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Agricultural censuses and surveys

  • + Uses of agricultural censuses and surveys for gender statistics
    • Agricultural censuses and surveys can serve as a vehicle for collecting data on the type and amount of work contributed by women and men to agricultural production. These censuses and surveys cover four main areas of gender statistics. First, information on the composition of farm labour can be provided by recording sex and other characteristics of the household members and hired labourers working on the agricultural holding. Second, information on gender differences in the management of agricultural holdings, and on decision-making within the holding, can be provided by collecting data on the characteristics of the agricultural holders and subholders and combining those data with other data at the level of holding or subholding on, for example, the size and types of crops, the size and types of livestock or agricultural services used. Third, information on gender differences in ownership of agricultural assets can be provided by collecting data on land tenure, livestock and agricultural machinery. These data may be collected at the holding level, the level of parcels/plots or herds or the level of household members. Fourth, information on gender differences in access to agricultural services and agricultural practices can be provided by collecting data on the use of formal credit, extension services, veterinary services, irrigation or agricultural machinery. These data may be collected at the level of holding or subholding.

      The role of agricultural censuses and surveys in obtaining statistics on gender and agriculture must be considered within an integrated system of producing gender statistics. Some topics related to agriculture, such as agricultural production and farm income, employment in agricultural sector or food security, may be covered in other data collection programmes, such as living standard surveys, population censuses, labour force surveys or demographic and health surveys. For example, detailed data on occupations and status in employment by industry (including the agricultural sector) are often covered in population censuses and labour force surveys. In addition, LSMS surveys in the less developed regions often include modules on agricultural production, agricultural labour and food security. In particular, the LSMS-ISA surveys are designed to have a strong focus on agriculture. Still, the coverage in agricultural censuses and surveys of topics similar to those collected in other censuses or surveys can have value in gender statistics. For example, although labour force and population censuses may collect data on economic activity for all population using a ”current activity” approach, agricultural censuses and surveys may collect data on economic activity for persons living in agricultural households using a “usual activity” approach, which is expected to better capture the subtleties of seasonal and intermittent economic activity in agriculture. Agricultural censuses and surveys may also collect more information about work in agriculture as a secondary or tertiary activity.

      A balanced coverage of gender issues between the agricultural censuses and the agricultural surveys should be considered. Agricultural surveys are usually conducted more often than censuses and cover only a sample of agricultural holdings. Thus, more detailed questions related to gender and agriculture may be accommodated in agricultural surveys. Some countries may choose to carry out thematic agricultural surveys that are focused on gender. Such surveys would include, for example, comprehensive questions on participation by women and men in farm labour and management of agricultural holdings and subholdings, their status as owners of agricultural resources and agricultural practices and agricultural services they use.

  • + Avoiding gender bias in data collection
    • Integration of gender concerns into the planning and design of agricultural censuses and surveys

      The adoption of a gender perspective in agricultural censuses or surveys has to be decided in the first stages of planning because it has significant implications in terms of topics covered, operations such as data collection design and the training of field staff and, at a later stage, data analysis and dissemination. An analysis of agricultural censuses undertaken in Africa in the census round of 2000 showed, for example, that the production of statistics on gender and agriculture is improved when the need for gender statistics is incorporated into the objectives and scope of the censuses (FAO, Regional Office for Africa, 2005). The analysis also showed that the process of obtaining gender statistics improves when potential users of gender statistics, with clear demands of specific data, are involved in the preparation of the censuses.



      Coverage of all relevant units of enumeration

      Gender bias in data collection can be introduced by improper coverage of all relevant units of enumeration. The unit of enumeration in agricultural censuses and surveys is the agricultural holding. An agricultural holding is an economic unit of agricultural production under single management, comprising all livestock kept and all land used wholly or partly for agricultural production purposes, without regard to title, legal form or size (FAO, 2007). There are two types of agricultural holdings: (a) holdings in the household sector – that is, those operated by household members; and (b) holdings in the non-household sector, such as corporations and government institutions.

