No 6
ROME, 1995



This chapter deals with the basic activities which should follow the decision to conduct an agricultural census. These are:

  • establishing a work plan for the census; a checklist of the various key activities to be undertaken and relating them sequentially to each other within the time frame for the whole census.
  • setting up simultaneously a financial outline and a budget, broken down to reflect the budget calendar and budget procedure of the country;
  • constructing procedures to monitor the progress of individual operations, mainly to control expenditure.

The reader's attention is drawn to the importance of the recommendations in this chapter and particularly to those referring to the need for realistic estimates when preparing the budget. Inadequate planning and/or underestimating the financial requirements are the basic reasons in many countries for serious problems in census operations. Also, very important, is an awareness of the time and resource requirements for this operation. It should be known, especially by producers and users of data, that an agricultural census cannot be accomplished in a short time. Time is an essential dimension that should never be forgotten and even for a small census, at least two years is required from the initial preparatory work to the dissemination of the census results.

The work plan

3.1 The work plan is usually presented as a chart (see example in Table 3.1) identifying all the key activities of the census in a time frame (preparation, field work,etc.) and showing the relationship between them. Time is usually shown in weeks, months or quarters on the horizontal axes. Each row refers to a key activity with a bar showing when it is active. The comparison between bars demonstrates obvious relations between activities in time. Some information may be added to indicate possible flexibility of the relation; a well-prepared work plan should show, for instance, that enumeration cannot start before questionnaires are available.

3.2 Given the great number of specific activities, it is often more practical to break down the general work plan into several broad subject matter areas or phases; thus, one can prepare a field enumeration work plan, a training work plan, a data processing work plan, etc. In this case, the census coordinator must ensure the necessary consistency of these work plans. There are now several software packages available to assist in project planning and monitoring.

3.3 The assessment of the length of each activity must rely on realistic information from previous similar operations. The pilot census (see Chapter 13), carried out under conditions closely resembling the actual census, may also provide good estimates of time and resource requirements.

Table 3.1 Example of General Work Plan

Activity Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
Census legislation


General preparations XX XX XX XX XX XX

Tabulation plan


User meetings


Holding listing


Pilot census


Questionnaire design




Printing documents


Distribution of material






Quality controls


Preliminary results


Data processing - coding



- - data entry



- - tabulation


Analysis & dissemination


3.4 The importance of a well-thought out work plan should not be underestimated. For this purpose, a network analysis can be useful. For large operations like censuses, PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) provides a systematic approach for realistic planning in line with target dates, indicating crucial tasks and contemplating alternative courses of action to be taken and highlighting inter-related resources and activities. For example, a delay in the arrival of training materials at training centres would mean re-assembling hundreds of census field workers for training. Certain decisions, such as training of key office personnel and purchase of computers should be taken at a very early stage. The scheduling of the work plan, therefore, should be such that ample time is allowed for all materials to arrive at their respective destinations in time. In addition, the work plan should also take into account local conditions and transportation facilities. The time set fortraining and enumeration should be such that they are not interrupted. Questionnaires and other materials should not be exposed to the danger of getting wet and spoiled, such as during the rainy season. It should also be kept in mind that in many countries agricultural activities depend on the agricultural season, so the date of enumeration has to be planned accordingly.

3.5 Simultaneously, or as part of a work plan, it is desirable to prepare information which will show the amount of work in physical terms for each specific activity. For example, the amount of work for the field enumeration can be measured by the number of holdings to be enumerated and the time needed to access and enumerate an average holding. For data entry, the amount of work can be measured in terms of the number of key strokes to be performed or questionnaires to be entered. This information is indispensable for estimating the number of enumerators or number of data entry machines and operators required in order to accomplish the operation within the time scheduled in the work plan. Furthermore, this information is valuable for monitoring the rate of accomplishment of specific activities, so that timely action can be taken in case delays are detected.

The financial outline

3.6 From the work plan a financial outline can be drawn up by assigning costs to specific activities. Here, two kind of costs should be distinguished:

  1. Those for which the total cost derives directly from the product of a unit cost and a physical quantity. For instance, if N computers are required at US$ C each for data entry, the cost of purchasing computers for data entry would be US$ N × C.
  2. Those for which the cost, by its very nature, can only be either a flat rate, honorarium of an expert for instance, or a non-linear function of the quantity. In this latter category are the printing costs (questionnaires, reports, manuals, etc.) including the fixed costs and the variable costs where unit costs may decrease with quantity.

