FAO STATISTICAL DEVELOPMENT SERIES
CONDUCTING AGRICULTURAL CENSUSES AND SURVEYS
FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS
ORGANIZATION OF FIELD WORK
This chapter describes the need for strictly controlled and efficient field supervision. It should be kept in mind that the field supervisors are responsible in many countries not only for supervision of data collection but for selection, recruitment and training of enumerators, and in some cases for their remuneration. All such activities require control which cannot be provided directly from the central census office. The supervision structure has to be organized at provincial and lower levels. An efficient system of supervision is not easy to organize, considering that an agricultural census is conducted in many countries only once in ten years. The rehearsal of field organization procedures is made within the framework of a pilot census. Practical advice is also given concerning advantages of recruiting resident enumerators who are familiar with local conditions and local dialects.
A closely related topic is Census Enumeration covered in Chapter 14.
15.1 The primary and chief responsibility for planning, organizing, conducting and supervising the agricultural census operations, tabulating and analyzing the results, and preparing and publishing the reports normally rests with a single government department. Success depends on the support and assistance of other government departments and public agencies at various stages of the work. This cooperation is particularly important for field work and its supervision, including activities such as mapping and delineation of enumeration areas, seeking cooperation and support of the people through their leaders, training enumerators and supervisors, securing accommodation and other facilities for staff and transportation to the areas of operation, etc.
15.2 The department at the national headquarters responsible for the organization of field work on the agricultural census can be the statistics division or department in the Ministry of Agriculture or the Bureau of Statistics or Central Statistical Office located in the Ministry of Finance and/or Economic Planning. The responsible organization will differ from country to country depending on whether the Ministry of Agriculture, as the main user of agricultural statistics, has a full-fledged division or department of statistics or there exists a central statistical organization in the country which is not only a coordinating body but also charged with the responsibility of organizing and conducting censuses and surveys.
15.3 The department responsible for organizing the agricultural census will seek the support and assistance of other departments, either in organizing the field work and enlisting the cooperation of the people or in developing plans and procedures, concepts, definitions and classifications. This support and assistance can be secured by the agricultural census committee (or coordinating board) at the national level with representatives of all departments concerned with the field organization and use of agricultural data. One of the major functions of this committee is to coordinate the activities of the staff of the different departments in the field and to solve the practical difficulties encountered during the census operations. To solve field problems quickly and effectively, it is also necessary to set up census committees (or coordinating boards) at provincial and district levels. The need to set up census committees at various levels of census operations has been discussed in detail in Chapter 2.
Provincial offices and their work
15.4 A large-scale agricultural census operation is difficult to control and guide effectively from a single central office at the national headquarters. The problems and difficulties of the field staff cannot be expeditiously communicated and timely solutions obtained. It is also difficult for a central office to make adequate arrangements for transport of field staff in distant places. The training of the field staff and supervision of their work from a central office cannot be adequate and effective. Supply of equipment and forms, provision of necessary facilities and amenities, and payment of salaries, etc., to field staff from a central office will be slow. These problems are more difficult to handle if the country is large and transportation and communication facilities are limited. It is necessary to establish census offices at the provincial and district levels. If the department responsible for the census organization already has provincial and district offices for normal statistical work and for survey and census purposes, these offices should be strengthened to deal with the increased work during the agricultural census or survey. The provincial offices for census and survey purposes should be located near other provincial government offices.
15.5 The provincial and district offices can serve as the secretariat and coordinating body for the census committees. These offices put the problems and difficulties faced in the field before the departments represented on the committees and obtain solutions, support and assistance. To enlist the support and cooperation of village leaders and the staff working on statistical operations, these offices can organize local meetings in which district administrators and officials of local administration and rural development departments can assist in educating people on the objectives and scope of the operation, its need and importance, its role in planning the country's agricultural development and people's welfare and the need for the people's support and cooperation in achieving the desired results of the operation. Any concerns which might exist about operations can be addressed more effectively by the provincial or district authorities. Often, more than one meeting of the leaders and their staff may have to be held before an agreement for support and cooperation is reached. The provincial and district offices have a necessary role to play in such situations.
