UN FAO Implements 2010 Round of World Census of Agriculture

May 16, 2014

in Statistics in Action

By Jairo Castano

A census of agriculture is a statistical operation for collecting, processing, and disseminating data on the agricultural structure. It covers the whole or a significant part of the country. Typical structural data collected in a census of agriculture are farm size, land tenure, land use, crop area harvested, irrigation, livestock number, labor and other agricultural inputs (e.g. feed, fertilizers, labor, fuel). In an agricultural census, the data are usually collected directly from agricultural holdings but may also include some community level data.

The purpose of the census of agriculture is to provide data on the structure of agriculture from the topmost administrative unit down to the smallest unit for agricultural planning and policy-making. The census data can also be used as a benchmark for current agricultural statistics and also provide sampling frames for agricultural surveys.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is the lead UN agency in charge of promoting the decennial World Programme for the Census of Agriculture (WCA) around the globe. So far nine decennial WCA rounds have been conducted in the world since the 1930s, first under the auspices of the International Institute of Agriculture (IIA) and then, since the 1950s, under the responsibility of FAO.

FAO revises the WCA guidelines every ten years. Some of the new features recommended by FAO in the current round (WCA 2010) include integration of the census operation into a comprehensive programme of censuses and surveys, a modular approach (collection of key items in a core module by complete enumeration and more detailed items in thematic modules by sampling), linkages with population census and community-level data.

Overview of the World Census of Agriculture 2010 Round

Status of Implementation of the Round

FAO conducted a preliminary review of the implementation of agricultural censuses for WCA 2010, which covers the period 2006-2015. Out of a total of 192 FAO member countries, 105 have already conducted an agricultural census, and 42 are planning to carry one out before the end of 2015. This is an unprecedented increase in participation since the last round. The table below gives an overview of the evolution of agricultural censuses over time and by region.

WCA Round 2010 overview

Linkages with Population and Housing Census

FAO has recommended that countries coordinate the population census and the agricultural census in ways that can save costs and enhance the usefulness of the agricultural census data. This can be done by using common concepts, definitions and classifications, sharing field materials, using the population census as a household frame for the agricultural census, or making use of agriculture-related data from the population census.

In the Asia and Pacific region, eight countries have designed their agricultural census based on agriculture items collected in the population census: Cambodia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Nepal, Niue, Mongolia, Vanuatu, and Timor-Leste.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, eight countries have included items on agriculture in their population census questionnaires. El Salvador, Saint Lucia, and Panama have designed their agricultural census based on agriculture-related information collected in the population census. Barbados and Belize included a section on agriculture in the population census questionnaire. The remaining three countries, Colombia, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic, are planning to conduct an agricultural census in the near future based on limited items on agriculture included in their Population and Housing Census.

Most African countries whose agricultural census reports were available have linked to some extent, their agricultural census with the population and housing census. Burkina Faso, Mozambique, and Seychelles included the core module of the agricultural census in their population and housing census. Niger also had an agricultural module in the Population and Housing Census 2001 and identified agricultural enumeration areas (therefore with at least one agricultural household) to build a frame for the supplementary modules. Malawi and Uganda used enumeration areas of the population and housing census (of 1998 and 2002, respectively) as primary sampling units for selection.

Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zambia collected some agricultural items in their population and housing censuses without following up with an agricultural census.

Modular Approach

Countries have broadly applied the modular approach by including many non-core items in the core module, according to their specific national circumstances, structure of their agricultural sector, administrative set-up, data demands, and availability of human and financial resources. The review indicates that there is no unique way to implement this technique.

In Africa, seven countries (Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Niger, Republic of Congo, Seychelles and Togo) have adopted the modular approach to some extent. Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Seychelles included their agricultural core module in the population census and then conducted subsequent supplementary modules using the core module as the frame.

In Asia and the Pacific region seven countries (Bangladesh, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Samoa and Pakistan) have adopted the modular approach. Only two countries in Latin America and the Caribbean region (Brazil and Jamaica) adopted to some extent this technique.

Castano is a senior statistician in the FAO Statistics Division.


FAO. 2005. A system of integrated agricultural censuses and surveys, Volume 1, World Programme for the Census of Agriculture 2010.

FAO and UNFPA (2012). Guidelines for Linking Population and Housing Censuses with Agricultural Censuses. Rome: FAO.