Living Standards Measurement Study - Integrated Surveys on Agriculture
The Living Standards Measurement Study - Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) is a $19 million household survey project established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented by the Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) within the Development Research Group at the World Bank. Recognizing that existing agricultural data in the region suffers from inconsistent investment, institutional and sectoral isolation, and methodological weakness, the LSMS-ISA project collaborates with the national statistics offices of its seven partner countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to design and implement systems of multi-topic, nationally representative panel household surveys with a strong focus on agriculture. The primary objective of the project is to foster innovation and efficiency in statistical research on the links between agriculture and poverty reduction in the region.
The surveys under the LSMS-ISA project are modeled on the multi-topic integrated household survey design of the LSMS; Household, Agriculture, and Community questionnaires are each an integral part of every survey effort.
Household questionnaires elicit comprehensive data for the construction of a full consumption-based welfare measure, permit distributional and incidence analysis, and generally contain information of similar depth and content across project countries, so as to ensure comparability. For each country, possible topics include:
- Household demographics
- Health and nutrition
- Food consumption/expenditures
- Non-food expenditures
- Non-farm self-employment and other sources of income
- Dwelling conditions
- Durable assets
- Participation in projects and programs
Information on asset ownership, control of household resources, and participation in activities and programs are collected to allow for gender-disaggregated analysis.
Agriculture questionnaires collect information on a core set of indicators identified by the LSMS team through a consultative process with several technical experts. Information on the following topics is collected in all LSMS-ISA project countries:
- Basic crop production, storage and sales
- Productivity of main crops, with emphasis on improved measures of:
- Quantification of production
- Plot size
- Production shocks
- Land holdings
- Size using GPS measurement
- Farming practices
- Soil and environmental management
- Water management
- Adaptation to climate change and mitigation strategies
- Input use and technology adoption
- Family and hired labor
- Use of technology and farming implements
- Seed varieties
- Fertilizer, pesticides/herbicides applications
- Access to and use of services, infrastructure and natural resources
- Agricultural extension services
- Access to markets and information
- Access to natural and common property resources
- Quantification of current stock, sales and input expenditures
- Reliance on veterinary practices
- Quantification of livestock by-product production and sales
- Quantification of production, sales and input expenditures
- Use of fishing implements
Community questionnaires collect community-level information on the following topics in each project country:
- Access to public services
- Access to infrastructure
- Social networks
- Retail prices
Other relevant topics for the collection of community-level information are determined based on the specific needs of each LSMS-ISA partner country.
The LSMS-ISA project contributes to the resolution of various methodological issues and measurement problems via validation exercises and the use of innovative new survey technology to improve the timeliness and quality of household survey data. Survey data in general, and income data in particular, are subject to serious measurement problems; of particular relevance are the well-known deficiencies in the valuation of agricultural production for home consumption, affecting welfare measurements, as well as common problems in the measurement of plot size and yields.
The LSMS-ISA project provides an ideal platform for the field validation of several of the more pressing measurement issues related to agricultural data, as validation exercises can be conducted within LSMS-ISA survey work with minimal additional effort and cost.
The current priority areas for validation include:
- Area measurement, including the use of GPS;
- Better quantification via crop cards of staple crops, roots, and tubers;
- Measurement of soil type and quality;
- Valuation of own production and agricultural income;
- Survey methods for crop production estimates;
- Measuring and valuing livestock by-products; and
- Better accounting of fishery and aquaculture.
The results of the methodological validation exercises are published in freely available sourcebooks that provide guidance to statistical agencies, researchers, and other organizations on the design of modules and questionnaires aimed at collecting household-level data on various topics, including improved measurement of farm and non-farm income, climate change and adaptation/mitigation strategies, fisheries and aquaculture, and anthropometrics.
The vast majority of the 1.4 billion people in extreme poverty live in rural areas and rely on agriculture as a source of income and livelihood. In Sub-Saharan Africa, these shares are considerably larger, with nearly 75 percent of the extreme poor still residing in rural areas, and over 90 percent participating in agriculture. Despite the importance of the agricultural sector in reducing poverty and food insecurity, serious weaknesses in agricultural statistics persist.
Methodological improvements in smallholder agricultural statistics present the typical market failure problem, with clear disincentives for private investments. However, the returns of investments in data production and methodological improvements can be enormous, given their potential for better guiding sectoral investments and achieving greater impact.
These challenges are at the core of the Global Strategy to Improve Agriculture and Rural Statistics, officially endorsed in February 2010 by the UN Statistical Commission, which calls for the improvement of agricultural and rural statistics through a multi-annual program of support based on three components: (1) technical assistance, (2) training and (3) research.
The research component of the plan puts forth a number of methodological shortcomings which are likely to bring the highest returns in terms of improving data quality and supporting investments. Drawing from these priorities, the LSMS-ISA team has identified a number of research activities in data collection methods – broadly centered around the theme of improving productivity measures – which have the potential of making the greatest contribution to the ongoing debate on improving the quality and relevance of agricultural statistics as part of countries’ systems of household surveys. These priorities include the following topics:
- Plot area measurement
- Soil fertility
- Production of continuous and extended-harvest crops
- Labor inputs
- Computer Assisted Personal Interviews (CAPI)
- Water resources
- Skill measurement
The methodological research produced will meet the highest scientific rigor while responding to the needs of countries and the international community, with the ultimate goal of revitalizing the research agenda on agricultural statistics from household surveys.