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There are more and more farmers worldwide that want to do the job right by planting quality seeds and getting the best product possible on their farms. There are a wide variety of types of farms, ones that use more technology, and others that decided on more traditional techniques. One of these types is intensive subsistence farming. So the question is what is intensive subsistence farming and what are its characteristics?
Intensive subsistence farming is the type of farming where the farmer cultivates a small plot of land using simple tools and more labor. These farmers use their land to produce enough food for their local consumption and the exchange of goods as well.
One can use intensive subsistence farming in a lot of different ways. Farmers usually do it on small pieces of land to produce enough food for their family or local consumption. There are also some who sell the rest of their crops and products to the local groceries. Also, there are farmers who want to grow organic food for personal use.
What Is Intensive Subsistence Farming
As I mentioned earlier, intensive farming is the kind of farming in which farmers grow their crops, fruits, and vegetables on a small piece of land using simple tools. These farmers usually grow food for personal use, or they sell it to local groceries.
The term intensive subsistence agriculture is also used to describe a type of agriculture characterized by high output per unit of land and low output per worker. It is good to mention that the nature of this type of farming has changed, and in many areas now it is no more subsistence.
Despite the changes, the term intensive subsistence farming is still used to describe those agricultural systems which are clearly more sophisticated than primitive agriculture. Sometimes, intensive subsistence farming is also known as the monsoon type of agriculture.
In Which Areas Is Intensive Subsistence Farming Practised?
Intensive subsistence farming is best developed in the monsoon lands of Asia. This type of agriculture can be found in China, Japan, Korea, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, in a big part of continental South-East Asia, and some parts of insular South-East Asia as well.
It is important to mention that the population densities in some agricultural areas in Aisa are higher than those of industrial areas in the West. Farming in wet lowland has to be very intensive to support a dense population. Many of those regions of intensive subsistence farming have a highly developed form of society such as China and India that have a continuous history of civilization.
What Are The Main Features Of Intensive Subsistence Farming?
One of the main characteristics of intensive subsistence farming is very smallholdings. These kinds of farms have been subdivided through many generations and because of that, they have become extremely small and often very uneconomic to run. It is enough to say that an average farm in Japan is approximately 1.5 acres whereas in India and elsewhere in Aia farms maybe even smaller.
Because of this, farmers don’t have enough profit to buy goods and take care of animals and crops. Sometimes they have no profit out of their products, they use it only for personal food storage. The small land capacity enables them to provide enough food for themselves or small local customers.
The point of intensive subsistence farming is not to produce much food to sell, the point is to grow crops mainly to support their own families though there is some surplus for sale in some locations. However, in China, due to rapid agricultural changes that took place after the agrarian revolution of 1949, the tiny farms were consolidated into large collectives under the communist rule.
Very Intensive Farming
Although the farmland is limited, there are some peasants in Monsoon Asia that are so ‘land-hungry’ that they utilize every bit of tillable land for agriculture. Those fields are separated only by narrow and handmade ridges and footpaths that allow farmers to move around their farms. Those ridges are kept very narrow to save valuable land space.
Farmers try to make additional land available for cultivation by draining swampy areas, irrigating drier areas, and terracing hill slopes to produce flat surfaces that are suitable for crop cultivation. There are some areas that are left uncultivated and those are only the steepest hills and the most infertile areas.
Due to the very limited space of usable land for agriculture, farmers try to make as much as possible with their crops. The farming is so intensive that they sometimes practice double- or treble-cropping. This means to grow several crops on the same land during the course of a year. This way, farmers try to get the most out of their land which is a great thing.
Requires Much Hand Labour
The intensive subsistence farmers don’t use much technology in their farming nor much machinery which is why much hand labor is entailed. These farmers usually use traditional techniques and simple tools to produce the best products possible.
Some farmers that have animals on their farms do plowing with the aid of buffaloes or horses. They rake fields by hand and plant their crops in precise rows by the family that runs the farm. Harvesting is usually done with sickles and threshing by hand. Simple tools might also be of use but are not a must.
The basic tools that are used often are plows, a kind of spade, and hoes. There are more and more innovative machinery and technology that is being used on some farms, but it is not that common for intensive subsistence farms to own that kind of machinery.
Such machines are not widely used on intensive subsistence farms because most farmers don’t have enough money to buy them, but they are extensively used in more affluent Japan and are gradually spread throughout Monsoon Asia. Some farmers may also hire this machinery that is owned by firms or co-operatives.
Use Of Animal And Plant Manures
There are a lot of different techniques that farmers use to ensure high yields and continued fertility. That is why farmers often use every available type of manure such as farm wastes, rotten vegetables, clippings, fish wastes, animal dung, and human excreta as well. They use animal dung, especially from the pigsties and poultry yards.
Some governments such as those in Japan, India, and China give advice or assistance to use increased amounts of artificial fertilizers. The basic fertilizers applied include phosphates, nitrates, and potash which help to replenish vital plant nutrients in the soil.
As I mentioned earlier, most farmers don’t have enough money to buy chemicals and fertilizers for their land and crops which is why they use organic and natural fertilizers that they already have access to on their farms. These crops result in much higher quality and are called organic food which is very healthy and popular nowadays.
In Which Areas In The US Intensive Subsistence Farming Is Practised?
It is important to mention that intensive subsistence farming has largely disappeared in North America with the movement of sharecroppers and tenant farmers of the American South and Midwest during 1930. Nevertheless, in the 1950s it was still common to grow much of a family’s own food and make its own clothing on their family farms. Also, the farm’s production earned enough currency to buy goods which is another good thing.
Those farmers often bought many of the items as well as occasional services from physicians, veterinarians, blacksmiths, and others with barter rather than with currency.