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Farming has always been the main basis for the living and economic growth of farmers. It has continuously evolved from the time of nomadic people until today. However, land always has remained a limiting factor. Most of the people involved in farming are poor people and may not own land to farm on. Those farmers who don’t have their own land can farm on lands owned by others through either sharecropping or tenant farming on a contract basis with landlords. So, what are the differences between these two systems?
Bound to crop ownership, profit share, and the rights to decisions regarding farming are in favor of tenant farmers more than the sharecroppers.
Sharecroppers farm on owners’ land and never own anything by themselves as they are fully dependent on the owners for the purchase of input and equipment for farming.
In return, the farmers have to pay input and equipment cost by exchanging the large portion of crops produced by them because of which farmers get less benefit.
On the other hand, tenant farmers grow crops on rented lands with their own plots, incur all the costs for crop productions and have full control over the crop produced.
Therefore, tenant farmers are less dependent on owners and possess more right to decision and benefit share from the crop produced.
The system of sharecropping and tenant farming started with the reconstruction works after the First World War which made huge damage in the city area and people during the ancient period.
The poor farmers and slavers who were landless started doing an agreement with landowners to grow agricultural crops for their living. Some people did farming on owners’ land with full dependency on the landowner for required materials and others made their own plot paying rent. This way sharecropping and tenant farming came into existence during past days.
Sharecropping was a system where the landowner provided all the materials for farming such as land, house, labor, equipment, raw materials, etc, and the farmers never owned anything. The farmers took the debt from the owners for their living expenses and had to pay the debt borrowed through the crop produced.
The landowner then took a larger portion of the farm produce which was mainly determined by the contract with the farmer. Mostly, the farmer received one-third to one-half of the farm produce. Or the landowner may sell the farm produce and give a certain amount to the farmers. This way, the sharecroppers were the poor farmers who were unable to make a profit with crop produced as the cost of purchase was deducted from the earnings from crop sold.
What was tenant farming and how it worked?
Tenant farming was the system where a farmer rented land from the landowner for a certain period of time and pay back in cash or a fixed portion of the farm produce depending on the agreement between the farmer and the landlord.
Generally, the farmers did not completely depend on landowners except for land and house, which they paid rent for them. Mostly, the farmers brought the necessary equipment and inputs for the farm by themselves.
Since the farmers had their own control over agricultural production, they possess the right to take a decision for their harvested product and made small profits from crop production.
Sharecroppers and tenant farmers are similar in that they farm on owners’ land, but there are many differences between these two farmers. The sharecroppers are fully dependent on landowners for input supply and equipment while tenant farmers usually owned necessary materials and paid the landowner rent for farmland and a house making them less dependent on owners.
In addition to this, sharecroppers had to share their large portion of crop produced until the debt is paid to the owner, so they make less profit from farming.
Unlike sharecroppers, tenant farmers make more profit from crop production as they only need to pay rent for what they took and have full control over their production.
For instance: if the farmers took a plot to plant cotton in the rented plot, his earning would be based on how much he would produce or how he sold the crops and only he has to pay rent or some part of his crop produced so, he is able to make more profit.
Also, the sharecroppers have no right to decide what to produce, how to harvest, and the way of selling. The owner themselves sold the crop produced and gave the farmers a small portion of earning.
On the other hand, the tenant farmers have the right to decide what crop to produce, how to manage crops, and how to sell. This gives farmers more control over the crop sale increasing their chances of getting more profit.
The differences between sharecroppers and tenant farmers can be summarized in the table as:
|Farm||Grow on Owners land/ pay debt||Grow on rented land/pay rent|
|Input and Equipment||Supplied by owners||Mostly purchased by own.|
|Profit/ benefit share||Less as no control over crop produced.||More as full control over crop produced.|
|Dependency||More dependent on landowners||Less dependent|
The landless farmers, thus, involved in farming as sharecroppers and tenant farmers differ in dependency with the owners for purchasing of inputs and equipment, the right to take a decision regarding crop share and farming, and the benefits obtained from the earning of crop produced which makes tenant farming better than sharecropping.