agcensus.htm

FAO STATISTICAL DEVELOPMENT SERIES
No 6
CONDUCTING AGRICULTURAL CENSUSES AND SURVEYS
FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS
ROME, 1995

CHAPTER 11

INSTRUCTION MANUALS

This chapter explains the need for instruction manuals and describes their content. It should be kept in mind that enumerators will have only limited training and work very independently, often in remote areas, generally without the possibility of consulting their supervisors. The primary purpose of the instruction manuals is as a reference for answering questions which may arise during the interviews.

There is usually a separate manual for enumerators and supervisors. The manual for supervisors includes enumerator instructions plus additional information for supervisors. The content of the manuals refers to all the questions on the questionnaire and includes concepts and definitions, techniques of interviewing and also duties and obligations of enumerators and supervisors. The manuals, like the questionnaires, have to be prepared very early so that, after testing them in the field on the pre-test or pilot census, enough time is available for their review and updating and for the printing of a sufficient number of copies.

The manuals are the primary documents used for training enumerators (see Chapter 12). Those preparing the manuals are advised to find samples of manuals prepared under similar conditions from previous censuses, or from neighbouring countries, because space limitation does not permit inclusion of examples in this publication.

Purpose of the instruction manuals

11.1 The quality of data collected during a census depends on the quality of field work performed by the enumerators and the supervisors. A description of the method of their recruitment and training is given in Chapters 4 and 12. Field staff must understand clearly all the details and procedures to be followed and learn a large number of concepts and definitions. It is almost impossible for them to become fully conversant with these during the short training period and they therefore need printed materials for reference. The manuals will enable them to review what they have been taught in order to master the subject matter and consult those items where doubts or problems arise as they proceed with the interviews. The instruction manuals fulfil two primary purposes. The first is to serve as an instrument of study during training courses and the second to provide basic material for reference during the census enumeration.

11.2 The manuals clearly establish the criteria and procedures to be followed and the work expected to be achieved during the census. The majority of the staff could carry out the census work and resolve their own problems, but it is essential that they all proceed in the same manner at all levels (high-level staff, supervisors, enumerators); consequently, they must follow the same rules and guidelines. There should be only one definition for each type of agricultural information collected. With instruction manuals, it is much easier to achieve and maintain data comparability.

Timely preparation of manuals

11.3 The instruction manuals should be prepared well in advance of training and made available at the beginning of the staff training course. It might be advisable to delay the preparation of the manuals until a training course for census executives is conducted with the intention of including all suggestions that might emerge during this course. It is highly preferable to have draft manuals at this stage, since the time available before subsequent courses may be insufficient to prepare enumerator and supervisor manuals and their training courses should not be held without manuals. The training of each type of census officer in the field will normally be the responsibility of the higher or headquarters-level officers who have just received their training, and it is therefore essential that they are able to rely on a printed document which will serve as a basis for transmitting the instructions to be followed in the census work. It should also be kept in mind that the manuals can be finalised only after the census questionnaires and various administrative procedures are finalised, which is another reason why early census preparations are essential.

Authors of the instruction manuals

11.4 The instruction manuals should be prepared by people who are conversant with conducting an agricultural census, not only from a theoretical but also from a practical point of view. This is particularly important so that numerous realistic examples can be developed. Through their experience in the field the authors of the manuals will know the problems which arise most frequently during the enumeration period and will be able to furnish practical solutions and guidelines for resolving such problems.

11.5 Often, the technical staff of the agency responsible for the census is newly trained and although they know the technical aspects they have little or no field experience. In this case, they should consult widely with employees who have participated in previous censuses so as to learn from their experiences and take advantage of their expertise in writing the manuals. If the first step to be taken is the updating of manuals of a preceding census, it is necessary to consult the staff who reviewed the questionnaires to know what questions gave rise to problems and examine the causes of such problems, and if there are mistakes in the instruction material they can be corrected. This information should exist in a technical report which may have been written after the previous census. In many developing countries this is not so; consequently, one has to rely on verbal information from former officers. The experience gained in the pilot census and in pre-testing can be fruitfully utilized in revising and preparing manuals. The authors of instruction manuals must remember that the staff who participate in the census are a very mixed population; consequently, the manuals must be written to the staff having the lowest level of education but meeting recruitment requirements for the job. The inclusion of explanations in the manuals which may appear very elementary is justified. It is usually a very good idea to take into consideration manuals from neighbouring countries with similar cultural backgrounds, particularly if the census is being organized for the first time.

