Africa’s top agricultural statisticians convened during the opening ceremony of the twenty-eighth session of the African Commission on Agricultural Statistics (Afcas). Role players expressed concern about the gap between data science and technology in agriculture.
The event, themed “Leveraging data and statistics for agri-food systems transformation in Africa”, brought together senior statistics officials from National Statistics offices and agriculture ministries across the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) member states.
During his address, José Rosero Moncayo, the director of the statistics division at the FAO in Rome, Italy, emphasised the pivotal role of agricultural census and surveys as the backbone of an effective agricultural statistical system. He underscored their significance in generating enhanced data to bridge existing gaps in the sector.
“The agenda of this meeting includes a discussion of new developments in the use of alternative data sources for agricultural statistics. While we need to strengthen the traditional mechanisms to collect and process data, we also need to take advantage of what the so-called data revolution has to offer,” he said.
Furthermore, Moncayo stressed that it is through the advancements of science and the application of new and adaptive technologies that productivity can be enhanced in a way that is sustainable for the environment.
“However, the area of data science and technology in agriculture is not well developed. There is a serious scarcity of data. This limits our capacity to inform evidence-based policy and decisions. For this reason, for the first time Afcas will discuss this topic,” Moncayo said.
50×2030 data Initiative
Also, on the discussion tables was the 50×2030 Initiative which is the biggest and most ambitious programme the world has ever seen to support countries to produce more and better data. The 50×2030 Initiative is a multi-agency partnership that seeks to transform data systems in 50 countries by 2030.
The scarcity of high-quality, relevant agricultural data makes it challenging for policymakers to form sound decisions that drive economic growth and reduce poverty.
The 50×2030 Initiative focuses on improving country data by developing a fit-for-purpose, integrated, and financially sustainable agricultural and rural survey programme that fosters a culture of data use for decision-making to support agricultural sustainability and rural development, address food crises, and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Attendees at Afcas discussed the progress achieved with the initiative and presented efforts to promote the use of the data by institutions that design and implement policies.
South Africa dedicated to agri data
Deputy director-general of the department of agriculture Dipepeneneng Serage delivered the keynote address on behalf of minister Thoko Didiza, saying that the departmental of agriculture, land reform and rural development valued the significant role of quality statistics in informing decisions on planning and policy formulation, and monitoring thereof.
“To this end, the department has a dedicated unit producing monthly forecasts and statistics on major crops production, quarterly agriculture contribution to the economy and annual trends in agriculture,” Didiza wrote.
In her absence, Didiza also acknowledged the pivotal role played by Statistics South Africa in both coordinating and generating essential agricultural statistics.
The strong collaboration between Stats SA and her department, she said, is evident through the joint hosting of the 28th Afcas.
“It’s important to note that our country has produced regular agricultural statistics since the early 1900s,” she wrote.
Over the next few days, Afcas member states, as well as specialised United Nations (UN) agencies, regional and international organisations, universities and statistical schools will deliberate and exchange ideas on the state of food and agricultural statistics on the continent and advise member states on the development of their agricultural statistical systems.
The event was held at Birchwood Hotel, Johannesburg and will run until Friday, 8 December.
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