for any defined geographic area or for any particular group of holdings, which means that it can provide data for any required target group for a project. For example, if a project is designed to improve coffee growing in a particular project area, census tables can be prepared showing data for coffee growers in that specific area

Providing data for the private sector

2.43. As well as providing data for government planning and policy-making, an agricultural census is also a valuable source of data for the private sector. The main interest for the private sector is usually in data to help make commercial decisions. A food processing company could use agricultural census data on the number of growers and area for specific crops in each district to help identify suitable sites for its processing plants. An input supplier could use census data on input use for each crop by district to better understand market opportunities. Farm machinery suppliers could make use of data on the area of each type of crop grown and the number of growers to assess the potential demand for their products. A company planning to establish a business in a particular location could use census data to assess the availability of labour and the pool of skills available in that location



This chapter discusses some important methodological issues to be considered in the development of a census of agriculture. The timing and objectives are reviewed, and the scope of the census is discussed. The concepts of agricultural holding and agricultural holder are reviewed and two new items, the sub-holding and the sub-holder, introduced. Options for the frame for the census of agriculture and the use of complete or sample enumeration are discussed. The steps involved in developing and undertaking an agricultural census are also summarized.

Timing of the census of agriculture

3.1. WCA 2010 covers the ten-year period 2006–2015. Countries are encouraged to carry out their agricultural census as close as possible to the year 2010, to help to make international comparisons more meaningful, while recognising that the timing of a country's census is determined by many factors, including administrative and financial considerations

3.2. In particular, Countries should take into consideration the timing implications imposed by the population census, especially where the two censuses are to be coordinated. In the population census programme, it is recommended that countries undertake their censuses in years ending in “0” or as near to those years as possible. Many countries adhere to that recommendation. There are many advantages in running the agricultural census at the same time as, or soon after, the population census, especially as agriculture related data and field materials will still be current

Objectives of the census of agriculture

3.3. In the past, the census of agriculture has aimed to provide data on the structure of agricultural holdings, with attention given to providing data for small administrative units and other detailed cross-tabulations of structural characteristics. Agricultural censuses have also been used to provide benchmarks to improve current crop and livestock statistics and to provide sampling frames for agricultural sample surveys. Previous agricultural censuses have focused on the activities of agricultural production units; that is, households or other units operating land or keeping livestock. They have not been seen as censuses of rural households

3.4. Since agricultural censuses are undertaken only every ten years, it is natural to associate them with those aspects of agriculture that that change relatively slowly over time. Thus, agricultural censuses are mainly concerned with data on the basic organizational structure of agricultural holdings, such as farm size, land use, crop areas, livestock numbers and use of machinery. Agricultural censuses have not normally included data that change from year to year, such as agricultural production or agricultural prices

3.5. The basic objectives of the census of agriculture have remained relevant over the past few agricultural census rounds. One development since the 2000 agricultural census programme has been the MDG framework for sustainable economic development (see paragraphs 2.5–2.6). Countries are giving increasing emphasis to monitoring progress towards the MDGs, and the agricultural census is seen as an important source of data for this purpose. There has also been more focus on poverty alleviation. An additional objective has been included to reflect this emphasis. For WCA 2010, the objectives of the agricultural census are:

  1. To provide data on the structure of agriculture, especially for small administrative units, and to enable detailed cross-tabulations

  2. To provide data to use as benchmarks for current agricultural statistics

  3. To provide frames for agricultural sample surveys

  4. To provide data to help monitor progress towards global development targets, in particular the MDGs

Scope and coverage of the census of agriculture1

1 In WCA 2010, the word “scope” refers to the target group of units for the agricultural census. “Coverage” refers to the extent to which certain units, such as small holdings, are omitted. In previous programmes, the word “scope” referred to the data items included in the census.

