Originally, agriculture was considered to involve cultivation of crops only. In modern times, it has expanded to include rearing of animals, poultry keeping, fish farming and even keeping of non conventional animals such as crocodiles and ostriches. Even activities like storage, processing and marketing of agricultural produce are regarded as part of agriculture. There are two types of agriculture namely, small-scale agriculture and large-scale agriculture.
Small-scale agriculture, also known as small-scale farming, is the production of crops and livestock on a relatively small piece of land without using advanced and expensive technologies. Small-scale farming doesn’t require large acreage, allows for the cultivation of multiple crops and keeping of livestock, and can take place right in your community.
In small scale agriculture, the land does not exceed four hectares. It is practiced for both subsistence and commercial purposes. Where the farming is practised for subsistence purpose, most of the produce is reserved for consumption. Where, it is practised for subsistence purpose, most of the produce is sold for cash to earn income.
There are two levels at which small-scale farmers can operate: commercial and subsistence level. When farmers produce with a basic focus on selling, this is typical commercial level; but when they operate farms to feed their families and provide their needs, it is termed as subsistence farming. The following are specific features of small-scale agriculture at subsistence level:
- Most of the labour is provided by family members and it is manual in nature.
- Farmers use very simple tools such as hoes, mattocks, rakes and pangas to cultivate. In some cases ox- ploughs are used.
- A number of ways are used to improve soil fertility which include the use of organic manure, mulching (covering the top soil with crop residues and animal remains to retain moisture), and crop rotation.
- Farmers often plant different types of food crops on the farm. Crops grown include beans, maize, sunflower, maize, vegetables and other crops grown mainly for domestic consumption.
- There is very little or no surplus. A large fraction of the produce is used to feed the family and the little surplus is sold.
- The land cultivated for subsistence farming is always small and total yield and yield per area of land is also small. This is because of fragmentation of arable land into small plots owned by individual farmers.
- Agriculture mainly involves the use of simple methods of cultivation such as shifting cultivation. However, due to gradual dwindling of arable land, farmers are slowly switching to crop rotation as the most common method of cultivation.
- There is little or no use of technology in forms of seeds, fertilizer or advanced machinery.
- Most farmers practise mixed farming – the growing of crops and keeping of animals such as goats, cows, and poultry. These animals provide the manure used to fertilize the farm.
- There are poor storage facilities in which case most of the yields may be damaged by pests, insects or unfavourable storage conditions.
The Effects of Rapid Population Growth on Small Scale Agriculture
Explain the effects of rapid population growth on small scale agriculture
Rapid population growth refers to a fast increase in population size which does not match with the resources available to support that population. The available resources may include land, water, minerals, etc. Continuous increase in the number of people is one of the problem facing small scale agriculture because. The following are some effects of rapid population growth on small-scale agriculture:
- Reduction in average size of farms per adult farmer: Because the land is continuously being divided among farmers, plot sizes continue decreasing generation after generation.
- Exhaustion of soil: Due to the fact that soil nutrients taken up by crops are not sufficiently replenished, the soil has been exhausted, thus leading to reduced soil fertility.
- Abundant and cheap labour: Due to rapid population growth, labour is cheaply and easily available.
- Change from subsistence farming to intensive small-holder farming: As population grows, so is the demand for food to meet the ever increasing population. That being the case, farmers are forced to fully utilize the available small portion of arable land through use of fertilizers and agrochemicals aiming at producing more food to feed the entire population.
- Land conflict: There is the possibility of occurring land conflict because of overpopulation.
- Landlessness: Some people go without land as few rich people may have taken most of it.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Small Scale Agriculture
Describe advantages and disadvantages of small-scale agriculture
In spite of low yields and other demerits of small scale agriculture, it has many advantages. The following are some advantages of small scale agriculture:
- It is not expensive in terms of production costs because it uses family labour, simple tools, locally-produced manure and unimproved seeds. And because most farmers inherit the land from their parents, they acquire it free of charge.
- Because of its smallness, the management of small-scale agriculture is easy and economical. A few persons can manage the operation well.
- The operation is easy to control since the small producer can himself supervise the enterprise. Nobody is allowed to spoil machinery or waste materials. The master’s eye is everywhere. There can be no fraud or idleness. He will exercise utmost economy to achieve the aim of maximum profits.
- It provides employment: In the face of high unemployment existing in the country, small scale agriculture is of great help to create more employment opportunities. Small scale production is more labour-intensive i.e., there is more use of labour than machinery. Thus, many unemployed persons are employed in small-scale agriculture. In Tanzania, it is estimated that over 75% of the population are employed in agriculture.
- Source of revenue: Besides producing for subsistence, farmers sell the surplus and earn money.
- It provides food required to feed the ever-increasing population.
- It encourages the development of settlement among farmers.
- Freedom of work: There is complete freedom of work in a small business organisation. Workers are more or less self-sufficient. They are not dependent on their employer and carry on their jobs freely.
- Because very little or no agrochemicals are used in production, the yields are safe to consume, a fact that safeguards the health of consumers.
- Farmers can grow and rear the animals on a single plot and hence maximize land use.
In spite of the numerous advantages of small-scale agriculture, this type of farming has also got a great deal of disadvantages, which include the following:
- Less use of machines: In the small scale production, there is less scope for the use of machines. As a result, these firms cannot take advantages of the use of the machinery.
- Low productivity and poor standard of living due to use of simple tools, less use of fertilizer and poor control of pests.
- Difficulty in getting loans: It is difficult for farmers to get loans because most of them do not own collaterals that are needed by banks.
- Because small-scale farming is rain-fed agriculture, drought can lead to production losses and famine.
- Overcultivation of land, a case in most small-scale agriculture enterprises, can lead to loss of soil fertility hence making the land unproductive.