Agriculture is the science or practice of farming, including cultivation of the soil for the growing of crops and the rearing of animals to provide food, hide and other products. This forms Ghana’s most important economic sector, employing more than half the population on formal and informal basis and accounts for almost half of its gross domestic product(GDP) and export earnings.
The country produces a variety of crops in various climatic zones which range from dry savannah to wet forest and which run in the east and west bands across the country. Agricultural crops, including yams, grains, cocoa, oil palms, kola nuts and timber, form the base of Ghana’s economy. This area has been touted as a huge sector with the ability to increase foreign direct investment, improve the lives of our people, as well as farmers, and boost the local economy.
Why census of agriculture
A Census of Agriculture (CA) is a large statistical operation that collects, processes and disseminates information on the structure of agriculture with information collected from communities mainly on geography, socio-economic conditions, infrastructure and availability of agricultural and social services, its potentials and constraints for development.
The Ghana Statistical Service, in collaboration with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, is preparing to conduct an agricultural census in Ghana to cover 2013 to 2017 with technical support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to be conducted in four phases in line with the modular approach recommended by the FAO for the 2010 round of world censuses of agriculture.
Ghana and agricultural census
Checking our records, it has been 33 years since the last agricultural census was conducted to gather information on people and communities in Ghana.
This dates back to the 1950s when colonial Ghana (then the Gold Coast and British Togoland) was among 23 African countries that participated in the world census of agriculture which was merely targeted in the production of regional estimates on lands cultivated and production of food crops.
This was accompanied in the 60s with a series of surveys on specific aspects of the country’s agricultural economy, from which agricultural officers in all the various districts submitted estimates of crop yields.
However, in 1964, there was a complete enumeration of the large and specialised holdings which lasted from 1965 to 1969 with annual sample surveys of small holdings conducted along side which increased the sample size for the survey from 2,000 holdings in 1965 to 5,000 in 1969.
Several other censuses have been held in this manner to serve as updates on the previous census conducted to help keep up with the figures and findings that emanated from each and will help in formulating policies to help sustain the farming and agricultural sectors across the country.
Currently, the agricultural census which will be preceded by a listing exercise would allow for trained personnel to visit homes or households and institutions to assign numbers to all structures and identify these households for the actual data collection exercise to begin.
This will be followed by enumerators deployed to various houses and institutions engaged in the production of any kind of crop, livestock, aquaculture among various others. The Information Services Department has been equipped with 50 cinema vans to undertake massive education on this exercise across the 10 regions of Ghana and will involve all the regional and district information officers to ensure an effective educational exercise preceding the exercise which is to kick-start on Monday, April 23, 2018.
Globally, it is expected that if the census proves successful, it will contribute to poverty reduction and alleviation and ensures food security through the development of effective policies and strategies on the basis of reliable, relevant and timely structural agricultural statistics. It also facilitates a set-up of agricultural information systems that will serve as a good source of information for effective planning that will stimulate growth of the sector and revitalise the rural economy.
Specifically, it will strengthen the national agricultural statistics system and improve the availability of statistics on the rural sector, as well as provide information that will be used as a basis for the establishment of an integrated permanent system of agricultural statistics production.
Aside from the above, it will improve production and dissemination of statistics on food and agriculture to meet the data requirement for planting and monitoring of programmes developed under Ghana’s food and agricultural sector development policy. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the Statistical Service and other stakeholders have come together to conduct this census in a bid to develop agriculture and increase the enthusiasm among the younger generations to take up agriculture as a venture to further enhance the fortunes of this country.
Plans are currently underway for the next agricultural census which was slated for 2016 to 2019 and should have been implemented in 1995, however, funding has been a major challenge.
The agriculture census will roll out a four-phase modular approach recommended by the FAO for the 2020 Round World censuses of agriculture starting from a phase one being the preparatory stage involving the preparation of documents and instruments. The second phase will involve carrying out complete enumeration to collect information on basic indicators from agricultural holdings of households and institutions on items which include the identification and location of agricultural holdings, main purpose of production of holdings, land tenure types on the holdings, the presence of irrigation among other very vital information.
The third phase will deal with implementation of a comprehensive module expected to generate detailed information on crops and livestock while the fourth phase will be keen on the preparation of technical reports.
The government must be commended and given support by concerned stakeholders to ensure this activity lives up to the purpose for which the current census is going to be conducted to enhance food security and an improved livelihood for all.
It is expected that households will look forward to such a survey and put in their support by providing the required information to help in achieving the set objectives which will go a long way to get us all living right and further tell in the development fortunes of mother Ghana.
The writer is a journalist with the Information Services Department (ISD).