3.6. Broadly speaking, an agricultural census aims to measure the structure of the agricultural production industry. The scope of the agricultural production industry could be interpreted very broadly to cover not only crop and livestock production activities, but also forestry and fisheries production activities, as well as other food and agriculture related activities. Past agricultural census programmes have taken a narrow view of agriculture by focusing only on those units engaged in the production of crop and livestock products. Units engaged in forestry or fisheries were not covered unless they also had some crop or livestock production activities

3.7. For the 2010 round of agricultural censuses, it is recommended that the scope of the agricultural census remains the same as in previous programmes. However, it is recognized that aquaculture is becoming increasingly important in many parts of the world, and countries are encouraged to conduct an aquacultural census in conjunction with the agricultural census, where there is a need for aquacultural data. Further information on the aquacultural census is given in Chapter 7

3.8. International statistical standards for defining areas of economic activity are given in the International Standard Industrial Classification of all Economic Activities (ISIC) (UN, 2004b). For more information on ISIC, see Appendix 1. The scope of an agricultural census may be defined under ISIC (Rev. 3.1) as follows:

-   Group 011: Growing of crops; market gardening; horticulture

-   Group 012: Farming of animals

-   Group 013: Growing of crops combined with farming of animals (mixed farming)

3.9. Ideally, an agricultural census should cover all agricultural activity in a country according to the above ISIC groupings. In the past, many countries have applied a minimum size limit for inclusion of units in the census or excluded certain areas such as urban centres. This is justified on the grounds that there are usually a large number of very small holdings making little contribution to total agricultural production and it is not cost-effective to include them in the agricultural census. However in many countries, small-scale agriculture makes a significant contribution to household food supplies and is often an important source of supplementary household income. In some countries, almost all households have some own-account agricultural production activities, such as keeping a few chickens or having a small kitchen garden. The inclusion of small holdings is also important to reflect women's participation in agricultural work

3.10. Various criteria may be used to establish minimum size limits, such as: area of holding, area of arable land, area of temporary crops, number of livestock, number of livestock over a certain age, quantity of output produced, value of agricultural production, quantity of labour used, and quantity of produce sold. Sometimes, the scope of the agricultural census is restricted to commercial agricultural activities, omitting households with a small area of crops used solely for home consumption. Minimum size limits are often difficult to apply. For livestock numbers, one needs to have complex criteria involving numbers of each type of livestock. For example, one may wish to omit households with less than 20 chickens or with less than three pigs, but what if a household has 18 chickens and two pigs? Setting a minimum value of agricultural production is difficult to apply, especially where a large part of the agricultural output is for the household's own consumption

3.11. An alternative to minimum size limits is to cover all units regardless of size, but ask only some very limited questions for small units. This is easy to do where, as is often the case, the frame for an agricultural census is a list of households and some initial questions are needed to screen out those who are not agricultural holdings. Here, the following approach could be used:

-   First, ask questions about crops and livestock needed to identify all agricultural production units, regardless of size. Collect some basic information for those units

-   Second, ask some additional questions to identify those agricultural production units above the minimum size limit. Proceed to ask the more detailed questions for those units

3.12. Sometimes, countries omit certain areas of the country or certain types of agricultural activity - such as remote areas or areas with security problems - for operational reasons. Countries should decide on any out-of-scope areas according to local conditions, making sure that the usefulness of the census is not jeopardized. For example, omitting remote desert regions may result in missing important livestock resources, such as in nomadic areas. Sometimes, it might be appropriate to cover only the household sector, if it is dominant in agriculture. Often, agricultural activities of the military are excluded; sometimes, schools and religious organizations are also omitted

3.13. Usually, it is not possible to cover all agricultural activity in an agricultural census for one reason or another. In planning the agricultural census, countries should be realistic about what can be done within available budgets and staff resources, and ensure that what is done is done well

3.14. It should be recognized that, in an integrated agricultural statistics system, any exclusions from the agricultural census affects not only the results of the agricultural census, but also the surveys that are conducted based on the agricultural census. Thus, an agricultural production survey based on an agricultural census frame will not cover the census out-of-scope units, and agricultural production estimates from the survey will be affected accordingly

3.15. Countries should clearly specify the scope in the presentation of agricultural census results. Where certain geographic areas or types of agricultural activity are excluded, this should be highlighted in the census reports to help users interpret and analyse the results

Content of the census of agriculture

3.16. The modular approach for the census of agriculture envisages a core census module based on complete enumeration to collect key data, and a series of sample-based supplementary modules to collect more in-depth data. A list of recommended core items is shown in Chapter 4, along with a list of optional items for inclusion in the supplementary modules, as required. Items have been selected as being suitable for the core module on the basis of the following criteria:

