ROME, April 4- A new global partnership focused on improving agricultural statistics for farmers around the world gained an important investment today. The United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) signed an agreement with the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to donate $25 million for the Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics. Other countries are expected to soon follow suit.

Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics builds capacity of developing countries to produce and use agricultural and rural statistics for more effective food security, sustainable agricultural and rural development policies and helps makes the information available to farmers when and where they need it. It will eventually operate in 90 developing countries in the first five years phase with a total budget of $82 million.

The UK investment covers the program’s first phase, from 2012 to 2016, and will support mainly African and Asian countries, according to FAO. The emphasis is on improving how governments organize and manage their statistical systems and on technical assistance and staff training in national statistics offices and ministries of agriculture. DFID's contribution will also support research to identify innovative approaches for cost-efficient data collection, analysis and dissemination. This includes digital and georeferencing technology and devices, such as smartphones, GPS and satellites.

Improved information and statistics enables farmers to develop better agricultural policies for eradicating hunger and poverty and makes it easier to monitor changes taking place.  However, FAO says many developing countries lack good statistical systems and collect data using costly, labour-intensive and time-consuming methods. Unreliable agricultural statistics and weak information hinder policy decision-making. This can lead to increased costs, weak policy design and reduced impacts from these policies.
 Ethiopia is a good example of how an upgraded statistical system can bring about profound change, FAO pointed out.

 Previously, the national crop production estimates of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Statistical Agency (CSA) often differed greatly, making it difficult for policy-makers to develop sound agricultural policies or to plan food aid allocation and distribution. FAO supported a project bringing the CSA and the Ministry of Agriculture together, using new technologies to improve harvest area measurements, yield estimates and market price monitoring. Today, production estimates have converged and provide reliable data to underpin food security and agriculture policies.

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