Agri Census in doubt
The planned Agricultural Census scheduled for January 2014 is in danger of being cancelled as Government has not made available funds required to carry out the exercise, the Statistician General Dr John Steytler has revealed. Steytler made the revelation this week in an interview with the Economist. He said there is a strong possibility that the agricultural census, the first in 20 years, might be cancelled in the next few days as the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) is yet to receive any funds out of the N$18 million requested from Government.
Steytler also revealed that the NSA, which became operational in 2011, was heavily underfunded something that was negatively impacting on the smooth operations of the agency. The revelation comes at a time when the NSA has, ironically, been applauded in the business circles for the timely manner in which it has been releasing economic data since its inception compared to previous years.
Dr Steytler said: “This year we got 30% of what we requested. We received N$55 million as a subsidy from government, but our total request was N$180 million. We have started work on the Agriculture Census, but I have to decide in the next few days whether we should go ahead or not because we don’t have money.
Our request to carry out the Agricultural Census was about N$18 million, but we didn’t get a single cent. Through fund raising, we were able to kick-start training, but we are now at a point were we either get the money or we call off the census.” Steytler said an agricultural census was important as the sector is one of the most important in the economy in terms of job creation.
“I am worried that agriculture has forever been prioritised as an important economic and social sector in Namibia. Even in the Labour Force Survey of 2012, we confirmed that the bulk of people still fund their livelihoods through the agricultural sector, but the last time we conducted an agriculture census was 20 years ago.”
Steytler said the agricultural sector has changed quite significantly since independence, but to his surprise Namibia still doesn’t have a proper baseline in two decades. “We say this sector should be prioritised, but how can we prioritize it if we don’t have information, we don’t know exactly how many herd of cattle we have, we don’t know exactly how much we cultivate, and we don’t know much about productivity in the agriculture sector.” He said once a proper census is carried out, statistical methods will then be used to select representative samples to come up with annual statistics in the sector.