-   The items are the key items needed for agricultural policy-making and planning

-   Data for the items are required to be produced for small administrative units such as districts or villages, or in the form of detailed cross-tabulations. Such data could not be provided from an agricultural sample survey because of high sampling errors

-   The data involve the measurement of rare events, such as unusual crops or livestock, which would not be possible to estimate from a sample survey because of high sampling errors

-   The data are required to establish sampling frames

-   The data are required to make international comparisons

3.17. In developing its census of agriculture, a country should include in the core census module all the recommended census core items, plus additional items from the list of supplementary items according to national requirements

3.18. One reason a country might include additional items in the core module is because detailed geographic data are needed. For example, if livestock numbers by age and sex are needed at the district or village level, these items may need to be included in the core module, rather than a supplementary module. Countries should carefully consider the suitability of each item for the core census module and the costs involved. For example, education data are of interest in an agricultural census to broadly analyse the relationship between education and farm characteristics, not to measure education levels as in a population census, and this item is therefore better suited to a supplementary module

3.19. Another possible reason to include additional items in the core census module is to provide data to help create sampling frames for the census supplementary modules and for the programme of agricultural surveys. Where possible, countries should plan their agricultural survey programme prior to the agricultural census to ensure that the census can be designed to meet the sampling frame needs. For example, if an in-depth fertilizer survey was to be conducted, a fertilizer usage item could be included in the core census module for sampling frame purposes

3.20. Countries should carry out one or more census supplementary modules according to the national requirements, based on the list of items provided. Additional items may be added as required. Several modules may be combined into a single survey

3.21. Some further issues for consideration in deciding on the content of the agricultural census are:

-   The data needs of agricultural policy-makers and planners. The agricultural census should be developed specifically to meet the needs of agricultural policy-makers and planners. Data requirements will be different in each country, depending on the policy issues and priorities

-   The suitability of the census vehicle for the collection of the data required. An agricultural census is intended to collect structural data and the items included should focus primarily on those types of data. Operational data are usually not suited to an agricultural census. Items requiring in-depth questions, such as cost of production, are also best collected in other agricultural surveys

-   The technical, operational and financial resources available to undertake the census. Conducting censuses is not only costly but also requires considerable human resources for the development, data collection and data processing. Countries need to balance the need for data against the resources available. The ability to produce timely data is an important issue

-   The willingness and ability of the public to supply the information required. Care is needed in the selection of items and the design of questionnaires to ensure that reliable data can be collected from respondents. Some items may be sensitive because of cultural or economic reasons - for example, respondents are sometimes reluctant to supply land data because they fear it may have taxation consequences

-   The data collected in previous rounds of the agricultural census. Collecting the same data as in past censuses can be valuable in tracking changes in the structure of agriculture over time. However, items should not be automatically carried over from one census to the next without reviewing their continuing relevance to current data needs and the suitability of the concepts and definitions used

-   The need for data for international comparisons. The 16 recommended core items will provide the basis for FAO to make a global assessment of agricultural holdings. FAO recommends that all countries collect these items so that international comparisons can be made

Statistical unit

3.22. The statistical unit for a data collection is the basic unit for which data are collected. In previous agricultural census programmes, the statistical unit used has been the agricultural holding and this is used again in WCA 2010

3.23. The definition of an agricultural holding remains the same as in previous programmes; that is:

“An agricultural holding is an economic unit of agricultural production under single management comprising all livestock kept and all land used wholly or partly for agricultural production purposes, without regard to title, legal form, or size. Single management may be exercised by an individual or household, jointly by two or more individuals or households, by a clan or tribe, or by a juridical person such as a corporation, cooperative or government agency. The holding's land may consist of one or more parcels, located in one or more separate areas or in one or more territorial or administrative divisions, providing the parcels share the same production means, such as labour, farm buildings, machinery or draught animals.”

