New research programme aimed at improving rural statistics in countries

Pragmatic policies and selective government interventions to alleviate extreme rural poverty require that the living standards and well-being of rural dwellers be measured and monitored. Nevertheless, the majority of developing countries lack the ability and capability to produce sufficient and consistent factual data required for evidence-based policies aimed at reducing rural poverty.

This issue is further aggravated by the fact that there is no international definition of rural areas, thus hampering international comparability and reducing the utility of rural indicators for national governments.

In this context, the Global Strategy initiated research on “Improving Rural Statistics”. The objective of this research topic is to produce guidelines that will contain: a conceptual framework, an international definition of rural areas, a minimum set of core rural indicators and cost-effective methods to help developing countries produce and improve rural statistics while keeping in view the environmental and social dimensions of rural lifestyle.

The Inter-Agency Expert Group on Food Security, Agriculture and Rural Statistics (IAEG-AG), which was set up following its endorsement by the 43rd session of the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC), has recently decided in its second meeting, held in March 2016 in New York, to play an important role in carrying out this research topic. Its responsibilities will include drafting specific sections of the guidelines, peer reviewing papers, helping in identifying national experts and potential countries for field testing, and presenting the guidelines at the UNSC for discussion and endorsement.

Research on this topic is well underway and a total of five intermediate technical reports will be produced in 2016, addressing the conceptual and practical issues related to rural statistics. The proposed methodological solutions will be further substantiated by the development of a protocol for data collection to be carried out in selected countries in 2017. The results will be peer reviewed by IAEG-AG experts before the guidelines are finalized, translated into training materials and issued to Global Strategy partners for implementation in countries.