The need for more and better information is a growing demand for the policy makers and officials in the public sector the academia and companies, also for international organizations and producers themselves as well as many other stakeholders in the agricultural sector. All of them require data to analyze the performance of agricultural activities and the rural world. Having information brings knowledge, but its availability implies having adequate measurement instruments, and performing statistical studies that guarantee the timely collection of quality data.
From this perspective, agricultural censuses constitute a large-scale statistical study, and form the central pivot of an agricultural information system through the collection of data at the farm level. Its results offer a global vision of the sector and represent an opportunity to identify trends or structural changes, support planning and formulate policies, as well as to develop possible lines of intervention and make well-informed economic decisions.
Given that agricultural censuses are usually carried out every 5 or 10 years, it is usual to associate them with those aspects of agriculture that change relatively slowly over time. Therefore, these are mainly focused on collecting data on the basic organizational structure of agricultural holdings, such as the identification and geographic location of producers, the legal formalities and production organizative methods, size, tenure and land use, cultivated areas and planted crops, production volumes, livestock stock, the use of irrigation and agricultural inputs, fixed capital, machinery, production technologies, production trade and man labor application. More often, agricultural censuses have also been collecting socioeconomic information from rural households such as educational level, gender, age, access to credit and savings, non-agricultural income, among others. This information is essential to understand the dynamics of households in rural areas and therefore agricultural activity.
The historical background of agricultural censuses in the world differ according to the countries, their periodicity and sustainability over time. All this is related both to the relative importance of the sector in the national economy and to the degree of strength of the statistical systems. Among the first censuses of the Latin American and Caribbean region, there is the livestock census of 1852 of Uruguay and the first agricultural census of Argentina, called the Census of Agriculture and Livestock, held in October 1888. Then, it was followed by Brazil, which carried out its first agricultural census in 1920 and, subsequently, Mexico in 1930.
During the previous decade, the last agricultural census of Paraguay was held -Censo Agropecuario Nacional-CAN 2008-, therefore, the available information is outdated and does not reflect the changes that have occurred in the sector. Some of these changes include: the strong growth of livestock exports, the expansion of the area sown with annual crops, the high agricultural yields, the presence of new stakeholders, and business production models based on the incorporation of cutting-edge technology and new forms of production organization. Currently, such productive modalities coexist with an agrarian structure of family producers, who work small areas, with problems of land tenure, difficulties for the commercialization of their products, and limitations for the diversification and incorporation of technology, which allows to infer the persistence of a dual agrarian structure in the country.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is supporting the technical team of the Directorate of Agricultural Census and Statistics (DCEA) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) – mandated by law for the implementation of agricultural censuses and surveys – in the implementation of the new agricultural census that updates the information of the sector.
The proposed methodology foresees the design of a system of continuous surveys according to the demands and data requirements in the country, following also the recommendations of the FAO World Program for the Agricultural Census 2020, the Global Strategy for the improvement of agricultural and rural statistics, the ECLAC Horizons 2030 agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The methodological guidelines of the census incorporated technological improvements to capture data in the field through mobile devices, the use of digital cartography, the georeferencing of agricultural holdings, terrain models based on satellite images and the integration of data in a system. of Agricultural Information.
In summary, the next agricultural census will seek to know the structural components of agricultural production in Paraguay and will answer the questions: What, who, where and how?