3.24. For information on the relationship between an agricultural holding and the national accounting framework, refer to Appendix 1

3.25. There are two types of agricultural holdings: (i) holdings in the household sector - that is, those operated by household members; and (ii) holdings in the non-household sector, such as corporations and government institutions. In most countries, the majority of agricultural production is in the household sector. The concept of “agricultural holding” is therefore closely related to the concept of “household”

3.26. The household is one of the basic elements of a national statistics system and standards for defining a household have been laid down by the United Nations in its guidelines for population and housing censuses as follows:

“The concept of household is based on the arrangements made by persons, individually or in groups, for providing themselves with food or other essentials for living. A household may be either (a) a one-person household, that is to say, a person who makes provision for his or her own food or other essentials for living without combining with any other person to form part of a multi-person household, or (b) a multi-person household, that is to say, a group of two or more persons living together who make common provision for food or other essentials for living. The persons in the group may pool their incomes and may, to a greater or lesser extent, have a common budget; they may be related or unrelated persons or constitute a combination of persons both related and unrelated” (UN, 1998, paragraph 1.324)

3.27. A household may occupy the whole of a dwelling, part of a dwelling, or more than one dwelling. There may be more than one household living in a dwelling. Some households consist of extended families making common provision for food and may occupy more than one dwelling. In other cases, different family units live in separate dwellings, but have a common head, such as in polygamous unions. Some households live in camps, boarding houses or hotels, or as administrative personnel in institutions. They may also be homeless. Often, the concept of a “family” is more readily understood than a “household”, but it is not the same thing; a family may include people living in other households in other places

3.28. For the household sector, there is usually a one-to-one correspondence between an agricultural holding and a household with own-account agricultural production activities; in other words, all the own-account agricultural production activities by members of a given household are usually undertaken under single management. Managing agricultural production activities usually goes hand-in-hand with making common arrangements for food and other essentials, pooling incomes, and having a common budget. It is unusual for different household members to operate agricultural land or livestock completely independently, but pool incomes. It is also unusual for household members to operate land or livestock as a single unit, but to have independent household budgets. Even if there is a degree of independence in the agricultural activities of individual household members, the income or produce generated by different household members is usually pooled. Often, different members of the same household own land, but usually the agricultural operations in the household are carried out as a single unit

3.29. There are two special cases where the agricultural holding and household concepts may diverge:

-   If there are two or more units making up a household, such as where a married couple lives in the same dwelling as their parents, the two units may operate land independently but, as members of the same household, they make common arrangements for food and pool incomes

-   A household may operate land or keep livestock jointly with another household or group of households. Here, there are two agricultural holding units associated with the household: (i) the agricultural production activities of the individual household itself; and (ii) the joint agricultural operations with the other household(s)

3.30. In the past, some countries have found it difficult to strictly apply the agricultural holding concept in the agricultural census and, instead, have defined the agricultural holding to be equivalent to a household with own-account agricultural production. Usually, there is little difference between an agricultural holding and a household with own-account agricultural production. Equating the agricultural holding and household units has several benefits:

-   The identification of the holding in the agricultural census would be simplified; it would no longer be necessary to find out about the management of the household's own-account agricultural production activities

-   It would bring the concept of agricultural holding into line with the practice already used in previous agricultural censuses in many countries

-   The use of a common statistical unit - the household - would enable the agricultural census to be more easily linked to the population census

-   It would facilitate the analysis of household characteristics

-   If the scope of the agricultural census was expanded to also include other households not engaged in own-account agricultural production, there would be a common unit between agricultural production units and other households

3.31. Countries should consider the advantages of defining the agricultural holding unit in this way, taking account of operational considerations and the issues mentioned above. The definition of the holding should be clearly stated in the presentation of census results to help in the interpretation of data

3.32. Care is needed in defining the statistical unit for the non-household sector. Corporations and government institutions may have complex structures, in which different activities are undertaken by different parts of the organization. The national accounting concept of establishment should be used (see Appendix 1), where an establishment is an economic unit engaged in one main productive activity operating in a single location

3.33. One problem with the definition of an agricultural holding is that a single holding may have land parcels in more than one village, district or province. This sometimes creates anomalies in the census results. The holding definition refers to the different parcels making up the holding “sharing the same production means, such as labour, farm buildings, machinery or draught animals”. Thus, parcels of land a few hundred kilometres apart should not be considered part of the same holding because they cannot share the same inputs. Countries should review the application of the definition to their local conditions. Some countries may wish to define a holding as being within a single administrative unit such as a district or province

