Plantation agriculture is defined as the cultivation of certain crops on large area of land or plantation.
CHARACTERISTICS OF PLANTATION
- It involves the cultivation of only one type of crop on a piece of land (i.e. monoculture).
- It requires a large area of land (large scale).
- Plantations are mostly owned by government and large foreign or local companies.
- It requires a large capital to operate i.e. it is highly capital intensive.
- It requires a large hired labour force.
- Cash crops like cocoa, rubber, oil palm etc. are mainly exported.
- Crops produced are mainly exported.
- It lasts for a very long time i.e. it is usually perennial in nature.
- It uses pesticides and herbicides.
FAVOURABLE FACTORS FOR PLANTATION
- The sub-equatorial type of climate with adequate rainfall favours the cultivation of cash crops.
- Fertility of the soil, especially the volcanic soils in East Africa.
- Presence of large markets to consume or use the produce.
- The nature of relief i.e. presence of undulating/flat plains especially in East Africa promotes the cultivation of some crops like tea and coffee.
- Availability of good transport network like roads, rail and water.
- Some historical factors like early contact with the Europeans also favour the system.
- Availability of cheap labour and adequate capital.
AREAS OF PLANTATION AGRICULTURE
- In West Africa: The areas of plantation agriculture include Cocoa plantation in the West of Nigeria (Ibadan, Akure), Rubber plantations in Benin, Oil plantations in Benin, Aba and Okitipupa (Nigeria), Rubber plantation in Howbel (Liberia), Cocoa plantation in Kumasi (Ghana) etc.
- In East Africa: The areas of plantation agriculture include Tea and Tobacco plantation in Kenya, Coffee plantation in Uganda.
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF PLANTATION AGRICULTURE
- There must be availability of several hectares of land.
- There must be availability of large skilled labour.
- There must be enough capital to set up and operate the plantation.
- There must be availability of skilled labour to manage the plantation.
- There must be regular water supply in form of rain or by irrigation.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PLANTATION AGRICULTURE IN WEST AFRICA AND EAST AFRICA
- In West Africa, colonial masters did not encourage plantation agriculture, while in East Africa, it was encouraged.
- In West Africa, the scale of production in plantations is relatively smaller than in East Africa, because of early involvement by colonialists.
- Uniformity of climate in West Africa has made for limited variety of plantation crops, while in East Africa varied climates provide for varied plantation crops.
- In West Africa, the contributions of plantation crops to national revenue are less significant when compared to East African countries.
- In East Africa, plantations are dominated by foreigners, while in West Africa they are owned by Africans.
- In West Africa, plantations are on fertile lowlands, while in East Africa they are on highlands.
- In East Africa, management of plantations is more efficient than in West Africa.
IMPORTANCE OF PLANTATION AGRICULTURE
- Cash crops like rubber, cocoa, tea, coffee etc. when exported, yield foreign exchange for the country.
- Crops produced provide raw materials for industries e.g. cocoa for beverage industries.
- It provides employment to many people.
- It is a source of income to the farmers.
- Farmers learn and acquire new skills.
- Plantations are centres of tourist attraction.
- It leads to development of areas where plantations are sited.
- They are centres of agricultural research.
- Plantations also provide food and cash crops for the populace.
- It lead to development of infrastructure e.g. roads.
PROBLEMS OF PLANTATION AGRICULTURE
- Problem of inadequate capital to run the plantation effectively.
- It leads to reduction of land for town development since plantations cover vast area.
- Difficulties in acquisition of large expanse of land.
- Lack of enough skilled labour to man plantations in rural areas.
- Lack of good roads and modern infrastructure in plantation sites.
- Easy spread of diseases and pests since the same single crop is cultivated yearly or permanently.
- Problems of foreign ownership, labour unrest, high cost of spare parts, fluctuations in prices etc.
SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEMS
- Provision of loans or credits facilities to plantation farmers.
- Provision of roads and other infrastructure in rural areas where plantations are located.
- Good incentives to skilled personnel to take up jobs in plantation farms.
- Proper management e.g. prevention of disease outbreak.
- Government participation in plantation agriculture.
- Provision of spare parts for machines at reduced rates.
- Individuals to form cooperative societies to pull resources together and acquire large area of land.