No 6
ROME, 1995

Organization of publicity campaign

10.1 Conducting an agricultural census is a complex operation in which all governmental agencies dealing with the rural sectors of the economy are involved. Items of information collected in the census deal directly with the agricultural economy. There are some items, such as the extent of cultivation, land tenure, etc., which may be of a very sensitive nature and the holders will generally be reluctant to answer such questions and supply correct information unless they are fully convinced that the information supplied by them will not be used for tax purposes or used against them in any way. Such reluctance on the part of the holders is likely to be stronger in countries where an agricultural census is being conducted for the first time.

10.2 The success of the census and the quality of the information will largely depend on the cooperation of the holders and their willingness to provide the requested information. Every effort has to be made, particularly in countries where agricultural census taking is not a regular event, to seek the cooperation of the holders and their organizations and governmental agencies dealing with rural development programmes. The census publicity campaign should be designed to sensitize the public about the purpose of the census as well as to inform them of the type of information to be collected and its use, primarily to achieve full cooperation of respondents. Another important purpose of census publicity is the promotion of census results at the time they become available (see also Chapter 18 on this topic).

10.3 A primary function of the Agricultural Census Steering Committee, as already mentioned in Chapter 2, should be to undertake the responsibility of preparing a coordinated work plan and time-table for census publicity in connection with the agricultural census in all aspects and at all levels, with the aid of publicity experts. In many cases a special sub-committee will be set up to manage the census publicity campaign. The regional and local census committees would also normally be involved as agents for publicity in their respective areas. These committees should make use of all publicity media in their individual provinces.

10.4 These committees can help in planning an effective publicity campaign for the census taking into account the prevailing social and economic background, the means of communication available, etc. Publicity has to be directed at educating the holders, who are to supply the information to be collected through the census. They are frequently illiterate, have their own prejudices and often do not perceive the objectives and relevance of thevarious inquiries. They may connect the purpose of an agricultural census, which is a comprehensive technical inquiry, with a possible increase of agricultural taxes, the compulsory procurement of agricultural produce and even changes in land tenure. To dispel these fears and to assure them that the inquiry is primarily for their own benefit is the purpose of the census publicity programme. It should be explained, through an appropriate communication medium that can easily be understood by respondents, how the agricultural census is an essential basis for formulation and implementation of various development programmes, such as irrigation projects, soil conservation, use of fertilizers, introduction of improved varieties of crops and animals, modern agricultural implements, marketing and storage facilities, etc. These programmes aim at increasing the production of their enterprises and thereby contribute to raising their standard of living. It should also be explained, in simple language, how inaccurate information supplied by them will adversely affect the planning of various programmes intended to improve their living conditions. In other words, it may be emphasized how accurate data help the holders and the government in planning the economic programmes for the holders' betterment, and how planning based on inaccurate data can harm them, as well as their country.

10.5 It is important also to convince the holders of the confidential treatment of the data they supply and assure them that this information is for statistical purposes only and will not be used against them by any organization or law for any purposes such as levying taxes, procurement of produce, etc. They should also be told that individual information will not be made available to anyone outside the census organization, which will release the census information only in an aggregate form or in such a way that individual data cannot be identified.

10.6 If the agricultural census is taken on a sampling basis, only a small proportion of holders will be interviewed. This fact is likely to cause suspicion in the minds of both groups of holders, those interviewed and those not interviewed. It is essential that this suspicion be removed. The holders must understand through simple language why a particular holder was selected for interview and not the neighbour and why only a sample of holders was being interviewed.

10.7 The agricultural census cannot succeed in collecting the facts about a country's agriculture unless the respondents view it in a favourable light and are prepared to cooperate wholeheartedly by providing correct information. A well-planned publicity campaign is therefore essential to create a favourable environment for the census.

