Last week, CountryStat hosted several stakeholders and partners in the agricultural sector at Newton Park Hotel, Abuja, to jaw jaw on the need for the country to have a reliable statistics on food and agriculture.
By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
The CountryStat project was introduced to solely, assist various countries in sub-Sahara Africa, including Nigeria, to develop and sustain a dedicated website for food and agricultural statistics that meets the needs of planers and other players in the Agricultural sector.
The crux of the workshop was also to acquaint stakeholders with the contents and operations of the systems in order to build their confidence in the system as a reliable source of official statistics on food and Agriculture.
Speaking at the programme being implemented by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), and funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Project Coordinator of CountryStat, Onyeri Ndubuisi, said the project was a response by FAO on the need for a country specific one- stop center for reliable and timely national data on food and agriculture.
Ndubuisi added that the response was to eradicate hunger and reduce the number of undernourished people through agricultural development policies that are appropriate and efficient.
Also, he said for the country to make effective investment decisions, it must provide reliable data on, “population characteristics, land and input use, productivity, price and prevailing economic and social situations faced by products.
“We need reliable statistical data to design efficient policies and effective agricultural investment projects. It is a framework that is build around Information Communication Technology (ICT) statistics to integrate data on food and agriculture from different sources, harmonise, standardise, validate and disseminate them through a dedicated website”.
Also speaking, the Director Planing and Policy Coordination in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mrs. Rabi I. Adamu, said agriculture has continued to play central and strategic roles in the development of many countries of the world.
“As a matter of fact,agriculture has remained the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy. It is in recognition of this fact that Agriculture and Food Security are among the key programmes in the transformation agenda of the present administration. Against this backdrop, one cannot over emphasize the need for reliable and disaggregated agricultural data for effective project planning, monitoring and evaluation as well as for the formulation of policies to drive the various government reform agenda on agriculture, poverty and food security”.
Mrs. Adamu, quoted an IMF document as saying; “better more reliable statistics is an essential element in improving the ability of national governments to formulate appropriate policies, manage their own economic and social development and monitor improvements in their living standards. Too often, out dated, missing or unreliable informations leads to badly informed decisions, which waste resources and incur high financial and human costs”.
With this in mind, she said it is unfortunate that Nigeria’s Agricultural Statistical System is weak and largely uncoordinated, adding that “there has been a long absence of a functional framework for regular data collection. This is why very often, some agencies (without requisite capacity) independently collect and disseminate conflicting agricultural data on similar variables.
“The scenario is made worst by the collapse of all data harmonisation frameworks from the states to the national level. The States Agricultural Statistics Coordination Committee (SASCCO) and the Technical Committee on Agricultural Data Management (TCADM) were effective data harmonisation structures that yielded results while they lasted. These structures are not only defunct, but various efforts to resuscitate them had failed
“It is against this backdrop that the introduction of CountryStat system should be seen as a timely rescue measure. The system has enhanced closer coordination and collaboration among stakeholders within the sub -sector, and at the same time created forum where they meet to harmonise their outputs following international standards. It has also brought some level of discretion among data producers as their data are subjected to serious scrutiny by the CountryStat Technical Workshop Group before being recommended as national data”.
She assured that the ministry, will make every effort to admit and enrich the system one of its regular programmes.
On his part, the FAO representative in Nigeria, Dr. Louise Setshwaelo, said the government of Nigeria over the years embarked on laudable agricultural policy plans and programmes focused on commodity value chains with laudable achievements being reported.
For successful implementation of agricultural development programmes, he said “it is important to provide reliable statistics for the planing, implementation, monitoring and evaluation as well as impact assessment of the results of the programmes. Objectives, reliable and accessible official statistics will give people and organisations the knowledge-based confidence in the evaluation results of the intervention programmes. Such statistics should also be objectively and impartially reported and widely shared to users”.
Setshwaelo urged CountryStat to ensure that food and agriculture statistics are regularly accessible in the right quality, and presented in a manner clearly understood and interpreted by users.
“It should also provide data at national and sub national levels and give room for data exchange comparability. To achieve these objectives, the CountryStat system aggregates and harmonizes available data on food and agriculture from various sources, put them in standard forms and publish them through a dedicated website”.
He called on participants to come up with actionable recommendations during the meeting and to also implore the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, to provide the required leadership that would lead to the sustainability and growth of the CountryStat project in Nigeria.