Subsistence agriculture

subsistence agriculture characteristics. SUBSISTENCE FARMING. Subsistence agriculture involves the use of crude or simple farm tools

There is no specialization in subsistence agriculture
In subsistence agriculture, unskilled labours are mainly employed for lack of finance

What is Subsistence Agriculture

this type of agriculture is defined as the type of agricultural practice which is concerned with the production of food by a farmer for his family’s consumption only. In other words, it is termed as the type of farming practice where a farmer goes into farming just to feed his immediate family or household.

characteristics of subsistence agriculture

The characteristics of pure subsistence agriculture are outlined as follows
this type of agriculture is mostly practised by peasant farmers mainly to feed their immediate family
Subsistence farming involves a small portion of land—land tenure system

It involves the use of crude or simple farm tools
There is no specialization in subsistence agricultural practices due ti the fact that this farming system does not require skilled labour inputs
In this type of  agriculture, unskilled labourers are mainly employed for lack of finance
In subsistence agriculture, the return on investment in always very low or poor

Most often, subsistence farmers use only the family labour input
It is geared towards the family needs only which invariably reduces expectations
There is little or no surplus of food for sale in order to raise money

Subsistence involves little capital
Subsistence farming depends on natural rainfall because of the lack of money to build a modern irrigation system

Subsistence practices are concerned with the production of food crops only
The use of agro-chemicals is limited
Unimproved varieties of crops are often used
A mixed system of farming is usually practised in subsistence agriculture

characteristics problems of subsistence agriculture

The problems that are usually associated with subsistence agriculture are listed below though not limited to these alone as it concern subsistence agriculture. So here are the problems facing subsistence agriculture listed accordingly

  1. Family labour supply is unreliable: in the face of rural-urban migration of able-bodied men, it most probably leads to the non-availability of labour. Therefore development of the farm is hampered and limited
    Crude tools are mostly used: using crude implements in agricultural production often leads to poor yield compared to the use of tractors, bulldozers, ploughs, harvesters and harrows.

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  1. Fragmented or use of small farmland: the use of small farmlands for farming (land tenure system)is usually the issue with subsistence agriculture which is geared towards feeding the immediate family only
    Illiteracy of the farmers: labourers or labourers used in subsistence agriculture have little or no formal education, which in turn results in their inability to read written instructions and adopt modern farming techniques.

features of subsistence agriculture

No surplus for sale: this often keeps the farmer permanently poor as he will not be able to generate enough capital to expand the size of the farm also known as the land tenure system

Inadequate capital for investment and expansion: this aspect of subsistence agriculture leads to small farm holding and inability to buy large farm input
Low level of specialization: the subsistence farmer is often involved in a mixed farming system known as mixed cropping against the production of a particular crop which could lead to specialization

Pest and diseases are not properly controlled: owing to illiteracy and [poverty levels, pests and diseases are properly controlled and this further leads to low yield.
Low return or yield: as a result of illiteracy and low capital investment of the farmer and small farm holdings, the yield and returns from subsistence agriculture is usually very low

Subsistence agriculture is mostly practiced in most parts of West Africa, Nigeria’s Southern parts, for example, are littered with this type of farming due to the non-availability of land enough to engage in commercial agriculture or large-scale farming.

Most African communities are engaged in subsistence agriculture also known as a communal farming system which involves the act of bush fallowing to allow the land some space to replenish itself by gaining nutrients in the natural way.

  1. types of demand curve and used



Subsistence farming is a form of agriculture where farmers primarily grow crops and raise livestock to meet the basic needs of their households. Unlike commercial farming, which focuses on producing goods for sale and profit, subsistence farming is characterized by the production of food, shelter, and other necessities for personal use. This agricultural practice is often associated with small-scale, family-run operations in rural areas.

Characteristics of Subsistence Farming:

  1. Scale:
    • Typically small-scale and family-owned, subsistence farms are designed to meet the basic needs of the household rather than generating surplus for market sale.
  2. Diversity:
    • Subsistence farmers often grow a variety of crops and raise diverse livestock to ensure a range of food sources and reduce dependency on a single commodity.
  3. Technology:
    • Relies on traditional farming methods and may have limited access to modern agricultural technologies and machinery.
  4. Labour Intensity:
    • Subsistence farming relies heavily on manual labour and may involve the entire family in various aspects of cultivation and animal husbandry.
  5. Purpose:
    • The primary goal is self-sufficiency, with the aim of producing enough food to feed the family and, in some cases, generate a surplus for local barter or informal markets.

Types of Subsistence Farming:

  1. Subsistence Crop Farming:
    • Involves the cultivation of crops such as rice, maize, millet, and vegetables for direct consumption by the farmer’s family.
  2. Subsistence Livestock Farming:
    • Focuses on raising animals like chickens, goats, or cows to meet the family’s protein and dairy needs.
  3. Mixed Farming:
    • Combines both crop cultivation and livestock raising to diversify food sources and income streams.
Importance of Subsistence Farming:
  1. Food Security:
    • Subsistence farming contributes significantly to household food security by providing a reliable source of fresh produce and protein.
  2. Local Economy:
    • While not focused on generating income for market trade, subsistence farming can contribute to local economies through informal exchanges and barter systems.
  3. Cultural Preservation:
    • Many subsistence farmers maintain traditional agricultural practices, preserving cultural and regional farming knowledge.
Challenges in Subsistence Farming:
  1. Limited Resources:
    • Lack of access to modern farming technologies, quality seeds, and fertilizers can limit productivity.
  2. Vulnerability to Climate Change:
    • Subsistence farmers are often more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, as extreme weather events can directly affect their food production.
  3. Land Fragmentation:
    • In some regions, subsistence farmers face challenges due to land fragmentation, leading to smaller, less productive plots.

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