Have you sent anyone a Happy African Statistics Day card yet? No thought not…but the 18th of November has been celebrated as "African Statistics Day" across the continent since the nineties. Its purpose is to increase public awareness about the importance of statistics and has a different topic each year – this year being "Challenges of Rising Food Prices and Agricultural Development in Africa: the Role of Statistics".
Focussing on these issues for African Statistics Day 2008 could not be more important at this time when the food crisis facing the poorest people in the world risks being overshadowed by the developed world’s focus on recession and the global financial crisis.
As in many African countries, farming is the dominant way of life in Tanzania, with three quarters of people working in agriculture. Understanding how to improve growth in this area is an essential part of development, which will help to reduce poverty and help ensure people can deal with shocks such as rising food prices. Even knowing how many farmers there are, what they produce, what difficulties they face, and how to help them increase their production, is not possible without good agricultural data. Up to date information is needed on what people farm, and how much they produce.
Under the statistics project I talked about in my previous blog, the first area our funds will be directed to is the 2008-09 ‘Agriculture Census’ which will collect detailed information on production, productivity and practices in farming across the country. This is a massive exercise which only happens every 10 years or so, and all large farms will be surveyed (such as the ones growing palm oil that we saw as we drove to the north of the country a few weeks ago) as well as a large sample of smaller, more typical farm plots that you will see in villages like the one in the pictures above. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) have been planning for this census for many months and the field work will happen in the new year, and I hope to go to see some of the fieldwork in action.
To celebrate ‘African Statistics Day’ the NBS here are planning an event in a village to discuss the data that they have recently produced, and what it means to the villagers, and to demonstrate the importance of giving full assistance to people conducting surveys and censuses if they are to knock on your door.