      Proper coverage of the household sector is the most important from the perspective of generating gender statistics. The exclusion of small holdings, a subsector where women and family members play a particularly important role, can be a drawback of agricultural censuses or surveys. When holdings below a certain size and/or holdings located in urban or peri-urban areas are excluded from censuses and surveys, women’s contribution to agricultural production may be underestimated. In addition, these excluded holdings could be playing an important role in food production and food security.

      The inclusion of all units relevant to agricultural production needs to be considered when preparing the frame of agricultural holdings in the household sector and when designing the sampling frame for agricultural surveys. In particular, frames based on administrative records in areas where women are less likely than men to have their holdings registered can introduce significant gender bias in data obtained. Gender differentials also need to be considered when deciding the stratification variables in the sampling design of agricultural surveys. When necessary, oversampling in one or more strata should be considered to allow for an adequate number of both women- and men-operated holdings in each stratum.



      Adequate units of data collection and analysis

      Comprehensive coverage of gender issues in agricultural censuses and surveys requires the use of multiple units in both the data collection stage and in the data analysis stage. As noted above, the unit of enumeration in agricultural censuses and surveys is the agricultural holding. Many censuses and surveys collect most of the data at the level of agricultural holding. For example, inputs for agricultural production, such as seeds or pesticides, are usually purchased for the whole holding and therefore the data on those inputs are collected at the level of the holding. Other examples of data usually collected at the holding level are the use of irrigation or use of agricultural machinery.

      It may be necessary, however, to collect and analyse data at the intra-holding level in order to get a true picture of gender issues. Data on farm labour, especially data on the participation of household members in activities of agricultural production, can be better captured at the individual level, along with data on sex, age, marital status, educational attainment or other characteristics related to the type and amount of work performed on the farm or for other business.

      Depending on the country, data on land use and livestock are sometimes more suited for collection at the level of smaller units within the holding. For example, data on land use are often collected at the level of parcels or plots that compose a holding. More generally, data can be collected at the subholding level. A subholding is defined as a single agricultural activity or group of activities managed by a particular person or group of persons (subholders) in the holder's household on behalf of the agricultural holder. There may be one or more subholdings in a holding. A subholding could comprise a single plot, a whole field, a whole parcel or even the whole holding. A subholding could also be a livestock operation associated with a plot, field or parcel, or a livestock operation without any land.

      The collection of data on crops and livestock at the more finely disaggregated level may be preferred for several reasons. First, collecting data at the level of parcels or plots reduces errors in reporting. This is especially the case when agricultural households work on several different plots of land and different individuals are in charge of each plot or crop, or when some household members are responsible for herds that are separate from those of the main holder. Gathering the data at the plot level and the herd level may appear more time consuming; however, when data are collected at the whole farm level, the respondents may have to add up the information on different plots to come up with the required answer, increasing the chances of non-sampling errors, such as reporting errors. The quality of data improves when women and men in charge of each plot or crop respond separately to questions about the plots or crops for which they are responsible. The operator of each plot is more likely to know specific details about the size and quality of the plot and how much time each household member has spent working on various tasks on that particular plot. Second, plots from the same holding may differ in terms of land quality, the degree of land degradation and erosion, and the data collected at that level may explain differences in agricultural production. Lastly, disaggregated data at the level of subholdings are crucial for understanding gender roles and decision-making within the agricultural holding.

      It is to be noted, however, that in most cases the application of the subholding concept on the ground poses many practical challenges and increases the cost of data collection. Before deciding to apply this concept for large-scale surveys, such as an agricultural census, a careful evaluation of social customs and a cost-benefit analysis for using this concept is recommended.



      Questionnaire design

      Gender-specific conceptual and measurement issues related to the topics covered in agricultural censuses and surveys must be adequately reflected in the design of questionnaires used (see box III.3 for a checklist of the main points that should be taken into account in designing questionnaires). It is important, from a gender perspective, for the questionnaire corresponding to the household sector to be structured by the needed level of data collection. In that respect, different modules may be designed for different levels of data collection and/or different topics. For example, data collected at the individual level may be covered by a module on demographic, social and economic characteristics of household members, including involvement in agricultural and non-agricultural economic activities on and off the holding, and a module on characteristics of non-family agricultural labour. Identification of the owners of agricultural resources and the subholders may also be based upon data collected at the level of individual household members.

