Cambodia’s first-ever agricultural census is under way, tasked with addressing the lack of reliable statistical information on one of the Kingdom’s most crucial economic sectors.
“It is the first agricultural census,” San Sy Than, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Planning, said. “This will provide the benchmark data for this very important sector of the economy of Cambodia.”
The census is being taken by the government with assistance from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in two rounds. The first round runs through May 31. After the July elections, the second round will commence in August and run through September.
Topics of the census include the total area of agricultural holdings, location, size, use and ownership of land, the types of crops planted, farming techniques, use of irrigation and characteristics of farming households.
Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, said the census would complement efforts to develop the sector.
“It will help us to have concrete data within the sector – what is our potential and how much land do we have and employment. This will also help investors to have a clear investment plan before they decide to put their investment here in the real areas or products,” he said.
“Although, so far, we don’t have enough data, the sector is improving in parallel with our economic development. This census is really important for us and really timely to the economic expansion.”
The FAO says Cambodia does not currently have an appropriate framework for conducting agricultural surveys, nor a set of reliable statistics in place to allow accurate decision-making for policy development.
The proposed outcomes of the census include detailed, reliable and current information about the sector to better inform government, NGOs and development agencies.
“Of course having reliable statistics is very important for the formulation of policies on the sector, especially in agriculture, a sector important for the economy of Cambodia. So I think we are fortunate to have that exercise and it will be conducted according to the statistics law we have every 10 years,” Sy Than said.
According to FAO Cambodia, in the first round of the census, an estimated 2.7 million households engaged in agricultural activities will be identified. In the second, five per cent of these households will be interviewed about their agricultural activities, before experts eventually examine the data.
Involved in the census is the National Institute of Statistics, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Planning. The estimated budget is about $5.5 million, Sy Than said.
The government will provide $1.4 million, USAID is providing about $1.5 million, AusAID $1 million and Sweden $1.2 million. Alongside its expertise, the FAO will donate about $400,000 worth of materials.
According to Josie Perez, expert on the Agriculture Census Program, FAO Cambodia, the data will be published “late 2014 or early 2015.”