Presentation of the instruction manuals

11.6 The language of the instruction manuals must be clear and simple so that they are easily understood. Idioms should be avoided, since their meanings may vary in different provinces of the country. As much as possible, words which can be interpreted in many ways, or words which differ in meaning from one locality to another, should be avoided, or the desired meaning should be emphasized.

Format of the instruction manuals

11.7 The instruction manuals should not be large, preferably in the range of 45 to 60 pages and small enough to fit conveniently into a pocket, and thus always be with the census personnel (21 × 15 cm (A5 format) may be a good choice). Care, however, must be taken to ensure the manuals address all points of the work.

11.8 The size of the print used in the manuals is an important factor. It may be recalled that in many cases field training and data collection are carried out in places where light is inadequate and reading of small print becomes difficult. The chapters and paragraphs should be separated, with titles in large lettering and preferably with some drawings enabling the subject to be easily identified. When chapters are very long, drawings or illustrations may also serve as points of reference and make it easier to locate the subject.

11.9 It is also customary to leave a very wide margin on the left of the page in order to highlight the points which are addressed in each paragraph and which enables the subjects to be found quickly. The margins should also be wide enough to permit the field staff to record any notes which they deem necessary to clarify points which they find confusing. During the training course the staff should be encouraged to do this, since many of them will have been taught not to write in books.

11.10 As already stated, the census officer or enumerator will not be able to memorize the manuals, but must be perfectly familiar with them in order to know how to find specific subjects. For this purpose the illustrations and marginal subject headings of the paragraphs are of great assistance. To facilitate the consultation work, the manuals should have an index of chapters and paragraphs. These should be numbered and one way of doing so, which is convenient and often used, is to use for the paragraphs the number of the chapter to which they belong, followed by a full-stop and the progressive number corresponding to the paragraph, for example: Chapter 1 General Information; 1.1 What is an agricultural census?; 1.2 Objectives of the census; etc.

11.11 It is essential that the paper used for manuals be of good quality, so as to withstand frequent handling without becoming torn or damaged, and the print should be clear. As the staff will be working in the field most of the time, exposed to all weather conditions, the cover page should be weather resistant and of a colour which attracts attention so it can be located easily among census papers.

Contents of the instruction manuals

11.12 Basically three types of field staff exist, namely the enumerator, the supervisor, and higher level or headquarters staff, and the use of the manual content is different for each of them. However, there are a series of items which are common to all census officers, such as the purposes of the census, basic definitions, explanations of the legal basis, etc. In many countries it is customary to prepare only one manual, including a part with the common items and a part for each level of officers in which detailed instructions pertaining to their work is given. In this way, it is easy for everyone to find and read the part relating to their particular work. In some countries three separate manuals are printed, but this system has several potential problems. Sometimes three separate manuals are prepared but printed together forming a single volume. Both systems have advantages and perhaps the only objection to a single volume is its size.

11.13 Whichever form is chosen to present the instruction manuals, the order of the items must be logical. At the beginning there will of course be an explanation about what the census is, its legal basis and the reasons for taking the census. This explanation must bewithin the grasp of the census officers and provide them with the necessary elements so that they in turn are prepared to give answers to the holder whom they are going to interview and be able to respond authoritatively to any other class of person (or authorities) whose collaboration they might need.

