Subsistence agriculture

Subsistence agriculture

Subsistence agriculture is self-sufficient farming in which farmers grow only enough food to feed the family and to pay taxes or feudal dues. The typical subsistence farm has a range of crops and animals needed by the family to eat during the year. Planting decisions are made with an eye toward what the family will need during the coming year, rather than market prices. Tony Waters (2007:2) writes that "Subsistence peasants are people who grow what they eat, build their own houses, and live without regularly making purchases in the marketplace."

Subsistence grain-growing agriculture (predominantly wheat and barley) first emerged during the Neolithic Revolution when humans began to settle in the Nile, Euphrates, and Indus River Valleys. It was the dominant mode of production in the world until recently, when market-based capitalism became widespread. Subsistence horticulture may have developed earlier in South East Asia and Papua New Guinea. Subsistence farming continues today in large parts of up-country Africa (Hyden 1981), and other countries of Asia and South America. Subsistence agriculture had by and large disappeared in Europe by the beginning of World War I, and in North America with the movement of sharecroppers and tenant farmers out of the American South and Midwest during the 1930s and 1940s (Waters 2007:127-129).

Effects on the environment

Subsistence farming typically uses few fertilizers and no machines. Instead the farmers may use draft animals which can be fed and raised on the farm. Subsistence farmers often rely on crop rotation, animal manure, and compost to restore the nutrients rather than purchasing expensive synthetic fertilizers.

In areas which are sparsely populated, subsistence agriculture can be sustainable for a long time. In more densely populated areas, subsistence agriculture may deplete the soil of nutrients, and damage the environment. However the traditional agriculture of East Asia, for example the small-holdings of China, has been described as sustainable, using extensive methods of cultivation and despite high population pressure.Fact|date=July 2008

One form of subsistence agriculture is shifting cultivation, or "swidden", a practice common with rain fed agricultural systems. Farmers typically abandon a given plot when soil fertility wanes and move on to more fertile land, often utilizing slash and burn techniques. A considerable fallow period ensues on the abandoned land. It takes up the least amount of land among the four types of cultivation,clarifyme but it only provides enough food for the local population.Fact|date=July 2008

ee also

*Commercial agriculture
*Industrial agriculture
*Cash crop


* Goran Hyden. "Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: Underdevelopment and an Uncaptured Peasantry". Berkeley: University of California Press. 1980.
* Charles Sellers. "The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846". New York: Oxford University Press. 1991.
* Tony Waters. "The Persistence of Subsistence Agriculture: life beneath the level of the marketplace". Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. 2007.
* Howard, Sir Albert. (1943) [ An Agricultural Testament] . Oxford University Press.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • subsistence agriculture — noun see subsistence farming …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • subsistence agriculture — noun see subsistence farming …   Useful english dictionary

  • subsistence — sub‧sis‧tence [səbˈsɪstns] noun 1. [uncountable] a small amount of money or food that is just enough to survive on: • Refugees are dependent for subsistence on support from aid agencies. • Unfortunately, these people have become used to living… …   Financial and business terms

  • subsistence farmer — subsistence farming UK US noun [U] (also subsistence agriculture) ECONOMICS ► farming that provides enough food for the farmer and their family to live on, but not enough for them to sell: »Most of the population survive on subsistence farming.… …   Financial and business terms

  • subsistence farming — UK US noun [U] (also subsistence agriculture) ECONOMICS ► farming that provides enough food for the farmer and their family to live on, but not enough for them to sell: »Most of the population survive on subsistence farming. subsistence farmer… …   Financial and business terms

  • subsistence — ► NOUN 1) the action or fact of subsisting. 2) the means of doing this. 3) (before another noun ) referring to production at a level sufficient only for one s own use, without any surplus for trade: subsistence agriculture …   English terms dictionary

  • Agriculture — General …   Wikipedia

  • subsistence farming — noun farming that provides for the basic needs of the farmer without surpluses for marketing • Hypernyms: ↑farming, ↑agriculture, ↑husbandry * * * noun or subsistence agriculture 1. : farming or a system of farming designed to provide all or… …   Useful english dictionary

  • subsistence farming — 1. farming whose products are intended to provide for the basic needs of the farmer, with little surplus for marketing. 2. farming that brings little or no profit to the farmer, allowing only for a marginal livelihood. Also, subsistence… …   Universalium

  • subsistence — [[t]səbsɪ̱stəns[/t]] 1) N UNCOUNT: oft N n Subsistence is the condition of just having enough food or money to stay alive. ...below the subsistence level... The standard of living today is on the edge of subsistence. 2) ADJ: ADJ n In subsistence… …   English dictionary

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