15.6 The provincial and district offices can pull together the field and supervisory staff of different departments for statistical operations in the province or district and coordinate their activities. Instances of lack of cooperation on the part of any member of the field staff can be brought to the attention of concerned departments for prompt solution at the local level. These offices can also assess day-to-day transport requirements and pool transport facilities for census operations in the province or district.
15.7 The provincial offices can organize intensive training courses of small groups of enumerators and their supervisors in the province with reference to specific local conditions and problems. The enumerators and supervisors in a province can be gathered together more conveniently at a provincial office to discuss problems that might appear common to these staff. Some trained enumerators can be kept in reserve at provincial level to fill vacancies arising from resignations, sickness, etc.
15.8 The supervision of field work, the prompt resolution of mistakes, the ability to keep staff working on location, to gather completed questionnaires from the enumerators and to complete review of questionnaires and their evaluation in consultation with enumerators can best be organized from a provincial office. Transfer of enumerators from areas where work has been completed to other areas where the work is lagging behind or is not satisfactory can be assessed and resolved promptly from a provincial office.
Census field staff
15.9 Since an agricultural census is taken at periodic intervals it can be conducted either entirely with the help of new part-time or temporary enumerators or by supplementing the field staff already employed for annual surveys with new temporary enumerators. These temporary enumerators may have little background or knowledge of agriculture, the agricultural census and local conditions. They will require intensive training, supplemented with considerable practical work, field demonstrations, tests and exercises. Considerable time and resources will have to be spent in securing accommodation for them in rural areas, in providing them with the required equipment and facilities, in introducing them to village leaders and the people, and in securing cooperation. Some temporary enumerators will leave the job in the middle of the census operations and replacements will have to be found. These inconveniences can be avoided if normal field staff of the department responsible for the conduct of the agricultural census is supplemented by field staff of other departments concerned with agricultural statistics or agricultural extension.
15.10 Extension assistants or field officers of the Ministry of Agriculture who are usually familiar not only with the boundaries of the enumeration areas within their jurisdiction, the terrain, and land use and crop cultivation practices, but also with people whose cooperation they can easily obtain, are a good source for enumerators. The census field operations and extension work can be integrated to complement each other. In most developing countries the number of extension agents is limited and their jurisdictions large. Moreover, extension activities cannot be postponed for a long period of time. In practice, only a part of the extension agents can usually be made available to assist in the census work. Experience in many countries would indicate that there may be more disadvantages than advantages in using extension workers for census data collection activities.
15.11 The advantages extension agents may have over temporary enumerators in census operations can be lost if they are moved to an area outside their jurisdiction. Moreover, the cost of the census operations will increase as extension agents will be paid for overnight stays outside their normal jurisdiction. Extension agents should not be allotted an enumeration area which does not fall within their normal jurisdiction.
General organization of field staff
15.12 It is advisable that the field staff, particularly the supervisors and enumerators, live in the places where they are working. Staff who are unfamiliar with local conditions have many disadvantages: they cannot move around easily, they may not be trusted by holders, they may not be able to communicate easily with holders since they may not know the local dialect and may not be familiar with local units of weights and measures.
15.13 If staff with local knowledge are recruited, the enumerators can work alone in their jurisdiction as they will usually get cooperation from holders. If it is not possible to recruit qualified and experienced enumerators from the localities where they need to work, it may be preferable to allow enumerators to work in teams. This may be desirable in difficult areas with poor transport and communication facilities. Sometimes, for safety reasons it is better to have a team of enumerators.
15.14 The advantages are lost as teams become large. There can be some economy in transportation and provision of accommodation, camp equipment and facilities for the enumerators when organized in teams. Enumerators in a team can discuss their problems, difficulties and experiences to mutual advantage. Organization of enumerators in teams can be especially advantageous if there are a number of new and inexperienced enumerators. The team serves as in-service training until the new enumerators are ready to work independently.