11.14 The manuals should deal with the following issues:

11.14.1Census operation.
A clear understanding of the objectives, procedures and definitions affecting census work promotes efficiency in the enumeration process. There should be provision for such information in the enumerator's manual. Possible considerations for such clear understanding is discussed below.
11.14.2Objectives and nature of the census.
In general, regardless of the development of a country, the objectives and nature of the agricultural census are the same. It should be made clear to the enumerator that an agricultural census is an inquiry on the structure of the agriculture sector of a country. Information on the primary producing unit, the agricultural holding, is collected. The objective is to include all holdings producing crops, livestock and livestock products, regardless of size and location. However, economic and practical considerations may limit the coverage to holdings meeting certain specifications. It should be clearly stated whether the specifications limiting coverage are based on area, on a certain number of livestock, on a minimum quantity or minimum value of agricultural output or agricultural production intended for sale and/or for consumption, or on a combination of these.
11.14.3Organization responsible for the census.
In a census operation, many problems may arise if the guidelines are not well defined and if there is no organization. It is, therefore, necessary to include in the manuals the corresponding organization, mentioning the office responsible for the census, its various provincial offices involved in the census work, as well as the officials in charge, and the position within the organization of the bodies which are especially created for census purposes, such as census committees (see Chapter 2). This description of the census organization, corresponding to the census operation which is about to begin, will enable each officer to understand the role he/she plays in this structure. The work of each census officer will be explained in a general way, so that they understand the fundamental purpose of their work with each step described in detail in the body of the manuals. The enumerator's report on the questionnaires completed and the material they will receive should be included so that when they deliver the material to the supervisors they can check that it is complete, or if not, take the necessary measures to assure its completeness.
11.14.4Legal aspects.
The legal responsibilities and entitlements should be mentioned in the manuals. As in many countries a law on statistics exists and in some a specific decree will have been promulgated to facilitate the census work, a corresponding chapter should be based on these documents. The field staff should be provided with a copy of the decree so that they feel they have sufficient authority to carry out their work, but stressing that they must always try first of all to convince the holder to give information and only in extreme non-response cases use the argument of these sanctions.
11.14.5Confidentiality of census data.
Emphasis should be on the obligation undertaken by census officers to maintain the confidentiality of data obtained, plus some additional precautions, such as keeping completed papers in a safe place, carrying out the interviews without witnesses (not in the presence of anyone who may be accompanying the census officer or the holder), and other precautions deemed necessary. A statement should be prepared on the obligations census officers have accepted in their capacity as civil servants working specifically on the census, such as to be kind and courteous with the respondents, not to discuss political or religious matters, not to ask the producers for food or anything else, and not to sell anything, etc.
11.14.6Definitions and concepts.
A chapter should be devoted to the definitions and concepts which are utilized in the census, which must be thoroughly understood and memorized by the field staff. Among them are the census unit (often the agricultural holding), geographic coverage, time reference of data to be collected, crop year, and a short explanation of sampling methodology, if applicable.
11.14.7Map-making and reading.
An important aspect to be explained in great detail and very clearly is that of map-reading, because the majority of the staff is not accustomed to using maps, making sketches and performing other work on maps. Although this is a subject which might be considered in common for the field staff, it presents slight differences for the various census officers, since they do not all have to perform the same work on maps, unless involved in quality control and verification of data collection.
11.15 There are some accepted, general indicators which may help beginners avoid mistakes, learn how to conserve their efforts, establish effective working relationships with the respondents and accomplish their work assignment in a short time.

Manual for the enumerator

11.16 The basic contents of the enumerator's manual may be as follows:

  1. Why the census is being taken and its importance
    1. Objectives of the census
    2. Uses of census information
  2. General information about the census
    1. Nature and scope
    2. Definitions and procedures
    3. Method of collection
    4. Time reference
    5. The census field organization
  3. The interviewer and interviewing
    1. Desirable attributes of the interviewer
    2. Preparation for the interview
    3. Tips on interviewing
    4. Resolving common problems in interviewing
  4. The questionnaire
    1. Basic concepts and definitions
    2. Item by item explanations of exactly what kinds of data are expected for each question and how to make the proper entries
  5. Other census forms
    1. Mapping and listing forms
    2. Conversion tables and related tables.
  6. Objective measurements (when envisaged)
    1. Measurement of areas
    2. Measurement of yield (crop-cutting)
    3. Use of pocket calculator for area measurement
  • Annex 1 Administrative instructions
  • Annex 2 Examples of completed questionnaires

11.17 The manual should include a general description of the work to be carried out, explaining that the enumerators will travel through the areas assigned to them, identify the holdings and ask each holder for the information requested in the questionnaire or questionnaires which have been designed, and that they will abide strictly to the instructions given them.

