Dar launches agro-data web system


Tanzania recorded a major stride today (February 24th 2010) in its effort to conquer hunger and reduce poverty when it launched a web-based system that hosts national statistical data, briefly referred to as CountrySTAT.


The web system was officially launched by the Director of Policy and Planning in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Mr Emannuel Achayo on behalf of his minister, Mr Stephen Wasira, who had other equally important commitments outside the country.


Speaking before the launch, Mr Achayo pledged that lead agricultural ministries would sustain CountrySTAT Tanzania database system because, in his own words, "we had the financial means to do that".


He paid glowing tribute to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) for designing the web based system, ContrySTAT.


"I would like to assure all who spared their time in this initiative that the CountrySTAT database system is going to be sustained because the cost for its sustainability is within our reach," said the DPP," he said.


The DPP's pledge over the government's commitment to ensure the sustainability of the project was extremely important given the fact that in the past, scores of developing countries that include Tanzania are known to have collapsed as soon as donor support closed shop.


Mr Achayo named two things that made the introduction and operation of the CountrySTAT database system extremely important for Tanzania.


One, he said, it lay in the fact that agriculture provided the bases of Tanzania's economy, accounting  for 26 percent of GDP, 95 percent of consumed food in the country, 55.9 percent of inflation basket and 65 percent of raw materials for the country's industries.


And secondly, he said, since provision of data and growth of statistics on the income and wealth of agricultural households in Tanzania had, for years, provided a major problem.


He said it was his hope that the advent of the CountrySTAT web based system would help in solving the problem once and for all.


Earlier, the Director General of the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, Ms Albina Chuwa whose institution plays a pivotal role in the CountrySTAT web, explained that the system harmonizes and integrates data on food and agriculture coming from different sources.


Ms Albina who was speaking before welcoming Mr Achayo to officially launch the CountrySTAT said:


"Through a core database, policy makers and researchers can group data across thematic areas, such as production, trade, consumption and many others in order to study relationships and processes".


"The CountrySTAT project is built to provide an easy support to data dissemination and as a common statistical framework to help in decision making," she said.


Ms Albina said managing information was easier if data was organized by classification.


"Classification has to be sufficiently structured to help data retrieval and to be flexible to be adapted to countries' needs," she stressed.


She said after the CountrySTAT's launch, it was important to focus on three important areas which she named as:


The strengthening of its (CountrySTAT) institutional framework, ensure its sustainability and improve data quality with possible revision of existing tables.


Ms Albina call on the need to focus on the three areas was also echoed by the FAO Representative in Tanzania, Dr Louise Lobisa Setshwaelo who had earlier addressed the august assembly when she said:


"We must place the current system of CountrySTAT-Tanzania in the context of an on-going process of implementation, maintenance and continuous and sustainable development".


She explained that what this meant was that in the subsequent meetings, the technical working group for the CountrySTAT-Tanzania would be required to enrich and further refine the existing series.


The FAO representative laid accent on the ownership of the CountrySTAT-Tanzania by the government.


Her stress here lay in the fact that although the web system had been designed by FAO at its headquarters in Rome, Italy, there was now a dire need on the part of the Tanzanian government not only to make full use of it, but to own and care for it.


She said she was particularly proud to note that out of the 17 countries in Africa, Tanzania was one of the first to officially launch its CountrySTAT  system.


She said FAO attached great importance to statistical information and to the capacity-building of member nations in the establishment and maintenance of CountrySTAT domains.


She said Article 1 of its (FAO) Constitution clearly stated that: "the organization shall collect, analyze, interpret and disseminate information relating to nutrition, food and agriculture".


She said it was on this ground that the FAO was strongly committed to the development and implementation of integrated systems of data and metadata on food and agriculture.                               


 She concluded her speech by paying glowing tribute to the Tanzanian government, and particularly, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, for its emphasis and commitment  to food and agricultural statistics, and the hard work and dedication of the Department towards making CountrySTAT-Tanzania a public system.


 Earlier Mr Achayo thanked FAO both for their initiative and designing the CountrySTAT web system.


 He said the international organization's tireless effort and support in making sure that CountrySTAT worked in Tanzania was highly appreciated.


He also personally thanked Dr Setshwaelo for her moral support and cooperation from the start of the project until now.


Apart from the over 100 invited guests who attended the colorful ceremony, the occasion was also graced by two highly placed officials from FAO headquarters in Rome, Ms Giulia de Robert who is also the Chief of Communication Consultants in the 17 plus African countries each of which hosts a CountrySTAT, and Ms Stefania Bacci.