What Is Subsistence Agriculture ?
As men progressed from the hunting and gathering stage, they developed the art of cultivating certain plants and domesticating certain animals. People became self-sufficient and began to group themselves in villages. They made crude implements and learned to provide enough food for the family. They adopted the method of shifting cultivation and mixed farming. This practice can still be found today in very isolated areas where communication has been limited, and the people have not been exposed to modern farming techniques. It is also found where surplus capital for investment is not available. This practice is known as “subsistence agriculture”.
First of all, what is “subsistence” and what is “agriculture” ?. Subsistence means the state of having just enough money or food to stay alive.
Therefore subsistence agriculture is a system of farming whereby a farmer cultivates crops and rears animals in order to produce food for use by himself and his family. It is the type of agriculture which is concerned with the production of food by a farmer to feed himself and his family.
Characteristics Of Subsistence Agriculture
•Subsistence agriculture is mostly practised by peasant farmers.
•Subsistence agriculture employs unskilled labour.
•It involves the use of local tools e.g hoe, machete, axe, etcetera.
•There is no specialization in subsistence agriculture.
•It involves a small plot of land.
•The output of subsistence agriculture are usually very low.
•Subsistence agriculture provides only for the need of the family.
•Unimproved varieties of crops and breeds of animals are used in subsistence agriculture.
•There is little or no surplus for sale.
•There is little or low capital investments in subsistence agriculture.
•There is limited or no use of agrochemicals.
•Mixed cropping system of farming usually practised in subsistence agriculture.
Subsistence agriculture can be further classified into extensive subsistence agriculture and intensive subsistence agriculture.
(1).Extensive subsistence agriculture : In very remote and less accessible forests, the land is still being tilled—as it was hundred years ago—purely for subsistence agriculture. The people in such areas clear small patches of the forests and cultivate, with only crude (or simple) implements, a few crops, just sufficient for their own needs. There is no surplus for sale or for export. The soil is leached under the conditions of heavy rain-fall and high temperatures and its fertility is soon exhausted.
The people have no knowledge of soil maintenance and there are no domesticated animals to enrich the fields with manure. It is therefore necessary to clear a new patch after a few years, and the families keep on shifting to new fields. They have no need to leave the land fallow or to rest because the population is so small that it is never necessary for them to return to the same plot of land. Example of this type of subsistence agriculture is the ladangs of the forested hill slopes of the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, inhabited by the Orang Alsi (aboriginal Senois).
As we all know, the land area in any country is limited, and as the population increases, the amount of land available for each member of the community decreases. The result is that some people acquire permanent or semi-permanent settlement. This has happened in large parts of West Africa, where the people leave a piece of land that has been used and exhausted to fallow for a few years to regain its fertility before it is used again. This practice of leaving land to recuperate before recultivation is known as bush fallow system, or land rotation system (some people refer to it as improved shifting cultivation). The method has been described as an intelligent way of managing the land by peasant farmers.
(2).Intensive subsistence agriculture : This is also a type of subsistence agriculture but very intensively done, and normally with wet padi as the chief crop. The dense population necessitates an ever-increasing intensity in the use of the land.
The plains are intensively tilled, the fields irrigated and the hills terraced. Vegetables, tubers and fruit trees are grown on raised beds between the fields. Close personal attention is devoted to the farm and the soil is kept at a high fertility level with consequent high yields. But one outstanding feature is that there is little or no excess produce for export. This is typical of such large nations as China, India and Japan, it is widely practised in the Monsoon Asia.
Problems Of Subsistence Agriculture
•Illiteracy of farmers : Labour used for subsistence agriculture has little or no formal education, resulting in their inability to read written instructions to adopt modern farming techniques.
•Low yield : As a result of low capital investment, illiteracy of the farmers and small farm holding, the yield from subsistence agriculture are usually very low.
•Crude tools are used : This often results in low yield since the use of such tools have their limits compared to the use of tractors, ploughs, harrows, ridgers, etcetera.
•Inadequate capital for investment : This leads to small farm holdings and inability to buy farm inputs.
•Low level of specialization : The subsistence farmer is often involved in the practice of mixed cropping as against the production of a particular crop which could lead to specialization.
Thanks for reading this post, kindly subscribe, comment below and share with your friends and family, sharing is caring.
Welcome to Currentschoolgist. I am Fashina Samson, a blogger and student. I strive to giving you updated school news, guides and exams tutorials.