20 March 2012, Rome - Keeping track of statistics related to food and agriculture is an important part of efforts to reduce hunger and foster development. Making those numbers more accessible and meaningful to people who need to use them is the idea behind the newly revised FAO Statistical Yearbook.
The yearbook, the foremost collection and reference point for statistical data on food and agriculture, provides a snapshot of related economic, environmental and social trends and issues. It breaks down a myriad of numbers gathered from around the world into four broad thematic categories: the state of the agricultural resource base; hunger dimensions; feeding the world; and sustainability.
Each section of the yearbook is accompanied by background and narrative text, charts, maps and references to additional publications, all of which offer a broader and more in-depth look at a wide range of topics.
Examples of issues examined in the publication include the pressure placed on land and water resources by agriculture, such as overuse and pollution; the potential impact of women's lack of access to agricultural tools and land on national economic and social development; the status of investment in agriculture; the spectrum of malnutrition; food wastage and losses; agriculture and environmental sustainability; and food price volatility.
"The yearbook is a ‘one-stop shop' for all statistical indicator needs. This new product helps researchers, policy-makers, NGOs, journalists — whoever needs statistical information — to more easily narrow the focus to a particular subject and use that as a springboard to get into deeper issues," said Pietro Gennari, FAO Statistics Division Director.
"The broad sweep of this new yearbook reminds us that the eradication of hunger cannot be separated from responses to other global challenges," Gennari added.
Overall, the statistics in the yearbook reflect the growing recognition among governments, donor agencies and others that agriculture must be the mainstay of any development agenda and economic growth policies.
As the sector is intertwined with almost every topic on the development agenda, a major challenge is to capture and monitor the multiple roles of agriculture. This is especially pertinent in developing countries, which account for 98 percent of the world's hungry, and where agriculture remains central to national economies.
The publication also helps to deepen understanding about how the much-needed increases in agricultural productivity must be weighed against broader social and environmental costs, in order to achieve truly sustainable development.