      Some other modules of the questionnaire, such as those on livestock or land use, may be designed to collect data at the subholding level, with the possibility of identification of the subholder. The implementation of the subholding/subholder concepts, important from a gender perspective, may be complex. The approach used by a country will depend on national agricultural practices and social and cultural conditions, taking into consideration the data collection methodology already existing or suitable. For example, when countries have the practice of collecting data on crops at the plot level and data on livestock at the herd level, it is relatively straightforward to identify the women and men who are in charge of those parcels and herds (subholders). Alternatively, a smaller set of items can be collected at the level of subholdings, separately from the main crop and livestock data, by asking specific questions about the type of crop and livestock activities carried out under the control of the subholder.



      Box III. 3 Incorporating a gender perspective into the design of questionnaires for agricultural censuses and surveys: a checklist

      Members of the team designing the questionnaires have been trained in gender issues and gender-specific measurement issues related to family and non-family farm labour and the role of women as managers of holdings and subholdings

      For the household sector, there is a clear indication of the items to be collected at the holding level, at the subholding level or at the individual level of household members and hired labourers; if possible, identification of holders, subholders and owners allow a link with the individual characteristics of the household members

      When identifying the subholders, use a series of questions about each household member to find out about the types of work each one carried out on the holding, and their role in managing agricultural production activities

      Use a series of questions instead of one question to identify the household members who own, by themselves or jointly with another person, parcels/plots of land, livestock by type and agricultural machinery

      Avoid language suggesting that holders or subholders are male

      When measuring economic activity, the question has a note for the interviewers indicating the use of activity lists (provided in the manual) and probing questions to follow up

      Language in the questionnaire is used carefully to avoid the agricultural work of women being perceived and reported as housework rather than as economic activity

      If a household head needs to be identified, a short note on the questionnaire indicates the criteria for identification


      Selection and training of the field staff

      The quality of data collected in agricultural censuses and surveys (similar to other data collection programmes) depends on the quality of staff selected and the training provided. Box III.4 presents a list of factors that should be taken into account when incorporating a gender perspective in the preparation of manuals and the training of interviewers for agricultural censuses and surveys.

      It should be noted that men are greatly overrepresented among field staff in agricultural censuses and surveys, often as a result of using workers in agricultural extension services, who are predominantly men, as interviewers. In general, it is important for both women and men to be selected as interviewers and supervisors, and for both women and men to be trained to obtain quality data from both women and men respondents. In particular, the recruitment of women operators should be seriously considered in countries where women farmers do not feel free to talk directly to enumerators who are men, owing to cultural factors.



      Box III. 4 Incorporating a gender perspective into the preparation of manuals and training of interviewers for agricultural censuses and surveys: a checklist

      The key gender issues prevailing in the agricultural sector in the country of interest are identified

      Gender training emphasizes the gender-related objectives and goals of the census

      Gender training increases awareness regarding the role of women in managing holdings and subholdings

      Both women and men are selected as training instructors and as trainers presented in audiovisual materials

      Women and men are trained to interview persons of the same sex and of the opposite sex

      The language and examples given in the manuals or training materials with regard to identification of agricultural holders and subholders and the household head are free of gender-based biases

      Manuals and training materials provide examples on identifying joint agricultural holders

      Manuals and training materials show examples for identifying the real decision-maker in the farm; in particular, persons who are usually absent from the household are not be declared as household head or agricultural holder

      Training provides guidelines in obtaining information from women and men in charge of each plot or crop

      When collecting data on economic activity, the manuals provide lists of economic activities, including lists of own-account productive activities and probing lists, to avoid underreporting of women’s economic activity; training emphasizes problems and stereotypes associated with women’s work




      Census advertising

      Census advertising is an important tool for improving the census coverage, in particular, of smallholdings managed by women, and the reporting of women’s agricultural activity. The presentations prepared for advertising should illustrate both women’s and men’s contributions to agricultural production. The choice of type of media should take into account the fact that women may have easier access to some types of media than others. For example, in certain groups of population, women are more likely than men to be illiterate. Women may be easier to reach through radio programmes targeted at women or by use of graphics in places where women tend to gather.