11.18 The manual should also include a description of the data collection method. It is advisable to prepare an annex to the manual containing a series of examples and exercises on how to fill the questionnaire illustrating interviews with holders, and how interviews should be conducted, to familiarize the enumerators with the technique of interviewing (see also Chapter 14). Enumerators should be aware that some questions are a cross check of previous answers received, and the response to such questions might require the enumerators to revisit previous questions and responses. Exercises explaining the definitions and basic concepts and giving some information on working with or on maps should also be included. The exercises can be presented as a separate booklet which will be very useful for the enumerators to study on their own so as to become thoroughly conversant with the subject. It can also be used by area coordinators and supervisors for the same purpose and during training courses for staff under their jurisdiction.

Manual for the supervisor

11.19 The supervisor's manual may include the following sections, in addition to what is suggested for the enumerator's manual:

  1. General responsibilities of the supervisor.
  2. Selection, recruitment and training of enumerators.
  3. Preparation of mapping, listing and other census field materials.
  4. Field supervision, checking, editing and progress report.
  5. Preparation of summary of most important data (when envisaged).

11.20 In order to discharge the duties of supervisor it is necessary that guidelines as recommended be prepared so that all procedures will be uniform.

11.21 It is essential that the manual emphasize the work of the supervisors as mainly supporting and assisting the enumerators to improve the quality of their work and to coordinate the data collection activity. Supervisors who are in direct contact with the enumerators are in the best position to assist and encourage them to work efficiently and correctly.

11.22 The general description of the supervisors' work is extensive since their functions vary. They include work prior to the census such as checking maps and lists of important holdings which must be surveyed in the area allotted to them, and in some cases help in the preparation of such lists; they also hire and train enumerators in their jurisdiction. During the census they will observe the interviews carried out by enumerators, check at least someof the data obtained, so as to be sure that the interviews have actually been carried out and the data not invented by the enumerator, and in some cases (e.g., if the enumerator is sick) the supervisor will also have to interview the holders and complete questionnaires. They will edit the completed questionnaires, if required summarize some of the most important data which will serve to provide the immediate results of the census, and send the questionnaires and list of holdings to the provincial office. In countries where the field area is measured by compass-bearing method, supervisors may be equipped with programmable pocket calculators to calculate the field area and closure error when they are in the enumeration area so that measurements can be repeated if necessary. Supervisors will have to deal with many other administrative aspects such as checking the extra expenses of enumerators, handing out wages and hiring and dismissing enumerators. After the census they will make a final report and check expense claims which remain pending.

11.23 They may also be assigned further duties: the promotion of the census and even assisting with the formation and setting up of the census committee, the latter when their work area coincides with an administrative division. Generally, the distribution of staff and workload is carried out in the central office by dividing the country into census sectors, such as areas which are assigned to each enumerator, but in other cases, due to the lack of updated or less reliable maps, the supervisors are assigned administrative units which, in principle, are easily identifiable in the field and are given the responsibility of pre-listing holdings and distributing work to enumerators who will be under their jurisdiction. They must be given precise rules to facilitate their work, so as to avoid duplication or omission of areas of their work. It is essential that a sketch be prepared on which the area assigned to each enumerator is shown and these sketches later sent to the central office where they will be used for various other purposes. It must be specified whether the preparation of the sketches is the task of the supervisor or of the enumerator. Generally it is done by the enumerator.

11.24 Having sketches of the areas assigned makes it possible to evaluate the census and makes supervision easier. The distribution of work among the enumerators should be equitable. Inequity creates friction among the staff and is detrimental to the quality of the work performed. If, through lack of information, it is feared that the distribution is not equitable, the enumerators will be advised and will be asked to report frequently to the supervisor to receive new instructions. The supervisor can then control the progress of the work very carefully by making necessary adjustments.

11.25 A preliminary list of holdings is not always made, but nearly always there is a list of the most important census units, which in the majority of cases is based on the results of previous censuses and is sometimes updated by information supplied by grower or producer associations or other bodies connected with the agricultural sector of the country. The supervisor must be given instructions to check and update the list and use it in checking the work of the enumerator. Sometimes, the supervisors will have to prepare the list of the most important holdings in their area, in which case they must be told the criteria to follow in order to judge whether a holding is important and which agencies and persons might be approached to obtain the information needed for the preparation of such lists.

