Farming Systems: Concepts, Definition and Classification


Farming Systems: Concepts, Definition and Classification

What constitutes the farming system of a community or place is dependent upon the culture, soil, vegetation, climate, water availability, income, available markets and diets of the people. The decision to produce a particular crop or rear a particular livestock is the product of the man’s environment.

This includes the physical, biological, socioeconomic environment of the farmers. The farm is a unit and should be considered and planned for effective integration of the various crop combinations and livestock. 

A farm system involves the inputs, processes in their combinations and the eventual outputs with definite boundaries. He uses inputs to get outputs in response to the technical elements which is the natural resource endowment in any given location. This limits what the farming system of the locality could achieve.

A farming system results from a complex interaction of interdependent and interrelated components of elements that bear upon the agricultural enterprises of the rural household.

At the center is the farmer who decides in an attempt to achieve his aspirations, goals and desired objectives within the limits of technologies/resources available to him. He uses inputs to get outputs in response to the technical elements which is the natural resource endowment in any given location which restricts what the farming system can be.

The human element provides the framework for the development and utilization of a particular farming system.

In this article, you will be able to:

Explain the concept of farming systems

Define farming systems

Identify the various classes of farming systems.


Concept of Farming Systems

The terms farm system and farming system are often used interchangeably. 

Here the practice is to use farm system to refer to the structure of an individual farm, and a farming system to refer to broadly similar farm types in specific geographical areas or recommendation domains.

A farming system will arise from a complex of interactions and interrelationships between the farmer and his family structure, the available resources to the farmer, the market environment and other external demands on the farmer.

What he produces and his combinations of resources are purely at the discretion of the farmer. The convergence of these individual decisions is central to the emergence of the type of farming system that will eventually emerge in that community or location.

A system is a set of interrelated, interacting and interdependent elements acting together for a common purpose and capable of reacting as a whole to external stimuli. It is unaffected by its output and it has external boundaries.

Farms are systems because several activities, actions and decisions are closely related to each other by the common use of the farm labour, land and other inputs required for production. In arriving on the final products to deliver, the risk elements are also considered.

These include climate, price changes and government policies that will bear significantly on family welfare. What the farmer considers foremost in arriving at his final decision is the welfare and safety of his family members. On the whole, the farmer offers the framework for identification, development and utilization of a particular farming system.

The first purpose of this unit is to develop a conceptual framework for the examination of the agro-economic structure of farm-level agricultural systems. 

The second purpose is to sketch the relationships among these farm level systems, and between these on the one hand and higher-level systems on the other. 

These considerations form the basis for the presentation in later units of an analytical approach to farm management from a systems perspective applied in the context of the agricultural system.

While somewhat original in the comprehensiveness of its farm systems' schema, the analytical framework and approach taken are not in conflict with the approaches to systems theory and agricultural systems analysis.


Definition of Farming Systems

Agricultural farming systems are a set of strategies put in place by a farmer in response to available resources which are managed to achieve economic and sustainable agricultural productivity to meet the needs of the farm household thereby preserving the resources and maintaining the environment.

An agricultural system is an assemblage of components which are united by some form of interaction and interdependence and which operate within a prescribed boundary to achieve a specified agricultural objective on behalf of the beneficiaries of the system.

Agricultural farming systems arise as a matter of necessity for the survival and wellbeing of the farmer and his household and the sustenance of the environment.

An agricultural system is an assemblage of components that are united by some form of interaction and interdependence and which operate within a prescribed boundary to achieve a specified agricultural objective on behalf of the beneficiaries of the system.

This definition is analogous to the general definition of any artificial (i.e., man-made) system of which all managed agricultural systems (including specifically the farm-level systems) form one sub-division.

From a practical production, administration and management point of view, 'all agriculture' can be regarded as consisting of sets of systems.


Classification of Farming Systems

Systems can be classified into three broad families or divisions as natural, social or artificial systems.