  • + Selected topics
    • Traditionally, agricultural censuses and surveys have been concerned primarily with agricultural production and the productive resources used, and have dedicated no or only minimal attention to the human resources involved. This subsection presents four topics essential for understanding the contribution of women and men to agricultural production. The addition of these topics to the more traditional topics focused on agricultural production and agricultural resources improves the role of agricultural censuses and surveys in the production of gender statistics. For each of the four topics presented, there are shown the relevance of data collected for gender statistics and how to improve data collection from a gender perspective.

  • + Family and non-family agricultural labour
    • Relevance for gender statistics

      Data on demographic and social characteristics of family members and non-family labourers working in agricultural production of the household are the basic information needed to understand the composition and the organization of the farm labour force in the household sector. Women and men involved in farm labour often have different characteristics in terms of age, marital status and educational attainment.

      Data on the economic activity of each household member and the time they worked on and off the farm provide the basis for understanding the gender division of labour and gender-specific responsibilities within households. Women and men tend to spend an unequal number of hours a day on and invest an unequal number of weeks or months during a year into agricultural work. They also tend to differ in terms of the importance attached to the agricultural work on the household holding – whether it is a sole occupation, major occupation or subsidiary occupation – and its combination with other economic activities on and off the holding.

      Data on the duration of work in a year, the number of hours a day and the type of payment received (in cash, in kind or exchange) can show gender differences in non-family farm labour. For example, women labourers may be hired to do agricultural activities for shorter periods of time than men and they may be more likely than men to be paid in kind.

      Improving data collection from a gender perspective

      Data collection instruments should be designed to allow the recording of multiple agricultural and non-agricultural economic activities on and off the holding. Specific questions on primary and secondary activities should be included and the reference period should be long enough to capture seasonal and occasional work. It is useful to identify agricultural labour separately from non-agricultural labour and/or to ask specific questions about any job during the agricultural season that is related to agriculture (including jobs that are not the main job).

      Collecting data at the subholding level can highlight gender differences in the involvement of family and non-family labourers in particular agricultural activities or on particular parcels or plots. Women, more often than men, tend to be involved in multiple activities, such as working on their own plot, on their husband’s holding, seasonally as a paid labourer in other holdings and even in other non-agricultural jobs. Even within the same agricultural activity, women and men concentrate in one or another of the various stages of production.

      Collection of information on economic activity should cover all forms of unpaid work, including subsistence activities such as fetching water and wood for fuel, gathering wild fruits and berries and processing primary products for self-consumption. Women’s activities are often perceived as domestic and reproductive rather than economic and productive; however, these activities are an important input to agricultural production. The definition adopted in data collection should adhere to international standards and include all forms of work falling within the production boundary of the System of National Accounts. The data collection should use lists of agricultural activities or probing questions related to the economic and productive activities that are usually perceived as domestic work. It is also important for the questions to be carefully formulated to avoid the introduction of gender-based biases.

  • + Management of agricultural holdings and sub-holdings
    • Relevance for gender statistics

      The identification of the agricultural holder provides the basis for comparing the characteristics of holdings operated by women and those operated by men. Analysing aspects such as the area of holding, cropping patterns or the use of different agricultural practices can show the specific problems faced by women and men in operating agricultural holdings. For example, data on the main purpose of production – whether the holding is producing mainly for home consumption or for sale – are a broad indicator of the extent to which women holders and men holders are participating in the market economy. Men tend to be more involved in large-scale cash cropping, especially when highly mechanized, while women are more often responsible for food production and the small-scale cultivation of cash crops. Women farmers may have more limited access to technology that would enhance their productivity and contribute to household food security, such as labour-saving technologies in food processing and storage. Additional data on characteristics of the agricultural holder other than sex (for example, age, marital status, educational attainment and employment in other activities in non-agricultural sectors; data on household size and composition; data on ownership of land, livestock and agricultural machinery; access to credit and improved seeds; and participation in farmers’ organizations and extension services) can also contribute to the understanding of some of the differences between the holdings operated by women and those operated by men.

