Accurate statistics on food and agriculture are critical for governments trying to understand this key economic sector and predict and plan its future. FAO has the world's largest collection of such statistics, which pour into the Organization's headquarters in Rome from many countries, having been collected in myriad ways and with varying levels of care. How does the Organization vouch for their accuracy?
An important FAO initiative -- the first of its kind -- now rates each country's data quality, giving it a green light for good, amber for "use with caution" or a red light for poor. The database, called ABCDQ, helps users evaluate data quality with background information such as the source of country data, for example, whether it is collected by census, sampling or from administrative records or even expert judgement. In addition to each country's collection methods, the database also contains an overview of which crops and livestock are covered, data formats and periodicity. Finally, contact names and details of government statisticians are provided so a determined researcher may contact the data owner directly to investigate further.
"The demand for agricultural statistics is enormous -- over 19 million records were downloaded from FAOSTAT, FAO's online statistical database, during last July alone," says Ted Gillin, who is in charge of basic agricultural data at FAO. "Our customers are not only governments but universities, students and the private sector."
"We are attempting with ABCDQ to grade the data, and we invite feedback on our ratings," he says. "Our purpose is to give data users all the background they need to weigh the quality and completeness of the numbers but also to encourage countries to improve their rating."
In a few months, FAO will turn over responsibility for updating ABCDQ to government ministries of agriculture and statistics offices in the countries themselves. Statisticians will access the database using a password and update their own numbers and background information -- and give themselves a green, amber or red light for quality. "We have faith in our member countries' ability to rate their own statistics fairly," says Mr Gillin. "And we are always here to assist governments in assessing their data-gathering activities."
28 January 2002
FAO Director General paid tribute to the late President of Senegal
The former President of the Republic of Senegal, Léopold Sedar Senghor, died on 20 December 2001 at the age of 95. He was a poet of international repute and Senegal's first President after independence from France in 1960, a post he held for 20 year. Click here for the tribute FAO Director General Jacques Diouf paid to the President Senghor on his 90th birthday (only available in French).
28 December 2001
FAO, partner for peace in Colombia
Over the next five years (2002-2007), FAO will support the Government of Colombia in implementing a US$60 million integrated rural development programme to foster the peace process in the country. The initial three-year phase is funded by the Governments of the Netherlands and Colombia.
"The road to peace in Colombia passes through its rural development," explains Jorge Rincón, FAO technical supervisor for the programme. "Rural families and small producers in Colombia face serious constraints. They have limited use of and access to land, limited access to services such as credit and technical assistance, limited access to social services and basic infrastructure, such as houses and electricity. Moreover, the ongoing conflict is causing internal displacements and increased cultivation of coca and opium poppies."
Cultivation of coca, used to make cocaine, and opium poppies has not only caused economic and social problems but also has led to deforestation, environmental damage and pollution, explains Mr. Rincón. Looking for alternatives to these crops is an important part of the Rural Development for Peace and Food Security Programme (PRODERPAZ).
As alternatives to coca, cultivated mainly in the Amazonian rain forest, the programme offers a number of options to farmers: relocation, reviving the cultivation of previously grown crops, fish farming, increased cattle raising and training in improved management of natural resources. Regarding the opium poppy, cultivated in mountain zones and in humid forests near high plateaux, the programme will encourage intensification and diversification of crops and better management of natural resources.
The programme will start out small. "As soon as we get good results and we manage to get more resources, more villages and small producers will join the programme," says Mr Rincón. "The following stage will take account of best practices and success stories and try to translate them into policies, programmes and investments, in order to create an environment conducive to peace, production, marketing and access to food."
Lessons learned from the programme will be used as a model to formulate, during a second stage, a national plan for agrarian reform. In addition, the programme includes actions to improve the access of small rural producers to technology, credit and management training.
FAO's Special Programme for Food Security in Colombia will act as a framework for a wide range of activities from water management to vegetable production, introduction of small animals and acquaculture to diversify production, and support to financial services and marketing of products.
27 December 2001
Groundwork 2001: "Act to reduce hunger" on the air
The show features some of the world-renowned musicians who participated in the week-long event in Seattle: REM, Alanis Morissette, Dave Matthews, Rahat Fateh Ali Kahn, Joe Strummer and Pearl Jam. The artists play, speak out against hunger and call for people's help. The television broadcast also features examples of small-scale farming and food production projects supported by Groundwork 2001 and FAO's TeleFood campaign to reduce world hunger.
"Real solutions to end hunger are within our reach," says singer Madonna. "As human beings, what more can we ever hope to do for one another?" She is the Honorary Chair of the Groundwork 2001 Advisory Committee, has made a significant donation to TeleFood and has, along with many other artists, donated a song for the Groundwork CD.
You can buy the CD (only from the US), view performance and backstage video clips from the concerts (after 14 December) and make a direct contribution in support of a permanent end to hunger on the Groundwork 2001 Web site: www.groundwork2001.org. The CD is also available at all Starbucks and Hear Music locations in North America.
Groundwork 2001 is being made possible in part by support from its primary contributor, Adobe Systems. Many other partners have also supported Groundwork 2001.
7 December 2001