Subsistence farming guide

This is the guide to subsistence farming with all the details you need to know about subsistence farming, who uses subsistence farming, subsistence farming practices, types of subsistence farming, examples of subsistence farming and many more on subsistence farming

Subsistence farming: Subsistence agriculture occurs when farmers grow food crops to meet the needs of themselves and their families on smallholdings. Subsistence agriculturalists target farm output for survival and for mostly local requirements, with little or no surplus.  Wikipedia

Characteristics of subsistence farming

  • Many crops grown on the same field
  • It is characterized by small and scattered land holdings and use of primitive tools
  • The farmers do not use fertilizers and high yielding variety of seeds
  • Electricity and irrigation facilities are not available to subsistence farmers hence low production
  • Most foods produced are consumed by practicing farmers and their families
  • More limits on human labor
  • Ordinary tools of agriculture

Advantages of subsistence farming: One of the benefits of Subsistence Agriculture is that it is cheap and cost effective. No requirement of huge investments as would otherwise have been needed by a commercial farmer is the prime reason for its cost effectiveness. The tools, kits and implements that are used are easy to obtain and mostly not expensive.

Types of subsistence farming

  • Shifting agriculture. Shifting cultivation is an agricultural system in which plots of land are cultivated temporarily, then abandoned while post-disturbance fallow vegetation is allowed to freely grow while the cultivator moves on to another plot
  • Primitive farming. This type of farming is done on self-sufficient basis and farmers grow food only for themselves and their families. Some small surpluses may be either exchanged by barter or sold for cash.
  • Nomadic herding. It is carried on mainly to produce food for the family and to fulfill the needs of clothing, shelter and recreation. The nomadic herders are dependent on sheep, cattle, goats, camels, horses and reindeers for their livelihood.
  • Intensive subsistence farming. In intensive subsistence agriculture, the farmer cultivates a small plot of land using simple tools and more labor. Farmers use their small land holdings to produce enough, for their local consumption, while remaining produce is used for exchange against other goods

Water management in subsistence farming

Simple tips to keep moisture in the soil

Keep soil moisture: During dry periods, some soils are more and some are less in a position to supply crops with water. The ability of a soil to absorb and store water largely depends on the soil composition and on the content of organic matter. Soils rich in clay can store up to three times more water than sandy soils. Soil organic matter acts as storage of water, just like a sponge. Therefore, crop residue or a cover crop protects the soil, prevents crusting on the surface, and slows runoff. Roots, earthworms and other soil life maintain cracks and pores in the soil. Less water runs off, and more sinks into the soil.

Reduce evaporation: A thin layer of mulch can considerably reduce the evaporation of water from the soil. It shades the soil from direct sunlight and prevents the soil from getting too warm. Shallow digging of the dry top soil can help to reduce the drying up of the soil layers beneath (it breaks the capillary vessels). A better retention of water within the soil saves costs on irrigation.

Better use of season’s rainfall: Ripping during the dry season allows farmers to plant earlier – right at the start of the rains

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