Subsistence agriculture is defined as the type of agriculture which is concerned with the production of food by a farmer to feed himself and his family.
In other words, subsistence agriculture is a system of farming whereby a farmer cultivates crops and rears animals in order to produce food for consumption for himself and his family only.
Characteristics of Subsistence Agriculture
- It is mostly practised by peasant farmers.
- Subsistence agriculture involves small portion of land.
- It involves the use of crude tools such as hoe and machetes.
- There is no specialization.
- It employs unskilled labour.
- The returns or output are usually very low.
- It usually involves the use of family labour.
- It provides only for the basic needs of the family.
- There is little or no surplus for sale.
- There is also little or low capital involved in subsistence agriculture.
- There is heavy reliance on natural rainfall.
- It involves mainly the production of food crops only.
- There is limited use of agro-chemicals e.g insecticides and pesticides.
- Unimproved varieties of crops and breeds of animals are used.
- Mixed cropping system of farming is usually practised in subsistence agriculture.
Problems of Subsistence Agriculture
The problems which are usually associated with subsistence agriculture include the following:
- Family Labour Supply is Unreliable: In the face of rural-urban migration of able-bodied men, it therefore results in the non-availability of family labour, especially the children to work on the farm.
- Crude Tools are Used: This often results in low yield since the use of such tools has its limits compared to the use of tractors, ploughs, harrows, etc.
- Fragmented or Small Farmland: This is a major constraint as produce from such small farm holding is usually very small.
- Illiteracy of the Farmers: Labour used for subsistence agriculture has little or no formal education, resulting in their inability to read written instructions and adopt modern farming techniques.
- 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.
- 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 specialisation.
- Pests and Diseases are not Controlled: Owing to his poverty and illiteracy, pests and diseases are not controlled and these further lead to low yield.
- Low Return/Yield: As a result of low capital investment, illiteracy of the farmer, and small farm holding, the yield or returns from subsistence agriculture are usually very low.
Commercial agriculture is defined as the type of agriculture which is concerned with the production of food , animals and cash crops in large quantities for sale.
Characteristics of Commercial Agriculture
- Sole cropping usually practised.
- It involves the hectares of land.
- It involves huge investment of capital or money.
- It also involves the use of hired labour.
- Most operations of commercial agriculture are mechanized.
- It employs the use of skilled labour.
- Yield or output is usually high.
- Only rich farmers are engaged in commercial agriculture.
- Improved varieties of crops and breeds of animals are used.
- Irrigation system may be practised.
- Records are kept in commercial agriculture.
- It uses agro-chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides.
Advantages of Commercial Agriculture
Commercial agriculture has many advantages which include:
- It Increases Yield: Owing to the fact that a large area of land is cultivated, coupled with the use of chemicals, fertilizers, this system results in increase in the yield of crops.
- Specialization of Labour: Commercial agriculture does lead to specialization of labour because all operations are mechanised.
- Encouragement of Research Works: Commercial agriculture encourages research works into marketing, production.
- Provision of Cheap Products: As a result of mass production of livestock or crops, the sale prices of these products are usually very low and affordable.
- Provision of Quality Products: Most products obtained from commercial agriculture are generally of high quality.
Problems or Disadvantages of Commercial Agriculture
The problems which are usually associated with commercial agriculture include:
- Inadequate Supply of Improved Varieties of Crops and Animals: That is, inadequate supply of improved varieties of crops and some breeds of farm animals.
- Unfavourable Land Tenure System: Unfavourable land tenure system or land fragmentation does not allow commercial agriculture to be practised.
- High Capital Investment: High capital investment on machinery and other imputs makes commercial agriculture very difficult.
- Inadequate Marketing Channels: Marketing channels for agricultural produce are grossly inadequate.
- Inadequate Technical know-how: Inadequate technical know-how on the operation and maintenance of farm machinery make commercial agriculture difficult.
- High Cost of Spare Parts: Spare parts for machinery e.g. tractors, harvesters, etc are very expensive to purchase.
- Inadequate Processing Facilities: Processing facilities for agricultural products from farms are grossly inadequate.
- Inadequate Skilled Manpower: The skilled manpower needed to operate commercial agriculture is also in short supply or not enough.
- Inadequate Credit Facilities: Commercial agriculture cannot strive very well as a result of inadequate credit facilities or subsidies available to farmers.
- Inadequate Storage and Processing facilities: Processing and storage facilities needed in commercial agriculture are grossly inadequate.
- Improper Application of Farm Inputs: Inputs such as fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides used for commercial farming could pose health hazards to man and the environment if not properly applied.
- Displacement of Small Scale Farmers: The practice of commercial agriculture could lead to the displacement of small scale farmers from their land.
- Unfavourable Government Policies: Unfavourable government policies do make commercial agriculture to fail in its operation.
- It Can Lead to Soil Erosion: The practice of commercial agriculture through the use of heavy machinery can lead to soil erosion.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SUBSISTENCE AGRICULTURE AND COMMERCIAL AGRICULTURE
- A small area of land is cultivated.
- Produce is mainly for family consumption.
- Crude tools and implements are used.
- Family/unskilled or manual labour is usually employed.
- Yields or returns are low.
- It requires little capital investment.
- It does not require any special marketing strategies.
- Pests and diseases are not controlled.
- It requires little or no formal education to operate.
- No need for storage and processing facilities.
- Mostly practised by peasant farmers.
- Usually leaves the environment free of pollution.
- Low environmental degradation.
- Farming operations are usually accomplished with minimum application of agro-chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.
- Mixed cropping system is usually practised.
- Farm records are rarely kept.
- There is usually no specialization.
- A large area of land is cultivated and mechanised.
- Produce is mainly for sale or export.
- Complex and modern tools and implements are used.
- Paid/skilled labour is usually employed.
- Yields or returns are high.
- It requires huge capital investment.
- It requires special marketing strategies.
- Pests and diseases are usually controlled.
- It requires special skills and technical education/ labour.
- Storage and processing facilities are required.
- Mostly practised by very rich farmers /companies.
- It may cause environmental pollution.
- High environmental degradation.
- Farming operations are usually accomplished with applications of agro-chemicals.
- Mono-cropping system is usually practised.
- Farm records are kept
- Farmers usually specialize in crops or animal production.