(a) Natural systems

Those that exist in Nature - consist of all the materials (both physical and biological) and interrelated processes occurring to these materials which constitute the world and, inter alia, provide the physical basis for life. They exist independent of mankind.

Our role concerning natural systems is to try to understand them and, as need be, make use of them. We also (increasingly) attempt to duplicate them, in part or whole; but at this point they become, by definition, man-made or artificial systems. These fundamental natural systems remain unaffected by attempts at imitation.

Those natural physical and biological systems (shown in their totality as the division of natural systems in Figure 1.1) which are relevant to agriculture will be self-apparent: rock weathering to form soil; plants sustained by such soil; animals sustained by such plants ... are examples of the outward forms of agriculturally relevant natural systems in operation.

(b) Social systems are more difficult to define

Essentially they consist of the entities forming animate populations, the institutions or social mechanisms created by such entities, and the interrelationships among/between individuals, groups, communities, expressed directly or through the medium of institutions. Social systems involve relationships between animate populations (individuals, groups, communities), not between things. 

The concern here is with human social systems as they relate to or impinge upon farming, and the term social system is used broadly to include institutions and relationships of an economic, social, religious or political nature. There is a certain degree of ambiguity in defining social systems.

As an example, the law of property is in its essence a social system. Insofar as it is viewed as consisting of concepts, principles and rules, it is a pure social system, independent of natural systems. 

But its existence also presupposes the existence of the property, including natural physical things, some of which exist as systems. To this extent, as a social system, the law of property is dependent on or subordinate to natural systems.

(c) Artificial systems do not exist in Nature

They are of human creation to serve human purposes.

All artificial systems, including agricultural systems, are constructed from either or both of two kinds of elements:

(a) Elements taken from either or both of the other two higher-level orders of systems at division level, i.e., from natural and social systems.

(b) From elements which are constructed or proposed for specific use by each respective artificial system as the need for this arises.

The upper part of the system depicts the dependence relationship between natural and social systems on the one hand and between these and artificial systems on the other.

The relevant relationships are:

(i) Natural systems are independent of systems of the other divisions

(ii) Social systems could also be viewed as being independent, but generally, a more legitimate view would be that they depend immediately or eventually on natural systems for the essentials of their material existence

(iii) artificial systems are directly dependent on either or both natural and social systems, or indirectly on natural systems (through the dependence of social systems themselves on natural systems).

Agriculture is shown as comprising one of a very large number of actual or potential artificial systems at the sub-division level.

Others are those relating to mining, transport, public health, education, etc. What such systems at this sub-divisional level have in common is that each is artificial: each is based upon or draws elements from higher-level natural and social systems; and each also contains elements that are purposefully created by some human agency to meet its needs.


Further sub-classification of systems

Systems within the three broad divisions or their multitudinous subdivisions can be further classified according to system 'type', a loose term but one which might be used to differentiate among agricultural systems according to several factors of which only two are shown in the sketch.

As outlined below, first, the system might be either an explicit or implicit one; second, its purpose might be either descriptive or operational. Other 'type' designations could be added; e.g., operational systems could be further classified according to whether or not they are amenable to optimization.

(a)  Explicit systems: Are those in which the constituent elements are more or less closely identified and defined, and the relationships among these elements are stated formally in quantitative, usually mathematical, terms. Agricultural scientists and economists who work with farmers are concerned mainly with explicit systems. But farmers themselves will seldom be concerned with explicit systems - only with systems of a simpler kind, or only with selected parts of such systems.

(b) Implicit systems: Are systems in which only the main or critical elements are acknowledged and only the major or immediately relevant interrelationships are considered. However, these elements and relationships are not formally recorded, analyzed or evaluated.

Farmers themselves deal primarily with implicit systems. In both traditional and more modem societies particular agricultural systems are implied in what farmers do, or deliberately do not do.