3.34. The following additional points relate to the identification of an agricultural holding:

-   Agricultural holdings may have no significant land area; for example, poultry hatcheries or holdings keeping livestock for which land is not an indispensable input for production

-   Agricultural holdings may be operated by persons who do not have any rights to agricultural use of the land except for the products of the trees grown on it (tree holdings)

-   If a member of a cooperative, religious organization, government agency, clan or tribe is assigned a separate unit for agricultural production that is operated under the member's management, and over which the member has general, technical and economic responsibility, then this unit represents a holding

-   Open rangeland (such as land open to communal grazing) is not normally considered a holding. A specified area delimited by fencing, or any other form of boundary demarcation may be an exception

3.35. Normally, an agricultural holding is defined according to whether the unit is an agricultural production unit at the time of the agricultural census. However, there are some special cases for holdings in the household sector

-   If a household sold all its land and livestock during the census reference year, it is no longer an agricultural production unit and therefore does not represent an agricultural holding. The household that is operating the land and livestock at the time of the census represents the agricultural holding and, moreover, should report all crop and livestock activities during the reference year, including activities carried out prior to the sale. This can be difficult to apply

-   If a household leases land to grow crops in a particular season, but the census is undertaken in a different season, the household should be considered as an agricultural holding, even though it is not engaged in agricultural production activities at the time of the census. Here, the household should report crop activities during the reference year in the normal way

-   Sometimes, a household owning a piece of land may operate the land itself during the summer season, but rent it out to another household to cultivate during the winter season. Here, the piece of land should be reported as part of the area of holding for both households. This results in some double counting of land

Agricultural holder

3.36. The agricultural holder is defined as the person who makes the major decisions regarding resource use and exercises management control over the agricultural holding operation. The agricultural holder has technical and economic responsibility for the holding and may undertake all responsibilities directly, or delegate responsibilities related to day-to-day work management to a hired manager

3.37. By definition, the agricultural holding is under single management, and therefore there cannot be more than one agricultural holder for an agricultural holding. However, there may be more than one joint holder in a holding. A joint holder is a person making the major decisions regarding resource use and exercising management control over the agricultural holding operations, in conjunction with another person. A joint holder can be from within the same household or from a different household

3.38. The concept of an agricultural holder is often difficult to apply because of the complex decision-making processes on the holding. Often, a holding is managed jointly by members of the household, such as a husband and wife. If there is one person making the major decisions, he/she should be defined as the holder. If more than one person is involved in major decision-making, each of those persons should be considered as a joint holder. If there are two quite distinct agricultural management units in a household, the household should be split into two agricultural holdings (see also sub-holding and sub-holder concepts 3.43–3.53 below)

3.39. The concept of agricultural holder is normally only applied to agricultural holdings in single-holding households. Agricultural holders can be identified for other types of holdings, but the data are not useful for census analysis. The agricultural holder is often, but not always, the household head. The agricultural holder may do other work in addition to being a holder; being a “farmer” may not even be his/her main occupation. A distinction should be made between an agricultural holder and a hired manager; a hired manager is a paid employee who manages an agricultural holding on behalf of the agricultural holder

3.40. Some countries may wish to provide more detailed information on the management of the holding. The sub-holding and sub-holder concepts have been introduced in WCA 2010 to reflect this need. For more information, see paragraphs 3.42–3.52

3.41. Countries need to carefully consider how best to collect agricultural holder information in the agricultural census. Care is needed to differentiate between the household head and the agricultural holder; often, cultural factors influence who is determined to be the household head - sometimes, it is the oldest male - and that person may not be actively involved in the household's agricultural operations. Often, a single question on who is the main decision-maker for the holding is insufficient, and it may be necessary to ask a series of questions about each household member, their work on the holding, and their role in managing the holding. Special attention needs to be given to ensuring that the role of women is adequately acknowledged in identifying the agricultural holder. As with all data collection, questionnaires must be carefully designed and tested, and enumerators well trained and closely supervised

Sub-holding and sub-holder

3.42. The concept of an agricultural holder as the major decision-maker for the holding may not provide a realistic picture of the often complex decision-making processes of the holding. Often, different members of the household take responsibility for managing particular aspects of the operations of the holding. Sometimes, women carry out specific activities such as cultivating particular land plots or managing particular livestock activities. There may also be different levels of management; for example, one person may make the strategic decisions (“this year we plant potatoes”), while other people are responsible for operational decisions such as when to plant, who to employ, and how to market

