Subsistence Agriculture is 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 farming is a system whereby a farmer cultivates crops and rears animals in order to produce food for consumption for himself and his family.
Characteristics of Subsistence Agriculture
- It is mostly practised by peasant farmers.
- Subsistence farming involves small portion of land.
- It involves the use of crude tools such as hoe and machetes.
- There is no specialisation.
- It employs unskilled labour.
- The returns or outputs 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.
- It invloves mainly the production of food crops only.
- There is limited use if agrochemicals 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
- Family labour supply is unreliable: In the face rural-urban migration of able bodied men, it therefore results in the non-availabilty of family labour, especially the children to work on the farm.
- Crude Tools are Used: This often result in low yield since the use of such tools has 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 Specialisation: The subsistence farmer is often involved in the practice of of mixed cropping as against production of particular crop which could lead to specialisation.
- Pest 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.