FAO.org

Home > World Programme for the Census of Agriculture > Methodology
World Programme for the Census of Agriculture

Methodology of agricultural censuses

The scope of agricultural censuses can vary depending on the resources available, the importance of agriculture, the traditions in census organization and country priorities. Although the main aim of an agricultural census is to provide primary data on the structure of the agricultural sector, such as size of holdings, land use, land tenure, etc., which do not change quickly over time, it is important that it should be conceived as part of an integrated system of agricultural statistics.

Agricultural censuses and sample surveys

Many countries do not have sufficient resources for conducting a series of surveys and collect the most important data through a single survey called an agricultural census. Collecting census data on a sample basis had become an accepted practice by 1960 and makes it possible for countries lacking the resources required for a complete enumeration to carry out a census by enumeration of a large sample. There is now no clear distinction between agricultural censuses conducted on a complete enumeration basis and those conducted on a sample basis.

Relationship with population and other censuses

As the result of increasing integration within programmes of data collection, the relationship between the population and housing census and the agricultural census is now far closer than in the past, and countries are increasingly looking at new ways to strengthen this relationship. 

The FAO World Programme for Census of Agriculture recommends a modular approach to census and survey planning with a core module based on a complete enumeration of limited set of key items and sample based complementary and thematic surveys. In order to facilitate the implementation of this approach, the WCA recommends countries to coordinate their population census with agriculture census whenever possible. The WCA document highlights the technical and operational benefits of this strategy for agriculture census and provides guidelines on modalities for this coordination. This approach is in line with the Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics, and the UN Guidelines on Population and Housing Censuses.

World Programme of the Census of Agriculture 2020
Volume I: Programme, concepts and definitions

This publication provides guidance on agricultural censuses carried out by countries in the period between 2016 and 2025. The WCA 2020 will ensure that data collected are comparable at the international level while also addressing emerging information needs of the 21st century.