11.26 If the census is based on a sample, the supervisor may be responsible for the selection of the sample, and it is essential that the instructions in the manual be very clear and precise. It should be emphasized that this procedure is based on certain statistical principles and the instructions should be followed closely, since unauthorized modifications may seriously distort results obtained from the sample enumeration.

Training of enumerators

11.27 The supervisor will often be responsible for training enumerators. Guidance regarding the subjects which must be taught during the training course should be included in the manual as well as the approximate time devoted to each subject. In effect, a course agenda must be in the manual. This will assure that all subjects are covered, each given its due importance.

11.28 Supervisors should be told the type of facilities needed for conducting the training course and the material which will be made available. The importance of supplementing the theoretical training of the staff should be stressed with practical training consisting of interviews and census work in the field. Supervisors should be informed that such activities will be the same as those carried out during their training. The practical field work should be carried out in an area near the training site and cover all stages of the census organization, from the identification of the boundaries of the enumeration area to the editing of completed questionnaires.

11.29 Emphasis should be put on the fact that even with good training and competent candidates as enumerators, field practice is still necessary, because field practice reinforces the theoretical training. More details about training organization can be found in Chapter 12.

Intensity of supervision

11.30 The supervisors will have to review the work of enumerators; consequently, it is necessary that they establish a timetable for this activity. Supervision should be more intense during the first week of the census so that enumerators' mistakes can be immediately corrected. At the beginning of the review of the enumerators' work, the supervisor should already know the quality of field work being done by their enumerators. They may plan future inspections in such a way that they are more frequently available to guide those enumerators who are not performing adequately and not following the procedures for census taking. The supervisors should accompany each enumerator assigned to them during the first one or two interviews, before allowing them to work on their own, and then visit on a regular scheduled basis during the enumeration period (it may be necessary to make unscheduled visits if work performance is inadequate).

11.31 Instructions will be given in the manual regarding the number of interviews which the supervisor has to observe and how it should be done without embarrassing either the enumerator or the holder, and how to give guidance to the enumerator on the basis of what was observed. In addition, during the supervisors' field visits they will check a sample of questionnaires completed by the enumerator.

11.32 One of the functions of the supervisors is to ensure that the census is finished on schedule. For this to happen they must control the progress of the field work. Supervisors will be given instructions on how to keep a suitable record to enable them to evaluate the performance of their enumerators. They will generally have printed forms on which to make the needed relevant notes. They will also have printed forms for reporting to the provincial office on the progress of the work, and the manual will state the intervals these reports must be made (see Chapter 14).

Authority of the supervisors

11.33 The supervisors must have the authority to deal properly and summarily with enumerators who are not performing satisfactory work. As a last resort they will have to dismiss non-performing enumerators. The replacement of enumerators is a problem whichsupervisors will face, not only for non-performance but for other reasons also, such as illness, family problems, accidents, or quitting. They should receive guidance in the manual on how to resolve such problems, either by hiring staff who attended the training courses and passed the examination but were not selected, or by extending the census period and dividing the work among one or more enumerators who have been working well and may finish their own assignment early and who can be transferred to the areas needed once they have finished the work originally assigned to them.

How to solve the difficulties of the enumerators

11.34 The enumerators will receive instructions during training on solving problems which are expected to occur most frequently. They should report to their supervisors other problems which arise that they cannot solve. It should be stressed in the manual and during training that supervisors must study carefully the guidelines given to the field staff for dealing with problems, they must be in a position to take initiative to solve such problems and only in extreme cases will they refer such problems to the area coordinators for instructions on how to proceed.

11.35 The enumerators will inform supervisors of interviews which could not be carried out because of the refusal of holders to give information, or other reasons, in which case the supervisor must try to complete the interview. The manual should contain suggestions on how to proceed in case of refusals, such as again approaching the holders to try to reason with them and, when such attempts fail, to contact someone with influence who is willing to try and convince reluctant holders to respond to the questionnaire. This could be the religious leader, the leader of a holders' trade union, or the president of an association, etc., or some government authority, as considered appropriate in the province. In spite of these endeavours, it will not always be possible to obtain the desired information. Instructions should be given to the supervisor on how and when to apply sanctions which have been established by the legislation.