In more 'advanced' societies, farmers might formalize and work with a few explicit systems or parts of systems (farm record books, simple crop budgets, household expenditure accounts) but here also most agro-management systems will exist by implication.

The purpose in here distinguishing between explicit and implicit systems is to discourage the view that, because farmers (especially small traditional farmers) do not deal with explicit formal systems, these farmers are backward, ignorant, unsophisticated, and generally inferior as resource managers.

If anything, the facts generally point to a contrary conclusion.

While bad farmers can be found anywhere, any close study of small traditional farmers and farming villages in the developing world will, with patience, identify implicit systems at agro-technical, enterprise, farm, farm-household and village levels which are far more complex, sophisticated, sustainable and socially efficient than most agricultural systems found in developed countries.

(c) Descriptive systems: Are usually intended to facilitate an understanding of the organization, structure or operation of a productive process. This might be their sole purpose; e.g., a farmer might construct a simple input-output budget table to learn the structural configurations of some potential new crop. Depending on the results of this, he or she might then proceed to construct a more detailed budget (an operational system) to find how best to fit this new crop into his or her farm plan.

At higher Order Levels an organogram describing the administrative structure of a ministry of agriculture or an extension service might be constructed or the flowchart of a commodity from farm to consumer might be drawn - these also are descriptive systems.

(d) Operational systems: Are constructed (by an analyst or manager or research worker) as a basis for taking or recommending action aimed at improving the performance of the system. Such systems are often elaborate.

However, increased precision is not infrequently achieved at the cost of decreased practical usefulness. 

Thus farm managers themselves work primarily with simple operational systems, although the actual physical systems which these represent may be very complex.

It is sometimes useful to recognize that, like other systems, agricultural systems may be categorized as:

Purposeful or non-purposeful depending on whether or not they can select goals and how to achieve them.

 Static or dynamic depending on whether or not they change over time in response to internal or external influences.

 Open or closed depending on whether or not they interact with their environment.


The Hierarchy of Agricultural Systems

Systems of Order Levels 1 to 12 comprise the field of farm management. But systems of Order Level 1 and 2 is also, indeed primarily, the domain of the applied agricultural sciences. A further provison is that the 'household' components of farm-household systems of Order Level 12 remain as yet not very well understood.

This component is primarily the province of workers in such fields as household economics, rural sociology and social anthropology. While these various farm family-related fields are fairly well established, they have yet to be brought together comprehensively and cohesively at farm-family level to provide verified models of how rural families in the developing world think about, plan and operate the 'farm' component of their farm household systems.

The Hierarchy of Agricultural Systems depicts the direction of hierarchical status as proceeding downward from sector to industry to village to the farm to crop, etc. But whether this direction of subordination is valid will depend on circumstances and analytical purpose.

Agricultural scientists would probably reverse the order ranking shown for the systems because, unless the basic agro-technical processes (Order Level 1 and 2 systems) are well developed, the production of individual crops will be inefficient, total farm production will be low and the agricultural sector itself will, in consequence, be an impoverished one.

Similarly, extension workers might be inclined to place household systems at the top of the system's hierarchy on the basis that good farming practices (Order Level 1 and 2 systems) will not be adopted unless the household systems are working well, nor consequently will the 'higher'-order systems at industry and sector level operate at their full potential.


Nature of farm-level systems

The nature of each farm-level system (i.e., Order Levels 1 to 12) of the hierarchy may be specified from a management point of view as follows:

 Order Level 1: Uni-dimensional process systems - Systems of this lowest order are agro-technical. They involve an issue or problem which for purposes of analysis or management is abstracted from the context in which it naturally or normally occurs. One example is the application of a single fertilizer element, say nitrogen (N), to a crop and consequent plant response to N in terms of crop yield Y. As noted previously, systems of this order are primarily the domain of physical scientists, but those systems which have practical relevance for farmers thereby also have an economic dimension and so fall within the scope of farm economics. Such simple single-dimensional systems are later examined as processes and as input-output response relationships.