3.43. Some countries may feel that the concept of agricultural holder alone does not adequately reflect the management of the holding, and, in particular, fails to recognize the role of women in managing agricultural activities. To overcome this problem, the concepts of “sub-holding” and the associated “sub-holder” have been introduced in WCA 2010

3.44. A sub-holding is defined as a single agricultural activity or group of activities managed by a particular person or group of persons in the holder's household on behalf of the agricultural holder. There may be one or more than one sub-holding in a holding. A sub-holding could comprise a single plot, a whole field, a whole parcel, or even the whole holding. A sub-holding could also be a livestock operation associated with a plot, field or parcel, or a livestock operation without any land

3.45. A sub-holder is a person responsible for managing a sub-holding on the holder's behalf. There is only one sub-holder in a sub-holding, but there may be more than one sub-holder in a holding. The holder may or may not be a sub-holder. The sub-holder concept is broadly similar to the concepts of “plot manager” and “farm operator” used in some countries

3.46. A typical situation is where the holder is designated as a male and takes prime responsibility, as a sub-holder, for growing the primary crops. The holder's wife may be a second sub-holder, with specific responsibility for managing, for example, the kitchen garden. Other household members could also be sub-holders with specific responsibilities on the holding, such as livestock

3.47. The same piece of land could be part of two sub-holdings - for example, if one person grows rice on the land in the summer and another grows vegetables on the land in the winter. The association of livestock with land needs to be carefully considered. A person responsible for cattle on the holding's grazing land is the manager of that grazing land, whereas someone managing livestock in communal land would not be specifically managing a piece of land associated with the livestock

3.48. In an agricultural census, interest often centres on identifying the specific crops grown or livestock raised by sub-holders, and these items are included in the agricultural census as supplementary Items 1213 and 1214. For these data to be meaningful, the sub-holding must consist of activities related to specific crops grown or specific livestock raised by the sub-holder. The sub-holding concept makes no provision for one person being responsible for crop planting and another for crop harvesting

3.49. The use of the sub-holding/sub-holder concepts could provide a better way of identifying the agricultural holder. Rather than identifying the holder directly, each sub-holder could first be identified and this information used to determine the primary decision-maker on the holding

3.50. The sub-holding/sub-holder concepts are complex, involving notions of management, decision-making and delegation of authority. They will not be suitable for all countries. However, countries wishing to bring a gender perspective to the agricultural census will find these concepts provide a useful basis for measuring the role of women in agriculture. The two concepts are very broad and countries will be able to adapt them to fit national circumstances and data requirements

3.51. Countries will need to put considerable effort into developing suitable data collection methods and questions to identify sub-holdings and sub-holders in the agricultural census. The approach used by a country will depend on national agricultural practices and social and cultural conditions, taking into consideration the data collection methodology used for the rest of the agricultural census. Usually, a series of questions about each household member will be needed, to find out about the types of work each carried out on the holding and their role in managing agricultural production activities

3.52. Data on sub-holdings and sub-holders are recommended for inclusion in the supplementary component of the agricultural census under Category 12: Management of the holding

Agricultural census frame

3.53. In a statistical collection, the frame is the means by which the statistical units to be enumerated in the collection are identified; in this case, agricultural holdings. An ideal frame would be a list of all agricultural holdings, identifying each unit without omissions or duplications and without any units other than agricultural holdings. Such a list could be obtained through a population census, a farm register, or another source

3.54. Where a farm register exists, it can be a good frame for an agricultural census provided it is regularly updated to remove units that cease to operate as holdings and to add new holdings. Usually, a register contains some basic information about each unit, such as some sort of size measure, which is updated periodically. Farm registers can be created in different ways. Sometimes, they are initially created at the time of an agricultural census and regularly updated thereafter using information from various sources

3.55. For non-household agricultural holdings, frames may exist in the form of records from government regulatory agencies. Most countries have a business registration or licensing system. Membership information from industry associations may also be useful. Such frames can also be created by asking local officials to provide lists of agricultural units in their area of responsibility