3.7 The assessments of time, assessments of cost (flat rate, fixed or variable) must be based on realistic price estimates obtained from previous experiences or by experts in the field. For printing costs, estimates from printers are clearly the best solution.

3.8 All costing should be specifically identified and cover each of the three main census phases:

3.8.1 Pre-enumeration phase.
The financial outline should consider estimates for activities covering planning and other preparatory work (including work plan and budget), such as frame preparation and obtaining/purchasing required cartographic material, aerial photographs, satellite imagery; determination of concepts and terms, questionnaire content; preparation of tabulation plan; training programmes and instruction manuals for field operations; determination of manpower requirements; logistics; preparation of data processing procedures and computer programs; preparation of administrative control and reporting forms; choice of survey design and/or determination of sample size (in the case of sample enumeration) and conducting pre-tests and pilot census; printing of questionnaires and other forms; planning equipment requirements for data processing (including software), transport, etc., and purchase and/or rental of this equipment; preparation of maps and other instructional materials; training of central office personnel, etc.
3.8.2Field operation phase.
The costs for this phase should reflect estimates for recruitment and training of field staff and supervisors; number and employment period of each type of worker; distribution and collection of questionnaires; post-enumeration survey (PES); quality control; and shipment of completed questionnaires to the respective provincial offices or central office.
3.8.3Post-enumeration phase.
The cost estimates for this phase should reflect cost for total man-days required and workload of activities involving receipt and control of documents; all phases of data processing (manual editing, data entry, verification and validation, and tabulation); analysis and publication of census results and publication of administrative reports, and all other activities of dissemination.

3.9 The other costs are:

3.9.1Travel expenses
need to be considered systematically, particularly in relation to the supervisory staff and mode of transport. These include mainly cost estimates of transportation and per diem of permanent employees. Census operations demand extensive travel for supervision and a shortage in funds required for travelling will adversely affect the quality of the census.
3.9.2Equipment requirements
and data processing needs have to be estimated in relation to the workload involved and anticipated expenditure involved in the purchase and hire of computer(s) data entry equipment, etc., should be provided for in the appropriate fiscal year. Requirement of transport vehicles should also be estimated.
3.9.3Printing costs:
An agricultural census has a huge printing programme. The number of questionnaires to be printed runs from many thousands to millions in some countries, and considerable other material, such as the instructions manuals, has also to be printed. The printing requirement of published reports will run into several hundred pages.

3.9.4Office expenses and miscellaneous costs may include hiring of office space and furniture, purchase of stationery, required equipment, raincoats and boots (if required) for enumerators, purchase of fuel, administrative and miscellaneous services, supplies and materials of office staff involved in the operation, accounting control forms and communication expenses,etc.

Preparation of the budget

3.10 For censuses, as for any statistical operation, the budget should be prepared in accordance with the rules and regulations of the government. It should conform with the standard set forth by the authorities empowered to approve and appropriate the necessary funds. It should be detailed enough to permit easy examination and/or review and subsequent approval by officials concerned. It can be set up directly from the financial outline by aggregating costs of specific activities according to the financial time schedule and regulations of the country. It is generally less detailed than the financial outline and may present, for instance, all salaries and wages regrouped by year even if the staff requirements of the census vary largely, beginning with a fairly small technical group of persons for preparatory work, subsequently an army of enumerators and supervisors for the enumeration, followed by the recruitment of personnel required for data processing and finally for activities of dissemination. Each financial plan should have built in somecontingency allowance for inflation and unexpected expenses. In estimating the expenditure on salaries of personnel for every financial year, this distribution of the number and type of persons who would be working on the census has to be accurately provided. Furthermore, the primary enumerators and field supervisors would be working temporarily for the census and some honoraria may have to be paid to them. This amount is generally substantial, and needs to be foreseen in the work plan and budget for the appropriate financial year.

3.11 In large countries with socio-economic conditions varying from province to province, it may be more realistic to prepare a budget for each province separately and then pool them together to arrive at a country budget. For example, in large countries, transport and communication facilities may not exist uniformly in all the provinces. Separate estimates of travel and transport costs will have to be made for individual provinces.