 Order Level 2: Multi-dimensional process systems - Systems of this second-order are also concerned with limited agro-technical relationships and again they are primarily the domain of physical scientists. They differ from Order Level 1 systems in that they take - or are defined to take - a wider and more realistic view of a subject or problem.

To use the same example of fertilizer response: at Order Level 2 an agro-technical system might involve the response of plant growth or yield Y to not one but to several or a large number of input factors such as nitrogen, phosphorous, irrigation water, crop hygiene, soil tilt, etc. These multi-dimensional systems also are later examined as processes and as response relationships. Order Level 2 systems can be viewed as aggregations (often interactive) of constituent Order Level 1 systems.

 Order Level 3: Enabling-activity systems: Systems of this order are certain enabling activities that generate an intermediate product intended for use as an input/resource by enterprises which do produce a final product. An example is offered by a legume crop turned under to provide fertility for a following (final product-generating) paddy crop. There will often be alternative ways of obtaining this resource: e.g., stripping leaves off leguminous trees, keeping cattle for their manure, or buying a bag of fertilizer. These are all enabling, resource-generating activities but only some of them, the complex ones, warrant designation as systems. They are intended to supply resources to systems of Order Levels 4 and 6.

• Order Level 4: Crop systems - Systems of this order relate to the production of individual crops; but if these are primarily intended to produce inputs for other crops or livestock, they are regarded as systems of Order Level 3. On many small farms, crop and livestock enterprises produce both final products and resources.

• Order Level 5: All crop systems - Systems of this order, known also as cropping systems, refer to the combined system of all the individual crops on a farm. On a farm with a single mono-crop, this Order Level 5 system will be equivalent to an Order Level 3 system; but on small mixed farms, there will usually be four, five, six or more different crops (of Order Levels 3 and 4) grown in some degree of combination and as many as 20 or more on the highly diversified forest-garden farms.

• Order Level 6: Animal systems - These systems relate to single-species animal enterprises or activities - e.g., dairy cows, camels, fish, ducks. They are the animal equivalent of Order Level 4 (i.e., individual crop) systems.

• Order Level 7: All animal systems - These systems are the aggregation of all Order Level 6 (sub) systems on a farm. Known as livestock systems, they are the animal equivalent of Order Level 5 (i.e., all crop) systems.

 Order Level 8: Resource pool- This subsystem is a conceptual device for farm-system planning in which resources and fixed-capital services required by other subsystems are 'stored' in a 'resource pool' from which they are allocated to the other subsystems (of Order Levels 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6). The resource pool is central to the operation of the whole farm household system.

• Order Level 9: Farm service matrix - A system of this Order Level consists of all the fixed capital resources of a farm that are pertinent to the operation of the farm as a whole but are not assigned to the exclusive use of any particular enterprise or activity: land, fences, barns, irrigation channels and work oxen are common examples. 

Some of these capital items are true (sub) systems, having interdependence among their parts (as in an irrigation storage/delivery/distribution network, a grain drying facility, an integrated network of soil conservation structures, etc.). 

Some are only things (e.g., fences, a plough, a barn). But, in its totality, such capital is managed and manipulated as a system to provide general services which, while not specific to them, enable the functioning of lower Order Level systems of the farm.

 Order Level 10: Whole-farm systems- Systems of this Order Level consist of all the lower Order Level (sub) systems which go to make up a farm. They consolidate in a single entity all the farm fixed capital, all the operating capital, all the final-product enterprises, all the activities and all the agro-technical processes which underlie such enterprises and activities.

Structuring and managing systems of this Order Level are the main tasks or focus of farm management as carried out, on the one hand, by farmers and as investigated, on the other hand, by farm management economists in their professional capacity of providing advice to farm managers, development agencies and governments. The terms farm system and farming system are often used interchangeably.