15.15 The formation of teams of enumerators can also be useful when field staff of other departments are made available to supplement on a part-time basis the trained and experienced enumerators of the department responsible for organizing and conducting the census. Such part-time enumerators can be used in emergencies or when an adequate number of fully-trained enumerators are not available. It is highly preferable to rely on full-time and fully-trained enumerators.
15.16 In a team, enumerators are likely to duplicate a certain amount of work or waste time if there is no proper organization and distribution of work among the team members and adequate supervision of their work. The decision as to whether enumerators should be organized in teams or work individually in separate allotted areas will depend on the conditions and type of census organization in a country. Even if enumerators work independently in separate areas, they can be treated as members of a team in a supervisor's zone or in a district to ensure balanced progress of field work over all the zone or district. The workload in some enumeration areas of a supervisor's zone may be heavier than in others. The supervisor should be able to transfer enumerators from areas where work has been completed to areas where an increased number of enumerators are needed.
15.17 The crop harvests of one season may be at different times in different parts of a supervisory zone or district of the country, but usually the harvesting period in an area is a very limited time. The enumerators allotted to such an area may not be able to complete the crop-cutting survey on time if crop-cutting is necessary to estimate crop yields. In such situations, enumerators from other areas where the crop harvests have not started or have been completed, can be transferred to assist.
Supervisory work and staff
15.18 Adequate supervision of enumerators' work at proper times and at frequent intervals, both by routine procedure and by surprise visits, is essential and one of the most important organizational aspects for a successful operation. Cases have been reported in many countries where questionnaires were completed with false information without respondents being interviewed or with remote fields being omitted when the field areas had to be measured. Enumerators' problems and difficulties, and the guidance and assistance needed, will be known and the required help given if their work is inspected at regular intervals. Enumerators' work should be supervised at least once a week, more frequently in the initial stages of the work, and less frequently when the supervisor is convinced that the enumerators understand their work and do it systematically and correctly. The purpose of supervision should be to prevent carelessness and negligence by the enumerators and to impart instructions with reference to actual situations in the field, and also to solve day-to-day technical and operational problems.
15.19 For supervision to be effective and useful during the initial period of an enumerator's work, including identification of enumeration areas with the help of maps and boundary descriptions and listing of households, it should be done while the enumerator is on the job. The supervisor should accompany the enumerators to several initial interviews and actual measurements, observe their work closely and take immediate measures to correct any noticeable shortcomings. Supervisors should later visit and observe one or two interviews and check a sample of questionnaires to ensure their completeness, accuracy and consistency. As each phase of enumeration work in an area is completed, the supervisor should review the work and ensure that all households have been listed and questionnaireshave been fully completed for all agricultural holdings; and corrections made for any deficiencies observed before starting the next phase or moving to another area.
15.20 Supervision can be efficient and objective by checking a random sub-sample of enumeration areas and holdings. The supervisor's observations, along with the data entered by the enumerators, can be recorded on a prescribed supervision form. This will provide an assessment of the nature and extent of errors committed by enumerators and what corrections are necessary. Such a programme of supervision will take considerable time. Supervisors also have to arrange for accommodation facilities, the transport of forms and camping equipment for the enumerators from the headquarters or provincial offices, introduce enumerators to the people and brief the local people on census operations and encourage their cooperation. Considering the extent and nature of the responsibilities supervisors have to discharge in often difficult terrain, a supervisor can effectively supervise five to ten enumerators. In difficult areas with poor transport facilities and with remote and suspected non-cooperative farming communities, a supervisor should not be responsible for more than five enumerators. In areas with good transport and communication facilities and where holders and enumerators are familiar with censuses and surveys this number may go up to ten.
15.21 A supervisor can be expected to complete supervision of not more than five enumeration areas in a month. This should be taken into account when determining the size of the sub-sample for supervision.
15.22 For successful, timely and effective supervision, adequate transport is essential for both the supervisors and enumerators. Often, the supervisor is provided with a four-wheel-drive vehicle or a motorcycle, an enumerator with a bicycle. In some areas these are not suitable, and supervisors and enumerators may have to be authorized to hire local transport, such as horses, mules, camels, boats, etc., depending on what is available or needed to get the job done. Other details regarding supervision can be found in Chapters 11 and 12.
