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 as also the national statistics system. Detailed data on agricultural production and inputs are part of the system of agricultural statistics, called current statistics, and are collected through periodic agricultural surveys, often linked to agricultural census. The census also provides sampling frame to carry out ad hoc thematic surveys
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. Therefore, 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 2010 (WCA 2010) 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 2010 recommends countries, whenever possible, to coordinate their population census with agriculture census. 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.
To assist countries in the process of linking population and agriculture census, FAO has undertaken a detailed review of country practices on collecting agricultural data in Population Census and proposed a set of standard agriculture related questions that can be included in a Population Census. The results of this review are presented in the Related Readings on this page.