Here the practice is to use farm system to refer to the structure of an individual farm, and farming system to refer to broadly similar farm types in specific geographical areas or recommendation domains, e.g., the wet paddy farming system of river basins or the grain livestock fanning systems of Savannah region.

•  Order Level 11: Household systems- On small farms, the household itself is the most dynamic and complex of all farm-level systems, although it is a social system not an agricultural one. It dominates the agricultural systems which comprise the farm component. It has two functions: as household it provides purpose and management to the farm component, and as major system beneficiary it receives and allocates system outputs to itself and other beneficiaries.

• Order Level 12: Farm-household systems - These consist of two components or (sub) systems of Order Levels 10 and 11, i.e., the whole farm system and its associated household system, respectively.

The term is a very useful if not mandatory one when used to refer to the small farms of Asia. It carries an insistence that the technical analysis discussed in the following chapters will amount to nothing at all unless it is applied to achieving the real needs and aspirations of the household might be quite a different thing from evaluating the performance of a farm system according to the subjective or preconceived ideas of agricultural technicians and economists.

As the peak farm-level system, the farm-household system may be described in system terms as a goal setting (i.e., purposeful) open stochastic dynamic system with a major aim of production from agricultural resources. These attributes are sufficient to make it also a complex system.

The purposefulness of a farm-household system is ensured by its human and social involvement which enables the system to vary its goals and their means of achievement under a given environment. The openness of the farm household system is obvious from its physical, economic and social interaction with its environment.

The non-deterministic or stochastic nature of the farm-household system is guaranteed both by the free choice capacity of its human (and, if present, animal) elements and by the stochastic nature of the environment with which it (and all its subsystems) interacts.

Necessarily, a farm-household system is also dynamic under its purposefulness, openness and stochasticity which ensure that the system changes over time.

Too, any farm-household system is a mixture of abstract and concrete elements or subsystems.

The concrete elements are associated with the physical activities and processes that occur in the system. The abstract elements relate to the managerial and social aspects of the system.


Village-level farming systems

Not infrequently in parts of Africa, as also elsewhere in the developing world, the village may replace the farm-household in whole or part as the focal entity for agricultural production. Systems of Order Level 13, i.e., village or community systems, are thus often relevant to the performance of farming systems.

• Order Level 13: Village-community systems- Village-level systems or community systems in some situations replace all or part of individual farm-household systems. Three situations are common.

First, some production activity in its entirety, including the operation of whole farms as production units, may be on a formal cooperative or group basis.

Second, only part of activity might be carried on by individual farmers while critical parts of it (such as land preparation, the supply of inputs, harvesting and/or marketing) are the responsibility of a formal farmers' club or cooperative.

Third, and most difficult to analyse, is the situation found in many Indonesian villages where informal and temporary groups form to perform certain production tasks in common (such as land preparation, irrigation and/or harvesting) then disband and re-form to do different tasks on different crops, with membership continuously changing as individuals drop in and out of groups according to their interests, needs and mutual obligations.

In a village there might be 10, 20 or 30 such 'cooperatives', though none might exist officially. 

Other examples are offered by the semi-nomadic livestock farmers of West Asia who sometimes operate as individual households and sometimes as members of a collective.

In all these situations the boundaries of individual units are often so fluid and obscure that the focus for productive analysis has to be the group or village community.

Nevertheless, much externally sponsored farm-development planning remains locked into the mythology of agricultural individualism; perhaps that is why on the small farms of Africa it has borne so little and often poisonous fruit.


Structural Elements of the Farm-Household System

The definition of an agricultural system given in this text above is a general one and applies broadly to systems of all the Order Levels. When applied specifically to a farm-household system of Order Level 12 it implies the system involves ten structural elements or components:

1.  Boundaries

2.  Household

3.  Operating plan

4.  Production-enabling resources: the resource pool

5.  Final product-generating enterprises

6.  Resource-generating activities

7.  Agro-technical processes

8.  Whole-farm service matrix

9.  Structural (interdependence) coefficient

10.  Time dimension.


The 10 elements are briefly discussed below.