3.56. One problem with frames based on farm registers is that they are often established for administrative purposes and therefore may not be compatible with statistical needs. The unit on the register often does not correspond with the agricultural holding unit for the agricultural census. For example, the register may be based on cadastral or other land records where each parcel of land is identified, rather than the holding unit. Also, registers are usually based on land ownership, which is not always suitable to an agricultural census because several people in a household may own land separately. Also, the land owner is not the land operator if the land is rented out. Frames based on business registration or licensing procedures are not always suitable as they represent what the business is licensed to do, not what they actually do

3.57. Another type of frame for the household sector of an agricultural census is one created from the population census as a one-time exercise, without it being kept up-to-date or maintained as a farm register afterwards. The population census could include additional questions on agriculture to help identify agricultural holdings for the agricultural census (see paragraphs 6.18–6.27). Alternatively, the identification of agricultural holdings in the household sector could be carried out as part of the cartographic work or pre-census listing exercise. For such a frame to be useful, the agricultural census would need to be undertaken as soon as possible after the population census to ensure that the list of agricultural holdings is accurate

3.58. Another consideration with frames based on the population census is the statistical unit. Even if additional questions on agriculture are included in the population census or pre-census listing exercise, the frame would typically identify households engaged in own-account agricultural production, not agricultural holdings. Such frames may still be useful for enumeration of the agricultural census as follows: (i) contact each household with own-account agricultural production for the agricultural census; (ii) ask each household with own-account agricultural production about the management of agricultural activities in the household to identify each agricultural holding; and (iii) enumerate all agricultural holdings for the agricultural census

3.59. Even a list of all households from the population census can provide a useful frame for an agricultural census, as follows: (i) contact each household for the agricultural census; (ii) ask each household about the household's own-account agricultural production activities and the management of agricultural activities in the household, to identify each agricultural holding; and (iii) enumerate all agricultural holdings for the agricultural census

3.60. Where a frame of agricultural holdings, households with own-account agricultural production, or households is unavailable from an existing farm register or the population census, it is usually not worthwhile creating a frame in this form just for the agricultural census. Instead, a different type of frame is used. First, the country is divided into suitable geographical units, called enumeration areas (EAs), covering the whole in-scope national territory. Then, each EA is visited to identify all agricultural holding units through interviews with local authorities or visits to each household. Population censuses are usually done using this type of frame and it is often possible for the agricultural census to piggyback onto the population census field system by using the same EAs and making use of maps and other field materials

3.61. An EA is a geographical unit of suitable size to organize the census data collection - typically, 50 to 100 households. An EA could correspond to existing administrative units, such as villages. Often, it is necessary to subdivide administrative units to form suitable sized units. This is done by examining existing maps and administrative records, with field inspection undertaken as required. Aerial photographs and satellite imagery can also be useful in forming EAs

3.62. Typically, a combination of frames is used for the agricultural census. Often, the household sector is enumerated based on the population census EA frame, whereas a frame of agricultural holdings in the non-household sector is obtained from administrative sources

3.63. Care is needed in establishing frames for the agricultural census to ensure that all agricultural production units are covered. If agricultural holdings are missing from the frame, they will not be enumerated in the agricultural census and the validity of the census results will be compromised. This is especially important in an integrated agricultural statistical system, as any weaknesses in the agricultural census frame will be reflected in all the surveys that follow

Complete and sample enumeration methods

3.64. From the start, agricultural censuses were intended to be censuses in the traditional statistical sense; that is, a complete enumeration of all agricultural holdings in a country. Complete enumeration collections are costly and difficult to manage in comparison to a sample survey. However, there have been several key reasons for using a complete enumeration approach for the collection of structural data in the agricultural census

3.65. First, data can be produced for small administrative units such as districts or villages. Such detailed data are usually not possible from sample surveys because the sample estimates at this level are based on small sample sizes and are therefore subject to high sampling errors

3.66. Second, a census enables more detailed cross-tabulations to be produced than is possible from a sample survey. For example, in a census, the number of holdings could be cross-tabulated by area of holding, household size and number of livestock; this level of detail may not be possible in a sample survey because of high sampling errors

3.67. Third, a census can measure rare events such as the area of rarely grown crops or the number of unusual types of livestock. In a sample survey, few of these cases would be picked in the sample and therefore the data would be subject to high sampling errors

