Table of Contents
Subsistence Farming is a form of agriculture where almost all the produce goes to feed and support the household. It is a type of agriculture in which a farmer produces crops and rears animals to fulfil the needs or requirements of his family and not for the market. This farming is found in less developed and developing countries, mainly in tropical regions. A striking feature of farming is its scattered distribution; small patches of tilled land are surrounded and separated by broad stretches of forest.
A classic example is Nagaland in the northeast hilly region of India. In the hill tracts and valleys, Naga people follow this type of farming. Considering the region’s natural environment, the Naga people cultivate paddy and produce rice.
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Subsistence Farming Nature and Method of Cultivation
Under Subsistence Farming, farmers with their traditional tools and agricultural implements till the land and harvest the crops. They produce what they need. To fulfil their own requirement, they grow a variety of crops. All the family members involve themselves in farming. Hence, it acts as family farming.
They mostly depend on rainfall to cultivate their land; sometimes, they irrigate the land from a local supply of water, such as ponds or other local reservoirs. They manage to procure all the agricultural needs with their efforts; the crops they produce consume themselves, and they do not sell the crop in the market.
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Subsistence Farming Examples
Subsistence farmers produce a variety of crops according to the agricultural environment of the region. In tropical and sub-tropical countries, they grow tropical and subtropical crops like manioc, yams, millets, rice, vegetables, sweet potatoes, cassava, peas, groundnuts, and cotton based on the need of their families. They grow barley, corn, wheat, sugar beet, potatoes, and vegetables in temperate regions.
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Subsistence Farming in India
The subsistence type of farming is undertaken as an act of desperation for survival and not for generating income. Usually, it does not fulfil the farmers’ needs despite their hard labour in their fields. It is practised in some remote parts where the line of communication is detached from the outside world due to rugged terrain, difficult valleys, scattered over mountains, small valley tracts in between high mountains, and secluded parts cut from the mainstream of civilizations.
The subsistence farming method is found in small patches in some underdeveloped mountainous regions or remote valleys of Asia and Africa. In India, it is found in the hilly northeastern parts; subsistence agriculture is also followed in several parts of Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and others.
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Subsistence Farming Characteristics
Subsistence agriculture is characterized by the following features:
- It is practised over small farmland without extensive machinery.
- Most of the cultivation is done by hand and traditional tools and simple agricultural implements tools
- The production of crops is too low to meet the requirements of the farmers and their families.
- There remain no excess productions to sell in the market in this farming.
- The traditional farming method is carried on. Hand tools mainly do it; sometimes, animal power is employed.
- The agricultural returns are very low, but the investment in manual labour is very high.
- In mountain terrains, there is a dearth of extensive lands and valleys. Hence, farming is characterized by small farms.
- Subsistence farming is also characterized by heavy population pressure on agricultural land.
- Dependency on nature is another characteristic. It mainly depends on nature for the supply of rainfall.
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Subsistence Farming Demerits
Subsistence farming has several demerits or disadvantages, some of which include:
- Low productivity
- Limited access to inputs and markets
- Vulnerability to climate and environmental shocks
- Low income
- Limited opportunities for diversification
- Land degradation and deforestation
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Subsistence Farming Merits
Despite the challenges and disadvantages, subsistence farming has some merits or advantages, including:
- The influence of market forces on the crop production pattern is insignificant.
- Food security because farmers produce crops for their requirements only.
- Farmers try to maintain the fertility of the soil.
- Preservation of traditional knowledge
- Environmental sustainability
- Low financial risk
- Contribution to local economies
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Subsistence Farming UPSC
In India, the vast majority of farmers engage in subsistence agriculture or cultivating for their own consumption. The farmers and their families consume the majority of the crop, so there is none left over to be sold on the market.
Small and dispersed landholdings and rudimentary, archaic cultivation methods are used in this style of farming. Modern machineries like tractors and agricultural inputs like chemical fertilisers, insecticides, and herbicides are completely absent. In this type of farming, grains are mostly grown along with sugarcane, oilseeds, legumes, and vegetables.
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