Friday, July 13, 2012

Helping develop national rice statistics in Africa

Agricultural data can be difficult information to collect. However, the availability of accurate and detailed information on agricultural production, processing and consumption is extremely valuable when planning agricultural campaigns, especially at the national level, to increase the overall availability of food on the market.

Since December 2007, AfricaRice has led an initiative to improve the timely availability, reliability and relevance of rice statistics and information needed for quality rice research, evidence-based policy formulation, and monitoring and evaluation of rice-related investments in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We always work with national partners, as it is the only viable route to cover the whole continent,” said Dr. Aliou Diagne, AfricaRice Program Leader for Policy, Innovation Systems and Impact Assessment.

When the rice price crisis struck Africa in 2008, AfricaRice worked with many partners to develop an emergency response and also to strengthen the ability to develop policies so that the countries could avoid similar crises in the future. Its project to develop the national rice statistics got support from the Japanese government through the Emergency Rice Initiative (ERI) launched in the wake of the crisis to help countries with seed systems and policy support tools.

AfricaRice collaborated with the national agricultural research systems (NARS) and the national agricultural statistical services (NASS) of 21 country members of the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) to collect large detailed rice statistics and information from nationally representative samples.

CARD was launched by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Association for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in 2008 as a consultative grouping of bilateral and multilateral development partners and African and international institutions to double rice production in Africa by 2018.

As part of ERI, AfricaRice facilitated capacity-building workshops to guide NARS and NASS personnel in the design and implementation of surveys to collect detailed and reliable crop-specific data.

After a review of methods used across the 21 countries, participants were encouraged to adopt new sample frames and sampling methodologies, with a view to regional harmonization to ease the process of regional data aggregation and comparative analyses.

As a direct result of these efforts, detailed data sets are now available for 20 participating countries, and the combined database is held at AfricaRice. These data provide not only the most detailed view of the countries’ rice sectors at one point in time, but will also provide a solid basis for analyzing future trends as the countries continue to increase domestic rice production in pursuit of self-sufficiency.