Improved agricultural statistics needed in Asia-Pacific for future food security, FAO says

Economy February 16, 2016 01:00

By THE NATION

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OBTAINING more accurate agricultural statistics in Asia and the Pacific will help the region meet its future food-security targets, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said yesterday.



As agriculture becomes ever more important to meeting the food-security challenges of a growing and rapidly developing Asia-Pacific region, the need for improvements to its systems of collecting agricultural statistics is critical, a gathering of regional statisticians and experts heard on the first day of the biennial meeting of the Asia Pacific Commission on Agricultural Statistics (APCAS). 
The meeting plans to review the region’s preparedness in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The 26th Session of the Commission, co-organised by FAO, is being held in Thimphu, Bhutan, until Friday. 
It is hosted by Bhutan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, with delegates drawn from some 20 countries and sub-regional organisations. 
The participants will deliberate on the challenges of meeting the information needs of the agriculture sector to monitor and respond better to the patterns of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition while highlighting new methodologies and initiatives that will help them achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 
“The Asia and Pacific region, home to more than 57 per cent |of global population, has nearly 62 per cent of the world’s undernourished. Data and information play vital roles in planning growth |and development for poverty |reduction in this largely agriculturally dependent region,” said Yeshy Dorji, Bhutan’s minister of agriculture and forests, during the |opening session of the |commission. 
Mukesh Srivastava, secretary of APCAS, said: “Agricultural statistics are vital for monitoring progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 
“This meeting will not only focus its attention on the importance of the SDGs, but also highlight the critical role of the Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics [GSARS] in the region in ensuring that governments are prepared for today’s challenges in providing food security through sustainable agricultural production |and adaptation to climate |change.” 
The GSARS is an ambitious |five-year programme implemented by the FAO in collaboration with other partners that seeks to empower developing countries to produce better agricultural and rural statistics for effective policymaking and to improve lives. 
GSARS is currently being implemented in 15 countries in Asia and the Pacific to produce a Strategic Plan for Agricultural and Rural Statistics (SPARS) that will assist in building national capacities to produce core data for monitoring the SDGs and for better development planning. 
Bhutan is a GSARS partner and is preparing a Strategic Plan for Renewable Natural Resources Statistics (SPRNRS), which will be presented to the meeting to obtain feedback. Similar initiatives in Bangladesh, Laos, Samoa and Sri Lanka will also be presented during the commission session.
In addition to GSARS and the SDGs, the commission session will serve as a forum for sharing advances and innovation in economic, social and environmental statistics, including the new World Programme for the Census of Agriculture (WCA 2020, which will refer to the period 2016-2025). 
WCA 2020 provides guidance to countries for integrated data collection on agriculture, including the crop, livestock, fish and forestry sub-sectors, in line with international standards, and addresses the main emerging information needs of the 21st century. 
The improved data are vital to planning and policymaking in the region. The recommendations of APCAS serve as a guide for the FAO in redirecting its efforts towards building capacities of its member countries.