The FAO will produce 11 regional action plans in the five years covering 20 countries by 2017

Agriculture: For effective and fruitful planning of development in the region, accurate statistics is vital, say statisticians.

Delegates from 20 of the 25 members states of the APCAS are attending the 26th Asia Pacific Commission for Agriculture and Rural Statistics (APCAS) in Thimphu.

Themed ‘Advancing sustainable development goals through agriculture to highlight statistics gathering’, the meeting began yesterday.

The Asia and Pacific region that is home to more than 57 percent of the global population has about 62 percent of the world’s under-nourished.

“Data and information play a vital roles in planning growth and development for poverty reduction in this largely agriculture-dependent, region,” said Agriculture Minister Yeshey Dorji at the opening session of the meeting.

Officials from United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said that properly collected, processed and analysed statistics will help the region meet its future food security targets.

APCAS secretary Mukesh Srivastava said: “The meeting will not only focus its attention on the importance of the SDGs, but also highlight the critical role of the Global Strategy to improve Agriculture and Rural Statistics in the region ensuring that governments are prepared for today’s challenges in providing food security through sustainable agriculture production and adaptation to climate change.”

The global strategy to improve agricultural and rural statistics (GSARS) is an ambitious five-year programme implemented by FAO with its partners in 15 countries so far.

Following the strategy, the countries will produce a strategic plan for agriculture and rural statistics (SPARS), which help build national capacities to produce core data for monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals and for better development planning.

Bhutan is a GSARS partner and is preparing a strategic plan for RNR statistics.

The FAO regional office in Bangkok has provided technical assistance for in-depth country assessments in 15 countries including Bhutan, and SPARS drafting has reached advanced stage in seven countries.

The FAO will produce 11 regional action plans in the five years covering 20 countries by 2017.

The region is challenged with lack of suitable international consultants on statistics, and turnover of focal points has been an issue in some countries when providing technical assistance, FAO officials said.

The meeting will deliberate challenges of meeting information needs of the agriculture sector to better monitor hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition post 2015 in addition to highlighting new methodologies and initiatives that will help achieve the SDGs.

The APCAS is a statutory body of FAO with a mandate to review the state of food and agriculture statistics in the region and advise member countries on their development and standardisation within the general framework of the FAO.

Tshering Palden