3.68. In recent years, many countries have carried out the agricultural census using a sampling approach, and this has limited the amount of sub-national and other finely-classified data able to be produced. Usually, sample sizes have been large enough to retain many of the attributes of a full census providing district data, even if finer level data such as for villages could not be provided

3.69. WCA 2010 provides for a combination of complete enumeration and sample methods. Complete enumeration in the core census module is needed to provide the detailed data for the key items, as well as sampling frames. However, it is recognised that it may not be possible for some countries to use complete enumeration, even for a limited set of key items, and sampling methods may need to be employed

3.70. It is not possible to give specific recommendations on the required sample size for a sample-based core census module. Usually, the sample should be big enough to provide data down to the third level of administration - for example, at the national, province and district levels - and to provide suitable sampling frames. Other factors, such as the sample design, agricultural conditions in the country, the data content of the census, and the administrative structure of the country are also important. For example, if data are required for each of 100 districts, the sample size may need to be at least 25,000 holdings

3.71. It is expected that the sample sizes for the census supplementary modules will be relatively small, but will depend on data requirements and the factors mentioned in the previous paragraph

Agricultural census reference period

3.72. The census reference period is a period of twelve months, usually either a calendar year or an agricultural year, generally encompassing the various time reference dates or periods of data collection for individual census items. This reference period applies to both the core and supplementary modules of the agricultural census. Other agricultural surveys can be undertaken any time after the census

3.73. The reference period for agricultural census items varies according to the type of data. The reference periods are usually the day of enumeration (for inventory items) or a twelve-month reference period (for continuing activities). The agricultural year is usually the most suitable reference period because respondents find it easier to think of their agricultural activities in terms of seasonal activities

3.74. Sometimes, the agricultural census is carried out over an extended period of time, because of a shortage of enumerators or other field staff. Certain regions of a country may be enumerated at different times of the year because of seasonal and agricultural conditions. Countries need to establish suitable census reference periods to deal with these problems

Field organization of census core and supplementary modules

3.75. The core and supplementary module(s) can be implemented as part of a single data collection operation, with the enumerator interviewing each holder to collect data for both the core and supplementary census modules at the same time. This may be done using a single questionnaire or separate questionnaires for each module. Typically, the enumerator's job is to:

-   Collect data for the core census module

-   Apply specific sampling procedures, based on responses to the core census questions, to determine whether the holding is included in the supplementary module(s). A separate sampling scheme is used for each module. For example, with supplementary modules on aquaculture and livestock, the sampling procedures might require that, in certain pre-assigned sample EAs, each holding with aquaculture is included in the aquacultural module and each holding with livestock is included in the livestock module

-   If the holding is included in the sample for the supplementary module(s), proceed to ask the additional questions required for the supplementary module(s). Otherwise, the interview is finished

3.76. Alternatively, the core and supplementary module(s) can be done separately. Here, the core census is undertaken first, with the core questionnaires being returned to the office for use in selecting the sample for the supplementary modules. Enumerators then return to the field to carry out the census supplementary module(s). In cases where the supplementary modules are carried out over a period of time, some updating of the census frame may be necessary, in advance of the field work

Steps in developing an agricultural census

3.77. Information on how to develop and conduct an agricultural census is given in Conducting Agricultural Censuses and Surveys (FAO, 1996a). The basic steps are:

-   Determine the overall strategy for the agricultural census as part of the system of integrated agricultural censuses and surveys

-   Define the objectives of the agricultural census

-   Develop a work plan and budget for developing and carrying out the census

-   Prepare census legislation, if required

-   Form a National Census Committee to oversee the census

-   Develop and implement the census publicity campaign

-   Create the Agricultural Census Office and recruit the necessary staff

-   Prepare frames

-   Prepare maps for census field operations

-   Develop the tabulation plan

-   Design and test questionnaires

-   Design and test the computer processing system, including data entry, editing and tabulation

-   Prepare field instruction manuals

-   Develop the field system; recruit and train field staff

-   Census enumeration

-   Data processing

-   Undertake quality control checks on the data

-   Tabulate and analyse the data

-   Prepare census reports and disseminate results.

-   Reconcile the census data with the data from the system of current statistics.

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