The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has endowed FAOSTAT, the world’s largest agricultural database, with an essential that enables much easier comparison and assessment of trends over time in the agricultural structures of all Member countries.
An open-access portal serving as a global public good, FAOSTAT gathers and harmonizes a wealth of data on the production, trade, and consumption in the agricultural sectors, the world’s largest economic sector in terms of employment and sustaining livelihoods. In recent years, FAO has added an increasing array of critical information on greenhouse gas emissions, land use, forest cover, and investment. Now it is adding “Structural Data from Agricultural Censuses,” which present fine-grained national reports that track, among others, how large farm holdings are, who works on them, and who owns them.
“This allows policy workers to compare the structure of the agricultural sector of one country with that of another or a region, while also allowing researchers to analyze, for example, the distribution of farm sizes both at the national and global level.”Jairo Castano, Senior Statistician and Leader of the FAO’s World Programme
“This data is not available anywhere globally,” says Jairo Castano, Senior Statistician and Leader of the FAO’s World Programme for the Census of Agriculture, who steered the project to fruition. “This is precious bottom-up information based on actual farms, all the world’s farms.”
The new domain allows rapid access to know how many farms exist in a given country, their sizes, the tenure typology determining its ownership, the farmer’s gender, and how many people live and work on them, all sourced to national Agricultural Censuses.
Worlds agricultural data displayed by FAOSTAT new domain
The Russian Federation has the largest total area covered by farms, at 451 million hectares, followed by Australia, the United States of America, and Brazil.
Russia also has the most holdings or farms – regardless of size – per 1 000 people, followed by China, Viet Nam, and India. The countries with the largest average farm size are Australia followed at a distance by Iceland, Argentina, Uruguay, Canada, New Zealand, and the Czech Republic.
Among countries that have conducted a census, those with the smallest reported average holdings area are Palau, Bangladesh, and Egypt. Forty percent or more of all agricultural holdings are headed by women in Lithuania, Latvia, and Eswatini. Nowhere is that above 50 percent.
In eight countries, 60 percent or more of farmland is rented rather than operated by owners. Apart from the Northern Mariana Islands, they are all in Europe, including France and Germany.
Holdings operated by juridical persons – corporations, cooperatives, or government agencies – are most frequent in France, Uruguay, Guam, South Africa, the Czech Republic, and Iceland and rarely exceed 10 percent.
However, when measured by area instead of individual units, juridical control characterizes more than two-thirds of holdings in Namibia, Slovakia, Mauritius, Czechia, and Bulgaria, followed closely by Peru and Hungary.
Countries where most of the household members in agricultural holdings were engaged in agriculture, include Brazil, Viet Nam, Uruguay, and the Republic of Korea. The trend is increasing in those countries and Burkina Faso, Myanmar, and Japan.
FAOSTAT domain offers a powerful tool for all to use
The evident variety of agricultural structures in such classifications highlights the importance of tailored policies, which can be improved by the historical evidence the new FAOSTAT domain offers. The data currently encompassed the census rounds of 1990, 2000, and 2010, with 2020 data soon to be added as it arrives.
FAO’s Statistics Division will also embark on scanning, text mining, and uploading historical data, some of which went back to the 1930s and was initially collected by the International Institute of Agriculture, an entity whose role FAO subsumed when established in 1945.
While the new FAOSTAT domain offers a powerful tool for all to use, it is built on the data gathered by the programme that FAO oversees through the World Programme for the Census of Agriculture.
Before the rollout of the new open-access tool, FAO experts did painstaking work to calculate the global role in feeding the world performed by the world’s smallholders. As the new domain fills out, more granular and policy-relevant analyses will be easier to conduct, both by FAO and governments and researchers in Member countries.
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