Revisiting application of statistics in Agricultural Research in sub-Saharan Africa: Entry points for improvement

The research titled “Revisiting application of statistics in Agricultural Research in sub-Saharan Africa: Entry points for improvement” by T.L. Odong of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda re-emphasized the need for strong statistical application in African agricultural research process. He wrote: “The importance of statistics in empowering the agricultural research process and sharpening interventions cannot be over-emphasized.”

He noted that undocumented evidence points to misconceptions, misuse or underuse of statistics among agricultural researchers in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA); pointing to the possibility that the subject has been part of the causes the unfulfilled targets in the agricultural sector in the region. The objective of the study was to analyse and document weaknesses in statistical practice in agricultural research, with a view to identifying entry points for strengthening the performance of the sector for SSA to be able to achieve its set goals.

The research conducted a desk study using 165 research articles published in the African Crop Science Journal over the period of 17 years (2000 to 2017) using a rigorous SWOT analysis for issues related to the use of statistics in the implementation of agricultural research in SSA. He made a checklist consisting of key elements related to study design; data collection, analysis and exploitation; and presentation, was used to guide the interrogation.

His findings indicated that researchers generally made explicit description of treatment structures that fairly matched the study objectives and hypotheses. He also observed that most researchers had problems with presentation and interpretation of P-values and significance level to mention a few. The researcher therefore advised the need for periodic review and updating of agriculture related training curricula for universities and tertiary education institutions to cater for the “nontraditional areas” and more recent advances in statistics among others.