October 30, 2020
In recent years, evidence-based policy making has become more and more mainstreamed in the whole world. The agricultural sector, which is one of the mainstays of the Tanzanian economy, is no exception in this trend. However, data collection and analysis for the agriculture sector has been a major challenge in Tanzania. This is partly because the reporting system has not functioned sufficiently well in collecting reliable data on a regular basis, hence the central government had difficulties in assessing the actual situation of the sector, especially when it wanted to refer to disaggregated data. Faced with this situation the Government had to rely on data collected and reported by extension officers in the fields through each level of local governments (ward-district-region). Such data were consequently not standardized.
Considering the above-mentioned setbacks, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) came on board to support the Government of Tanzania in revitalizing the reporting system by introducing a system whereby the government could easily extract a wide range of monthly updated data for each district (LGA) and region. This system is called "Agricultural Routine Data System" (ARDS). With the official request from the Government of Tanzania, the initial phase of the project was kicked off in 2008. This initial phase of the project introduced unified formats for data collection and introduced a system for data reporting in four districts on pilot basis. The subsequent phase followed from 2011 to 2015 and rolled out the methodologies and systems established in the initial phase to the whole of Mainland Tanzania, and further improved the system to be a web-based application, which is now called as "ARDS Web Portal".
In October 2020, the third and last phase of those series of cooperation projects conducted since 2015, namely, "Project for Capacity Development on Data Collection, Analysis and Data-based Reporting under ASDP" will be completed after a long-term collaboration between the Government of Tanzania and JICA spanning over 10 years. Building on the achievement of the previous phases, this last phase project made a number of achievements as follows:
(1) Enhancement of data collection: proportion of wards which report data of their areas through the ARDS Web Portal has reached nearly 100%, namely almost all wards now report their agricultural data to the central government regularly, a significant progress compared to around 10% in 2015.
(2) Improvement of data quality: Capacity building for extension officers was enhanced, and introduction of checklists and warning function of the ARDS Web Portal helped in eliminating blank data and outliers.
(3) Promotion of data utilization: now ARDS is recognized by a broad range of stakeholders, and is utilized as a chief data resource in the "Agriculture Basic Data Booklet" compiled by the Ministry of Agriculture and other reports prepared by the local governments. Furthermore, it is expected that ARDS data will be used as one of the primary sources for the monitoring and evaluation of "Agricultural Sector Development Program Phase 2" (ASDP2), the top program for agriculture sector in Tanzania.
Projects to develop data reporting systems may not appeal to the public, as they are not visible in people's daily lives. However, it should be borne in mind that, in order to enact good policies that benefit peoples' daily lives, policymakers must have good, reliable and well-updated data as their evidence. The ARDS project referred to above has made it possible to have such data. JICA believes that the Government of Tanzania, including local governments, will make further use of the data generated by the project for the betterment of its agricultural policy, and that ARDS must be central to it. For the truth is: Data show their real value, only when such data are put into use.
Sample of district level monthly report created from ARDS data on the Web Portal
A Japanese incorporated administrative agency, in charge of administering Japan's ODA (Official Development Assistance). It is one of the world's largest bilateral aid agency supporting socioeconomic development in developing countries in different regions of the world.
In Tanzania, JICA has been a long development partner for more than 50 years in many sectors since 1962.