Differentiate Between Subsistence and Commercial farming


Differentiate between subsistence and commercial farming

Farming started with man using the power of human muscles. 

Many centuries passed before he started to use animal power to supplement the human muscle. With the advent of science and technology coupled with research findings, agricultural production moved from subsistence farming to the use of machines, which is regarded as mechanization- for commercial purposes.

Read On: Methods of Farming in Nigeria

Commercial farming

This is a type of farming that is done on a large scale; this involves the use of machinery to do the work formally done manually (mechanization). Machines have been produced which increases productivity in agriculture.

In advanced countries, most farm operations have been mechanized. Bulldozers are used for clearing the farm. Tractor mounted instruments like ploughs and harrows are used in tilling the soil.

There are machines for planting and making ridges. 

Also, we have cultivators, spraying machines and machines for applying fertilizers.

Many types of harvesters are now available and there are machines used in processing agricultural produce of any type.

In livestock farming, we now have incubators, egg graders and milking machines.

These machines make work in the farm easier, faster and less burdensome.


Characteristics of commercial farming

Take note of the following features.

1. It is very expensive to practice.

2. Large area of farmland is required.

3. Requires the use of machines like cultivators, tractors, planters, harvesters, etc.

4. Labour is both manual and mechanical, and specialists are required, at some stages of production.

5. Returns are very high at the end of season or harvest time.

6. Marketing of products is specialized and sometimes requires advertisement.

7. It involves a lot of research into the various aspects of production.

8. It requires good record keeping being able to make proper decisions.

Subsistence Farming

This is a system of fanning whereby a farmer cultivates crops and rears animals in order to produce food for use by himself and his family only. In crop production, the subsistence farmer concentrates on arable food crops as yam, cassava, maize, millet, sorghum, groundnuts, soya beans, and cowpeas.

The subsistence farmer may also be involved in the establishment of plantations using traditional methods. The farmer may plant such crops as oil palm, cocoa, rubber, kola, tea, coffee, banana, and citrus trees.

In livestock production, the subsistence farmer keeps a few goats, sheep, rabbits or pigs. In the arid regions, the subsistence livestock farmer is mainly nomadic and moves with his animals from place to place in search of water and pasture.

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Characteristics of subsistence farming

1. Labour is provided by the farmer and his family.

2. Only small area of land is used.

3. Crude implements like hoe, cutlass, digger, baskets are used.

4. The produce from the farm are not necessarily for sale.

5. The yield is also very low compared to mechanized farming.


Problems of subsistence farming

1. Control of pests and diseases is difficult.

2. The farmers are illiterate.

3. Use of crude tools.

4. Labour supply is erratic and unreliable.

5. The practice of subsistence farming wastes land and there is no means of replenishing soil.

6. The process is boring because the work is unchallenging and there is little or no profit, since farm products are not for sale.

Differences between Commercial and Subsistence farming

In commercial farming, there are proper irrigation facilities. Commercial farming is not dependent much on manpower or animal power. Commercial farming is mainly practiced in developed countries. Commercial farming is cultivated for profits, whereas subsistence farming is for the consumption of the farmer and his/her family. Subsistence farming is generally dependent upon the monsoon. Subsistence farming is more dependent on animals and man power. Subsistence farming is mainly practiced in less developed or developing countries.


In commercial farming,

1. Large scale farming is adopted.

2. Mechanization is the main focus.

3. It is ideal for monocropping, intensive animal production and fish farming.

4. Highly capital intensive which can be gotten through the bank.

5. Labour is highly specialized and expensive.

6. Marketing of product is specialized.

7. Research into aspects required

8. Highly scientific with no superstitious belief.

9. Yield (and often, returns) is high- meant for everybody.

10. processing of final product is common.

11. It requires good record keeping so as being able make good decisions.


While in subsistence farming  

1. Small scale farming is adopted.

2. Traditional farming is being practiced.

3. Ideal for mixed farming, bush fallowing and shifting cultivation.

4. Low capital requirements which can be provided by friend and family members.

5. Labour is from friends, family members; and it is cheap.

6. No special marketing skills are required.

7. No research activity is required.

8. Highly traditional and superstitious in nature.

9. Yields are low and meant for family members.

10. No processing of any form is practiced.

11. No record keeping is done and so no improvement is expected.


Conclusion on Differences between Commercial and Subsistence Agriculture

It can be clearly stated that despite the high yield and high proceeds from commercial agriculture, most small scale farmers still operate subsistence farming as a result of the low capital outlay involved.

The state and federal governments should provide capital for small-scale farmers.

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