Types of media

10.8 The types of publicity media used will largely depend on availability and on a country's socio-economic structure. In most countries wide use is made of local and national newspapers, radio and television. If there is a well organized agricultural extension agency concerned with agricultural operations and in close contact with the farming community, it can be a very good publicity medium for sensitizing holders about the agricultural census. Educated holders can be supplied with a pamphlet indicating the purpose of the census. To reach illiterate and remote populations, radio and television talks and messages broadcast by important personalities (President, Minister of Agriculture, etc.) well known to the holders can be extremely valuable. Lectures and lessons in rural schools on census topics are also helpful. Well designed and colourful posters of various sizes suitable for being exhibited inside and outside buildings are effective in attracting the rural people. Cinema films, videos and slides exhibited in mobile vans in rural areas are also a very useful, although somewhat costly, means of familiarizing holders with the aims and purposes of the agricultural census. Holders can also be informed through village meetings, conferences of grower or producer associations, etc. Educating and informing local leaders,village headmen, and elders and other persons of influence is also an important first stage in reaching the holders and securing their cooperation.

10.9 The use of a census 'theme' and 'slogan' has proved very effective in many publicity campaigns and it is important to identify these at an early stage in the campaign.

Timing, duration and frequency of campaign

10.10 The publicity for the agricultural census should start slowly and reach a climax at the time of the census enumeration. Some of the early publicity can take the form of news items, contributions to the regular agricultural radio/TV programmes, etc. This publicity can explain the general aims and purposes of the census and cover the broader issues. The pre-test and pilot censuses can also be useful components of the publicity campaign. The procedure for conducting the census and details of the information being collected should be explained near the beginning of the actual census. The primary contacts in a census operation are the holders; they have to be convinced of the importance of their answers to the census. Any campaign considerably in advance of the actual interview will have limited influence on the holders' understanding of the questions and the importance of correct answers.

10.11 Once the holders are convinced of the usefulness of the census, they are usually interested in the final results. It is desirable to keep them informed about the findings of the census undertaking. This should be done through the radio, television and newspaper media when the final results of the census are released for general use (see Chapter 18).

Other possible action to obtain support and cooperation of holders

10.12 In addition to the holders, the aim of the census publicity should be to create a general awareness among the population at large. Cooperation of local government officials, i.e., agricultural extension agents, land record officials, school teachers, etc., can be enlisted for this purpose. Cooperation of an educated public can be obtained through the media of newspapers, magazines, clubs and periodicals on a variety of topics connected with an agricultural census. Distribution of pamphlets and leaflets about the census and printing new series of picture postcards and postage stamps prominently mentioning the census date are also useful. Preparation of a small pocket census manual and distribution of copies to all government officials concerned with rural development activities will also be useful. Dropping leaflets and candies with suitable messages from an airplane has also been tried in some countries. A well-publicized census will make its implementation much smoother and more successful.

Examples of media

10.13 Different countries adopt different media for publicity depending on what is available, effective and cost efficient. In some countries of Latin America, the publicity for the agricultural census was given through free distributions of comic literature among the schoolchildren. The theme of the comic was a conversation between the schoolboy and his father explaining what the agricultural census was about and how it could benefit them.

10.14 In the 1987 agricultural census in the United States of America, which was conducted basically as a mail-outmail-back survey, the pre-enumeration awareness programme had three major goals:

  1. Make the agricultural community (holders, ranchers and agri-business data users) aware of the census.
  2. Encourage everyone to respond (to increase overall response rate).
  3. Increase the response during the early days of the census.

Frame 10.1 Logo (example)

10.15 The Bureau of the Census selected the slogan "America counts on Agriculture" which was reproduced on posters, press releases and other publicity materials. The Bureau also developed a census logo depicting a barn and a silo with the words "AG CENSUS USA" below it (see Frame 10.1). This logo was reproduced on posters, T-shirts, baseball hats, etc., as well as on all census instruments, questionnaires, manuals, and publications.

10.16 The main publicity campaign relied mostly on traditional media: radio, television, newspapers and magazines as well as on the distribution of printed material. Special presentations were made at grower and producer organizations' meetings at both national and local levels.

10.17 After the census, there was a publicity campaign to inform potential data users of the kinds of data being published and their availability. Part of this publicity was a 38-page publication Guide to the 1987 Agricultural Census and related statistics, providing details of the publication plan of the census data and a description of other related information available.

10.18 In Vanuatu (1993) the publicity campaign was mainly conducted with radio talk shows, a census song and distribution of posters (see example in Frame 10.2), tee-shirts and brochures.

Suggested reading

UN (1992). Handbook of population and housing censuses: Part I, Planning, organization and administration of population and housing censuses. Studies in methods, Series F, No. 54.