1. Boundaries

This first element, the boundaries of the farm household system, set it apart from other systems and from the world at large. These boundaries are provided partly by the structural characteristics of the particular type of farm, and partly by the purpose of analysis, i.e., to some extent they are subjective and relate to more than the simple physical boundary of the farm.

2. Household

As previously noted, the household plays two roles: first, it provides purpose and management to its associated farm system and, second, it is the major beneficiary of its associated farm system.

In its first role it provides purpose, operating objectives and management to the farm component of the farm household system according to its broad domestic and social goals.

Obviously these goals vary widely with culture, tradition and the degree of commercialization and external influences to which the household is exposed. However, one would probably be not too far wrong in offering a generalization that the primary economic goal on smallest farms is security and the primary noneconomic goal is social acceptance. If this is correct, the primary objectives for the farm are, first, production of a low-risk sustainable subsistence for primary system beneficiaries; second, generation of a cash income to meet needs not directly met in the form of food and other farm-produced materials; and third, pursuit of both of these in ways which are not in conflict with local culture and tradition.

3. Operating plan

The above objectives are pursued through preparation and execution of a farm operating plan. The core of this may be taken as selection of the best possible mix of agro technical processes, activities, enterprises and fixed capital (systems of Order Levels 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8).

4. Resource pool

This element was noted above as a system of Order Level 8 central to the management of other subsystems within the farm system.

5. Final product-generating enterprises

These were noted as systems of Order Levels 5 and 7 in the previous section

6. Resource-generating activities

These also were previously discussed as systems of Order Level 3. They are intended to supplement or entirely supply the resource pool

7. Agro-technical processes

These were defined above as systems of Order Levels 1 and 2. Processes may be of a biological or mechanical kind. They are a shorthand designation of all the potentially complex and interrelated physical and biological factors underlying production from crop or livestock species, only some of which may be economically relevant.

8. Whole-farm service matrix

This was discussed previously as a system of Order Level 9.

9. System structural coefficients

These coefficients identify and quantify linkage relationships (a) among the various parts or elements within each subsystem and (b) between subsystems. From the general system definition, an essential property of any system is that there may be interrelatedness between its parts. In farm-household systems (and in subordinate subsystems of lesser Order Level, particularly Order Levels 4 and 6) such interrelatedness is specified by these coefficients.

10. Time dimension

Unlike mechanical systems which stamp out buttons, agricultural systems rest on biological processes which occur over considerable periods - from, e.g., a few days in the case of quick-response agricides to 70 or more years in the case of growth and decline of a coconut palm.

Agricultural systems are thus inherently stochastic: being dependent on the passage of time, ex ante, their outcomes are uncertain.

Moreover, because agriculture is also a set of economic activities, the adage applies: time is money. Other things being equal, a system which yields its product or ties up resources over a short time is better than one which yields its output or occupies resources over a long time. Strictly speaking, time is not a system component; rather it is a dimension in which the system operates. 

Also important from a time perspective are the sustainability and environmental compatibility of the farm system being used. 

If, over time, the farm system is not biologically and economically sustainable or causes resource degradation, it is to the disadvantage of both the farm household and society at large. From our understanding of a farming system, we can further explain it to mean ‘as a population of individual farm systems that have broadly similar resource bases, enterprise patterns, household livelihoods and constraints, and for which similar development strategies and interventions would be appropriate’. Depending on the scale of the analysis, a farming system can encompass a few dozen or many millions households.

Farm as a unit transfers input into agricultural output and which undergoes changes over time. 

In the process of adapting cropping patterns and farming techniques to the natural, economic and sociopolitical conditions of each location and the aims of the farmers, distinct farming systems are developed. For agricultural development, it is advisable to group farms with similar structures into classes.

