It may be a surprise to some that a global historical archive of official agricultural production statistics, at a sub-national level, does not already exist. However, it does not, and that is the object of an Harvest-funded effort to locate, compile and make accessible every country’s agricultural statistics since the 1980s, when remote earth observations became common. A first phase of the effort, led by Harvest member Gary Eilerts, has discovered and collected original source documents containing approximately 3.5 million datapoints, for over 150 countries. FEWS NET, another Consortium partner, is nearing completion of converting the records for 30 FEWS NET-monitored countries into a managed digital database. For the rest of the world, the Harvest effort is now a little more than half-way through extracting and formatting digital histories for 120 additional countries.
Associated outputs of the effort will include: a) a collection of original source documents, b) crop coding which maintains a link with the UN’s Central Product Classification and translates crops into country-specific common botanic names, as well as 3) an archive of reporting unit shape files, and their evolution over time -- to link the crop statistics with their exact location on the globe in any year. As the archive files are processed, they are being loaded into the FEWS NET Data Warehouse, and some are being made available to Harvest members, like university researchers and those working on the Crop Monitors for AMIS and Early Warning.
Eventually, the archive will provide a unique historical baseline for food security monitoring purposes. But it is also likely to spark new ways of looking at yield gaps, crop production and price transmission linkages in national and regional markets, global food trade analyses, climate change impacts, and crop pathogen monitoring. It might also provide an opportunity to consider moving beyond our current hyper-local food security focus by integrating those sub-national issues into a more inter-linked, global and systemic context.