Enumeration work and staff
15.23 The number of enumerators needed for the census operation in a country will depend not only on the volume of work and the length of the survey period, but also on the intensity of agriculture, the number of crop seasons in the year and the terrain to be covered. In many developing countries which have only one major crop season or at the most two, the terrain is difficult, transport and communication limited and movement from one enumeration area to another time consuming. The households in an enumeration area may also be far apart. It is difficult to recommend the workload to be assigned to an enumerator. This workload will depend on the content of the questionnaire, whether the enumeration area is compact or widely spread and transport and communication arrangements. Time elements required when planning these activities can best be obtained from pilot censuses (see Chapter 13). Perhaps the most important time factor is whether plans for objective measurements for areas and yields are included as this operation is very time consuming. While enumerators may be able to interview five or more agricultural holders a day, they may need a whole day to measure the area of all parcels of one holding. Experience shows that not more than 100 to 200 holdings should be assigned to an enumerator if no objective measurement is done, and only 20 to 50 if objective measurements are to be included.
15.24 If the enumerators are natives of or reside in the area where they are assigned, they will be known by the people and can usually get maximum cooperation, and when they need assistance for some operations they may be allowed to choose a helper. However, if they are new to the area, they have to be introduced to village leaders and people by their supervisor or senior local administration or rural development officers. The chief or thevillage leader has to arrange for their accommodation and, if necessary, a meeting with the people at which the enumerator can explain the objective, need and importance of the operation, and request their cooperation. The chief or the village leader may have to assign to the enumerator a helper who is familiar with the people and is well informed about agricultural practices in the area. This helper may be selected from those who usually work, or have worked, on similar missions in the past.
15.25 These helpers can guide the enumerators around the area, take them from one household to another and to different fields and cattle-sheds if required. If objective measurement of areas is required they can help in measuring distances and taking compass readings. They can hold poles at the corners of the fields, run the measuring wheel or chain and strings or frames for demarcating crop-cutting plots. They can also assist enumerators to harvest crop-cutting plots and in drying and threshing the harvested produce. They can help to make appointments with holders in advance and carry messages.
15.26 These helpers can be paid either a daily or monthly wage based on the quantity of work done. The remuneration should be in line with wages paid in the past or for similar work. The enumerators should be given an allotment to cover such expected expenses.
General suggestions for preparing the interview
15.27 The enumerators should plan their daily routine for interviewing. It is important that the enumerators plan clearly what they want and hope to accomplish in a stated time frame. It may be desirable, especially for beginners, to write down these objectives, and spell out possible problems and possible solutions. In other words, they should plan and decide what is to be accomplished and when they will do it.
15.28 It is desirable to have advance information about the area of enumeration and the people to be interviewed. The enumerators should learn as much as possible about the place where the interview will be conducted and the persons to be interviewed. What needs to be known will vary with the situation, but the general principle is knowing the respondents. This is the advantage of a local enumerator. If the area involved is of one cultural group, it is often wise to interview the leaders first to enlist their cooperation and to have them recommend and introduce the enumerator to others in the group. The principle of interviewing the leaders first not only applies to cultural groups, but is also applicable to organizations or institutions. The persons in charge should be approached first and their cooperation secured before interviewing others in the organization or institution.
15.29 If possible, appointments should be made in advance. The date the census or survey will begin is often announced through publications and news media. In some countries, every household is requested to have somebody present in the house during the time the interviewer is expected to be in their vicinity. The enumerators can of course make their own appointments, and in this case should have some knowledge of the respondents' daily routine to ensure appropriate times and places are selected for the interviews.
Casley D.J. and Lury D.A. (1981). Data collection in developing countries. Clarendon Press, Oxford.
FAO (1965). Estimation of areas in agricultural statistics.
FAO (1982). Estimation of crop areas and yields in agricultural statistics.
FAO (1992). Collecting data on livestock.