11.36 The editing of the completed questionnaires is a major task which the supervisors must perform. It is very laborious work and they should be given practical rules to be able to do it efficiently. These rules may consist of editing only some sections of the questionnaire which are fundamental, or some questions which are known to be difficult to answer and the reply may contain serious errors, or the question may not have been answered at all. Initially they will edit all questionnaires for enumerators under their jurisdiction. This procedure will enable them to detect errors made systematically by any enumerator, to immediately give the necessary instructions so as to rectify such errors. As work progresses and enumerators complete more questionnaires the supervisors will have more work to perform and will not be able to edit all questionnaires; therefore the manual should contain some very simple sampling procedure which supervisors can use to continue editing. Assignment of supervisors should be such that they can do a simple check and editing of questions deemed essential for any questionnaire completed in their district.

11.37 In some countries the supervisors are asked to sign all questionnaires they have reviewed; this practice is not necessarily useful. In addition to affording an opportunity for correcting the work of the enumerators and improving the quality of the information obtained, it is very important to note that the editing of questionnaires in the same area in which they have been completed makes it easier to correct erroneous data contained; instructions should, therefore, be given as to how these data should be corrected. Whenever possible, that is to say, when communications and available time permit, a badly filled in questionnaire should be returned to the enumerator to rectify the information with the help of the holder. When supervisors edit questionnaires they should all use a specific coloured pencil. Theyshould not erase or obliterate the enumerator's recorded data but strike through the incorrect entry only once and enter the correction next to the question.

11.38 The supervisors are often asked to make summaries of the main census results being obtained. It will be indicated in the manual how often these summary reports should be sent. Since the supervisors have to prepare a final report, they must be given instructions on how to do so, be generally provided with guidance on the subjects which must be covered without a lot of detail, since lengthy information supplied is often not read.

Manual for the provincial coordinators

11.39 The provincial coordinators' manual may include the following sections in addition to that included in the supervisors' manual:

  1. Selection of applicants for the supervisor posts
  2. Training of supervisors.
  3. Receipt and editing of questionnaires and other forms completed in the field.
  4. Dispatch of progress reports on the census.
  5. Summary report on preliminary data.
  6. Instructions on administrative aspects in relation to the checking of expenses, payment of wages, rejection of faulty work, application of sanctions to officers, etc..
  7. Dispatch to the central office of all the documentation dealt with.
  8. Final Report. Format the same as that for the supervisor but containing more subjects.

11.40 The provincial coordinators will be responsible for the census in the province assigned and the description of their basic functions may generally include: setting up a provincial office, negotiations with government authorities, with other persons and with various agencies, promotion of the census, hiring and training of the supervisors, distribution of field staff, receipt and distribution of the census material, general supervision of the field work, receipt and revision of the completed documentation, payment of the wages, summary of preliminary data, dispatch of all the completed documentation to the central office and preparation of a final report. If they have a technical and/or an administrative assistant, they will also have to coordinate such work.

11.41 The manual for the provincial coordinators is often either considered not necessary or it is done in a very short form. Since provincial coordinators are usually few in number in most countries, the description of their duties and related instructions may be prepared in a very short informal format instead of a manual. Nevertheless, countries with long traditions in census and survey taking usually prefer a more detailed manual. Communications between the central office and the provincial coordinators can be reduced and problems avoided if they possess good instructions. Provincial coordinators should be instructed on which government agencies they can approach in order to obtain office accommodation and equipment, or whether they will have funds available for this purpose.

11.42 Although the publicity campaign for the census will have been planned in the central office, the provincial coordinators should be sent publicity materials prepared for them to distribute. They will need to promote some publicity activities through local media such as broadcasting stations, television, cinemas, posters, etc., for which they will be given instructions and advised of funds available for this purpose.

11.43 The provincial coordinators should be given very clear instructions on the formation of the census committees, who should comprise them, the approximate number of members,what the functions of the committees are, when they should start to function and when they will conclude their mission, and other details which are considered important so that the committees are of real assistance to the census work.

11.44 The provincial coordinators should be advised on how to handle and control the census documentation they will receive from the central office and what action they should take when forms are missing. For example, in some cases they may authorize their printing or reproduction locally.

Suggested reading
INSEE (1962). Manuel d'enquêteur agricole (Service de cooperation).