Delivering the inaugural address at the 8th International Conference on Agricultural Statistics (ICAS-VIII) Bill Gates, Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said, “The biggest challenge today is climate change at a time when we need to increase production and food availability. The work that statisticians do is very critical to face this challenge. Understanding how climate change is affecting crops, the productivity and how we can adopt and adapt to these changes is going to require the best statistics, including use of new digital tools. Everyone here is part of humanity’s strive to adapt to the changing climate and to make sure that particularly the poorest farmers of the world get all the available information.”
Gates further said, “Climate change is complicated and requires learning different interventions including the development of new seeds suiting the changed climatic conditions and make them more available to poorest farmers. Small land holding farmers are over two billion people out of the whole seven billion of the planet. This is a huge group requiring support. The small holding farmers‘ agricultural output is diminishing, low production because of the climate change effects. They drain out of their savings especially due to unexpected climatic disasters like droughts and floods. The good news is that there are lots of innovations to face these challenges. Today in order to tackle the issues of climate change we need to double the investment in developing innovative seeds and particularly the seeds publicly available.”
Citing the good examples by International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and CGIAR (Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research) centres in India in developing seeds for dryland cultivation he said, more such works are required and it should reach farmers particularly the small land holders.
Bill Gates also said that data revolution promises to change how statistics is gathered, not only for the farmers but for the whole world. In many cases new techniques predict productivity well in advance. Rich information is not available to the farmers. He affirmed the statisticians and scientists that everyone can become innovators and make available to improve agricultural policies. He expressed his hope that this conference will provide more ideas which will be beneficial for farmers and the coming generations.
Presiding over the function, Narendra Singh Tomar, Union Minister for Agriculture & Farmers Welfare said that it was a unique and important opportunity for India to host this academically enduring conference. He expressed his belief that this conference should be a learning experience for the foreign delegates to know about the country’s rich statistical tradition and also the rich culture and diversity. Also it will provide a platform for Indian professionals to interact with global experts and to be part of international scientific developments. He stressed on the importance of agricultural statistics in realising the Government’s various agriculture-centric schemes.
Elaborating the historical background of statistics and its development in the country, the minister said that the conference would be an enriching experience and hoped that the fruitful discussions would eventually bring out some policy recommendations.
The four day conference is organised in collaboration with the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, ISI-CAS, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Eurostat, African Development Bank (AfDB) and various other organisations. The theme is “Statistics for Transformation of Agriculture to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” was selected keeping in view the challenges faced by most statistical systems to generate data for monitoring social, economic and environmental dimensions of agricultural practices and policies.
ICAS is a series of conferences that started in 1998 based on overarching need for agricultural data worldwide. The conference is conducted every three years based on overarching need for agricultural data worldwide and the last conference was held in Rome in 2016. The conference has a good number of participation of delegates from more than 100 countries comprising senior agricultural statisticians, economists, researchers, analysts and decision makers from all over the world.