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JIS News

The Statistical Institute (STATIN) of Jamaica is carrying out an agricultural census, which will serve to provide the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands with statistical data to better inform its future planning and policy programmes.
The three-year census, which got underway last year, is slated to cost $180 million and will represent a count of farmers and farms across the island and highlight the characteristics of the farmers surveyed and the structures and systems they have in place.
Director of Census at STATIN, Valerie Nam, told JIS News that the census was being undertaken as part of the Food and Agricultural Organisation’s (FAO) World Population Census Programme, which was implemented more than four decades ago. It is in fact, recommended by the FAO that a census be taken every 10 years.
The survey, she said, was being conducted in three-phases, with the first year involving preparatory topographic mapping. “The second year is the field work enumeration and data collection, so we will employ about 500 interviewers to go and collect the information on questionnaires, which we would have designed,” she informed.
Meanwhile, the final year will see the processing of data, and the dissemination of the culled information by way of publications.
In terms of the mapping component of the census, STATIN’s Manager of Research with special responsibility for mapping, Daydawn Simon, told JIS News “it will focus primarily on rural areas.and urban areas, we figure, are predominantly agricultural in nature”.
“We isolated all our rural enumeration districts and some fringe urban enumeration districts.We have to go in and investigate those now to ensure that the boundaries are up to date as it relates to information on housing units, so interviewers would be able to move around in those districts once they are assigned for the census,” she said.
She explained that enumeration districts were geographic areas in which the census data was collected, with urban areas typically zoned as having 150 dwellings while rural areas on average, have 100 dwellings. A total of no less than 3,200 enumeration districts are expected to be surveyed in the agricultural census, which is intended to cover crop rearing, livestock rearing, and fish farming.
Miss Simon indicated that mapping for the census was already in progress and field operations were being finalised. “We zoned the country into three broad areas for field mapping purposes and then what we sought to do was highlight those areas that we thought we might need to rectify boundaries because of developmental changes such as new housing and roads, so we tried to capture all those changes on our maps so that the census takers would have up-to-date maps to go out with in 2007,” she informed.
Looking ahead to the field work that will be carried out, Miss Simon said the maps provided to the census takers, would specify the zoned areas they would be required to visit so as to prevent overlapping and double counting.
It is anticipated that the field aspect of the census will begin next February and wrap up within a five-month period, and following this, leg work will commence on assessing the data and lead to the eventual publication of the findings.
In terms of the censuses that were done in 1979 and 1996, Mrs. Nam told JIS News that the 1996 census found a significant drop in the land acreage utilised for farming, with more lands going towards housing developments.
She indicated that while the past surveys factored in the legal status of landholders and the variance in lands that were company-owned as against single holders, the current census, in keeping with the FAO’s stipulations, would cover land utilisation, crop acreage, facilities used, machinery and equipment.
She pointed out that “because of the increasing costliness of censuses to countries, the FAO recognised that for this round, which is the 2010 round, that the census be a smaller exercise asking very basic questions and then there would be follow up surveys on specific topics.”
Mrs. Nam encouraged farmers, who would be visited by the census takers, to be accommodating as the information they provide would serve to aid the Agriculture Ministry to better assist them.
“I think that if we are going to be effective, we really need the support of householders and if we can get that support, it means that the quality of the data that we eventually put out will be better.not just STATIN and the Ministry of Agriculture.everybody will benefit,” she stated.