      Within individual agricultural holdings, women and men may undertake specific crops and livestock activities. For example, within the same household, women may be in charge of a small kitchen garden and small livestock for food consumption, while men may be in charge of large-area crops and large livestock intended for sale and obtaining cash income. Data collection on the characteristics of subholders and subholdings are the basis for understanding the gender division of managerial responsibilities within agricultural holdings. Data collected for subholders may refer to sex, age, marital status or educational attainment. Data collected for subholdings may refer to, for example, the area managed, the type of crops, the purpose of crops or the number of animals by type of livestock.

      Improving data collection from a gender perspective

      The role of women needs to be adequately acknowledged in identifying the agricultural holder and properly reflected in the concepts used, questionnaire design, manuals and training materials. At the conceptual level, the agricultural holder is defined as the person who makes major decisions regarding resource use and exercises management control over the agricultural holding operation (FAO, 2007). A gender bias in reporting the agricultural holder occurs when the role of women in decision-making is not taken into account. Often, the decision-making process on the holding is complex and involves more than one person, including women as well as men; however, because of inadequate conceptions regarding holders, gender-biased attitudes of respondents and enumerators or insufficient training, it is more likely that only a male senior holder is identified. For the round of agricultural censuses conducted in 2010, FAO modified the concept of agricultural holder to include more than one person, such as a husband and wife. If more than one person is involved in major decision-making, each of those persons should be considered a joint holder. In addition, a joint holder can come from the same household or from a different household.

      Manuals and training materials should prevent other sources of gender bias in the identification of the main agricultural holder. The agricultural holder is often incorrectly considered to be the same person as the household head. For example, a person in the household may be identified as a head because of his or her overall authority and responsibility in the household; however, that person may not be actively involved in the household’s agricultural operations or may not be responsible for the holding. The use of the concept of a household head in itself may trigger gender bias, in the sense that women may be considered heads of their households only when no adult males are present. Furthermore, persons who are usually absent from the household may be declared the main agricultural holder or the main household head, either because of their role in providing input for the agricultural production (income or land, for example) or simply because of cultural representations of men as having potentially more decision-making power than women.

      In the questionnaire design, a single question on the identity of the main decision-maker for the holding is often insufficient to identify the main holder. Instead, a series of questions about each household member, their work on the holding and their role in managing the holding may be needed. A similar approach is based on the use of the subholding/subholder concept. Rather than identifying the holder directly, the information obtained for each subholder can afterwards be used to determine the primary decision-maker for the holding.

      Data should be collected at the subholding/subholder level as much as possible. The concept of an agricultural holder as the major decision-maker for the holding may not provide a realistic picture of the often complex decision-making processes of the holding. Often different members of the household take responsibility for managing particular aspects of the operations of the holding. Sometimes women carry out specific activities, such as cultivating particular land plots or managing particular livestock activities. There may also be different levels of management; for example, one person may make the strategic decisions (“this year we plant potatoes”), while other people are responsible for operational decisions, such as when to plant, whom to employ and how to market.

      In summary, the concept of agricultural holder alone may not adequately reflect the management of the holding, and, in particular, it may fail to recognize the role of women in managing agricultural activities. To overcome this problem, the concepts of “subholding” and the associated “subholder” were introduced by FAO for the census round of 2010. A subholder is defined as the person responsible for managing a subholding (a parcel, a plot, a livestock operation, an agricultural activity or group of activities) on the holder's behalf. The subholder concept is broadly similar to the concepts of “plot manager” and “farm operator” used in some countries. If subholdings are identified, each subholder should provide the information for the subholding he or she is responsible for. If the household head is the sole respondent of the question, this may have an impact on the accuracy of the responses concerning assets and work undertaken by the other subholders of the holding.

  • + Ownership of agricultural assets
    • Relevance for gender statistics

      Data on ownership of agricultural assets for holdings and subholdings is crucial in understanding agricultural productivity, crop patterns, the use of inputs or the investment of time and resources in long-term land improvement for holdings operated by women and men. In many countries in the less developed regions there are great gender disparities in ownership of land, livestock and agricultural machinery. Women are less likely than men to hold titles to land. The land and livestock owned by women also tend to be of smaller size. Lack of land tenure decreases women’s eligibility for formal sources of credit, membership in farmers' organizations, access to training and extension services and their chances of developing their own business in agriculture.