3.12 Presentation and adoption of the budget vary depending on the form or style adopted or practices followed by the country. Two sample budgets are shown in Tables 3.2 and 3.3.

Review of the work plan, the budget and frequency

3.13 Planning and scheduling of the census operation are prepared years in advance of the actual operation. Consequently, a periodic review of the work plan and its impact on the budget for any change of plan and schedule of operation, would be appropriate. This review, at least once each quarter, would suffice, as submission of the budget is usually made once a year.

Table 3.2 Example of budget for a Census in an African country with sample enumeration, intensive cartography work, several passages in holdings and area measurements

Unit: '000 US$

Expenses/posts Total Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
Preparatory studies, training, assistance, seminars 104 40 30 17 17
Census publicity 50 5 40 5

Office staff45012012012090
Data processing staff259125

Vehicles, transport175175

Survey materials6565>

Data processing equipment5050

Other equipment857015

Miscellaneous (including maintenance, repairs, various provisions...) 210 60 50 50 50
TOTAL 1673 722 542 252 157

Source: FAO Project document

Table 3.3 Provisional financial outline for the Census of Morocco
(complete enumeration, 1996)

Units: Dirhams (Dh)

Expenses/posts Number Value

Managers12804 0000
Data processing staff2808 400 000
Enumerators9332 796 000
Drivers100750 000
Support staff100750 000

Computers and software
8 600 000
17 200 000
Other equipment
500 000

Publicity campaign for the Census
1 000 000
Travel expenses
7 792 000
Printing of questionnaires and manuals
2 500 000
Printing of publications
400 000
Dissemination of the Census results, maps and cartographic material
100 000
Petrol and oil
6 000 000
Training materials (projectors & blackboards)
200 000
General expenses
1 000 000
58 792 000

Source: FAO Project Document

3.14 General review and coordination of changes in the plan are of great importance for large operations like a census. To better control the operations during the crucial period of census enumeration, a continuous review of the progress of work should be provided to ensure that day-to-day operations are proceeding smoothly and as planned. Any over-expenditure must be detected early and checked promptly. This control is particularly important in relation to the purchase of materials and supplies, printing of forms, field enumeration period, and processing of completed questionnaires. For this purpose, a monthly review would be required. Any delay occurring along any line of activity will have a chain reaction in the subsequent activity of the programme, affecting both work plan and budget. Ideally, the work plan should remain unchanged but whenever necessary changes are made in the plan and timetable, all key personnel should be informed. Changing the work plan must always result from an objective and rational analysis and be made by the census coordinator, not by pressure of unforseen events.

Preparation of expenditure control

3.15 A large operation such as a census involves a large amount of expenditure which will necessitate the introduction of control procedures to ensure the efficient use of funds as required by the funding agency. An appropriate system should, therefore, be designed and put in place.

3.16 Once a system has been established, written guidelines on financial policies and procedures should be prepared. For a census office which usually operates through its field personnel at various administrative levels, an efficient cost and control system would ensure an easy flow and control of funds from the central office to the field offices.

3.17 A possible procedure would be for the central office to issue fund allotments for a census administrative area, such as a provincial office. The province would then sub-allot amounts to the different areas under its supervision for their operational expenses, broken down as required, for instance into salaries and wages, travelling expenses, per diem, communication services, transportation services, other services, supplies and materials, rentals, equipment, etc. Field staff should be able to draw an amount, depending on the needs of the office, for the quarter but not beyond the cash ceiling allowance for that particular item of operating expenses.

3.18 In the meantime, the budget staff of the central office would keep an account of fund disbursements and reflect all types of expenditure incurred in a ledger account which would show on a current basis the amount spent for a project together with the unspent balance. The adoption of a coding system whereby every type of expenditure wo1uld be identified with a code number would make computerization possible.

3.19 A prerequisite for establishing expenditure control is the availability of information on expenditure incurred and the corresponding output of work. It is therefore desirable to develop a system of progress reports at regular intervals, say once a month. Progress reports should be compatible with the form in which both the work plan and the financial outline have been prepared. It would also be desirable to include in the form information regarding the outputs expected to be achieved in the subsequent month and for the year as a whole. These data can then be matched with achievements of the relevant period.

3.20 Relations between the work plan, expenditure control and financial outline are presented in Figure 3.1.

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.