Subsistence agriculture is simply put the cultivation of land and rearing of crop and animals to feed your own family, and share or trade the rest. However he word “subsistence” thwarts the meaning of the action of local farming and raising of food for one’s self and family. The word, subsistence implies a lack, and yet the practice of growing food for your own use yields a abundance. The term “subsistence agriculture” then should be reclaimed to something like “local farming” or “efficiency agriculture.”
Techniques used on these types of farms are very refined over generations and there is no need for big equipment for planting or harvesting. There is especially no need for GMO crops, especially if the farmer has a lot of knowledge passed down.
Methods of saving seeds for the next crops were developed, a practice unfortunately no longer embraced by farmers today, who leave the plant species choices up to companies with a profit driven interest, such as Monsanto. Here women have selected and are saving seeds for the next planting season. Precious and prized heirloom plants are derived this way.
These types of agricultural land are small, as the family’s needs are not as big as that of an entire community, or country as that of commericial farming practices are geared. The farmer also has to rely on nature for irrigation as ‘modern’ controlled irrigation techniques will not be cost-effective.
While this method of farming is old and only looks after one family, it is a great technique to implement if you are looking only to produce a few vegetables and produce. By no means do you need to own many acres of land, a minimal amount of space on your small plot or garden can produce a lot of produce.
Subsistence agriculture the family tends to the farm and no hired, or low wage labor is needed.
It is very popular in Africa as most villages are remote and if you do not produce your own food, there will be nothing to eat.
In densely populated areas like in China, many farmers only farm for their own needs. What is not used is then traded for other goods and services.
Because farmers are depended on their small pieces of land, land and soil must be well taken care of and replenished naturally, giving part of the land time to repair itself. These types of farmers know that once land is lost, there will be no more food.
In developing and third-world countries, subsistence farming can relieve the demand put on the Earth by large scale commercial farms, a development resulting from the efforts of the “Green Revolution” which controversially took power and land away from the people, and concentrated a few types of crops in the hands of a few. Replicating a balance of power that is a recipe for disaster
Subsistence farming, is not only a food source for many people, but also a job. It helps households to save costs without dampening their lifestyle. It teaches children about the world around them. Subsistence farming allows families access to not only fruit and vegetables, but meat as well through the tending of livestock, which was naturally raised “organically” and “free range.”
It is a reliable way producing food and, in rural communities, food not used up, can be traded for other goods at the market. The zeer pot is a simple technology that allows people to keep produce cool while being transported to market.
Subsistence farming has its disadvantages and cannot be a sole factor to development. It is however necessary to keep in a culture that maintains the diversity of crops. Commercial farming and broad scale corporate/government efforts to control the food supply may help steady the food supply, but they simply cannot keep the biodiversity of the land. The geography of each place has a living library of efficient and beneficial plants that serve humans, animals, insects and the natural fauna that makes an ecosystem thrive with life. A community that follows the natural patterns of growing local food can reliably supply it to the area. This is why local farming or subsistence farming is a necessary element to any modern civilization.
Look at Zimbabwe as an example. Once the breadbasket of Africa, it is now a wasteland. Huge producing agricultural farms operated in Zimbabwe, supply in the food needs of the country as well as other countries. When farms were taken away from farmers and given to unqualified farmers, the crop disappeared.
Had such top-down structure mis-management not occurred, the people of Zimbabwe could have supplied their own food. And still can, if the knowledge and desire is rekindled.
To supplement your diet with healthy foods, growing fruits and vegetables in the “subsistence farming” method is a viable option. Typically, their will be more than enough to share with your neighbors. If you cannot spare the time to start a garden, support your local farmer’s market instead.
Every action makes a difference.