      Sex-disaggregated data on ownership of assets and management of each subholding collected at the individual level of household members show who owns what, who has access to and control over which agricultural resources and who decides which agricultural activities will be undertaken. Data would also show whether women subholders, compared to men subholders, are more likely to manage owned or rented plots of land or whether women are more likely to become the managers of a plot when they own that plot. This information is crucial in understanding intrahousehold gender inequality in access to agricultural resources.

      Improving data collection from a gender perspective

      As much as possible, data on ownership of land, livestock and agricultural machinery should be collected at more finely disaggregated levels within the holding, at the subholding level or at the level of individual household members. The collection of data on land tenure at the parcel or plot level is important from a gender perspective. A holding may have one or more tenure types corresponding to each land parcel. In fact, the FAO guidelines on agricultural censuses (FAO, 2007) recommend as one of the supplementary items that data on land tenure be collected for each parcel. Similarly, in countries where herds of various types of animals are owned and managed separately by the husband or by the wife, data on the number of owned animals should also be collected at the subholding level.

      Identification of the household members who are the owners of agricultural assets in a holding or subholding should allow for joint ownership. Manuals and training materials should provide examples of ways to avoid underreporting women’s co-ownership of agricultural assets. The ownership of a holding/subholding should also be considered independent of the management of that holding/subholding. For example, a husband and a wife own, together, two plots of land, and the husband is the subholder (manager) of one of the plots, while the woman is the subholder (manager) of the other plot. In this case, the ownership of each of the two plots should be recorded as joint ownership by a woman and a man, while the subholders should be identified as a man for one plot and as a woman for the other plot.

  • + Use of agricultural services and agricultural practices
    • Relevance for gender statistics

      Data on use of agricultural services and agricultural practices – such as the use of credit, extension services or irrigation, or the use of veterinary services – collected in agricultural censuses and surveys are commonly used to understand aspects such as agricultural productivity, crop patterns, the use of inputs or the use of long-term investments in land or livestock. These data are usually collected at the holding level. Therefore, from a gender perspective, data obtained can be disaggregated only by sex of the holder. The information obtained can show whether women-operated holdings differ from men-operated holdings in terms of agricultural practices and agricultural services used. For example, in many countries, women farmers, who usually manage smaller holdings and own less or no land, have less access to formal credit or other financial services and rely more heavily on informal sources of credit. Women farmers also tend to have more limited access to agricultural education and training because, traditionally, extension services have been tailored to men’s needs.

      Improving data collection from a gender perspective

      When data are collected at the holding level, information on the roles of women and men in obtaining credit, accessing agricultural information or using irrigation or technology on their own subholdings remain obscured. For example, when a holding managed by a man, or jointly managed by a woman and a man, is recorded as having obtained formal credit, it is not clear who in the household actually applied for and obtained credit, and what parcels, crops or subholdings benefited from it.

      As much as possible, data on use of agricultural services and agricultural practices should be collected at the subholding level. Depending on the social structure of the society, however, data collection for a small number of items, such as the use of credit, may be collected at the individual level, applying the questions to either all adult household members or all subholders.

  • + References
    • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2001). Agricultural censuses and gender considerations: concept and methodology. Reprint. Rome.

      _                        (2007). A System of Integrated Agricultural Censuses and Surveys, vol. 1, World Programme for the Census of Agriculture 2010. FAO Statistical Development Series, No. 11. Revised reprint. Rome.

      _                       , Regional Office for Africa (2005). Agricultural censuses and gender: lessons learned in Africa. Accra.

      Fuwa, Nobuhiko, and others (2000). Intrahousehold Analysis. In Designing Household Survey Questionnaires for Developing Countries: Lessons from 15 years of the Living Standards Measurement Study, Margaret Grosh and Paul Glewwe, eds. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

      Grosh, Margaret, and Paul Glewwe, eds (2000). Designing Household Survey Questionnaires for Developing Countries: Lessons from 15 years of the Living Standards Measurement Study. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

      Reardon, Thomas, and Paul Glewwe (2000). Agriculture. In Designing Household Survey Questionnaires for Developing Countries: Lessons from 15 years of the Living Standards Measurement Study, Margaret Grosh and Paul Glewwe, eds. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

      United Nations (2001). Gender and statistics briefing note: agriculture.

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