Broadly the classification of the farming systems of developing regions has been based on the following criteria:

 Available natural resource base, including water, land, grazing areas and forest; climate, of which altitude is one important organization.

 Dominant pattern of farm activities and household livelihoods, including field crops, livestock, trees, aquaculture, hunting and gathering, processing and off-farm activities; and taking into account the main technologies used, which determine the intensity of production and integration of crops, livestock and other activities.

Based on these broad criteria, we will specifically classify farming system as follows:

1) Collecting from the wild: This is the most direct method of obtaining plant products. It includes regular and irregular harvesting of uncultivated plants and animals eg hunting of animals and honey, oil palm and date palm collection, locust bean and Arabic gum collecting. These off-farm activities provide extra income to the families.

2) Cultivation of crops


Types of fallow

Considerable variation and degree of intensity exists between fallow periods within a cycle. In this arrangement cultivation of land alternates with an uncultivated fallow which may take the following forms as forest fallow, bush fallow, savanna fallow, wild and unregulated ley that are common in the savanna.


Type of rotation

There is an established pattern of rotation of cropped areas with the fallow portions. Considerable variation and degree of intensity exists between cropping and fallow period within one cycle. In some locations, the arable land is cultivated for several years and left to fallow.

The period of fallow and cropping differ and depending on the length of either will give rise to shifting cultivation and permanent cropping.


Type of water supply

This is either irrigated farming or rain-fed farming


Type of cropping pattern and animal activities

This is influenced by the dominant crops and livestock activities which are dependent on the type of soil, climate, other inputs and markets.


Type of implement used for cultivation

In some locations, farmers practice zero tillage or minimal tillage while in some deep plowing and harrowing using tractors is practiced. Some farmers use hoes to prepare the land which is very common in the savannah regions and forest zones of Nigeria. Others depend on their animals to do most of the farming operations.


Degree of commercialization

1. Subsistence farming –if there is virtually no sale of crop and animal products

2. Partly commercialized farming-- if more than 50% of the value of the produce is for home consumption.

3. Commercialized farming--- If more than 50% of the produce is for sale.

3) Grassland utilization: The utilization of grasses either cultivated or uncultivated can be used to classify the type of animal rearing in a region.

(i) Nomads: Nomads are people with no fixed home. They travel from place to place. Many nomads move as the seasons change. They move in search of food, water, and places for their animals to eat. The word “nomad” comes from a Greek word meaning “roaming about for pasture.” Some cultures around the world have always been nomadic. In today’s industrialized countries, nomads are few and far between.

However, there are still 30-40 million nomads around the world today! Nomads are usually divided into three categories. There are hunter-gatherers, pastoral nomads, and peripatetic nomads. Hunter-gatherers are the oldest type of nomad.

As their name suggests, hunter-gatherers move about frequently. They search for wild fruits, vegetables, and animals that change with the seasons. All human beings were hunter-gatherers until about 10,000 years ago. As people began farming, there was less need to move about.

Today, there are very few hunter-gatherer groups. Those that do exist also farm and raise animals. Pastoral nomads raise large herds of animals. When the animals eat all of the food in one area, they move to a new one. This gives the pastures time to grow new food.

Pastoral nomads usually stick to a specific area. The area they roam can be hundreds of square miles. They choose one spot to live in for weeks or months. Then, they set up portable, wood-framed houses called yurts.

(ii) Pastoral nomadism: One of the three general types of nomadism, a way of life of peoples who do not live continually in the same place but move cyclically or periodically.

Pastoral nomads, who depend on domesticated livestock, migrate in an established territory to find pasturage for their animals. Most nomadic groups have focal sites that they occupy for considerable periods of the year.

Pastoralists may depend entirely on their herds or may also hunt or gather, practice some agriculture, or trade with agricultural peoples for grain and other goods. Some seminomadic groups in Southwest Asia and North Africa cultivate crops between seasonal moves. The Kazakhs, an Asiatic Turkic-speaking people who inhabit mainly Kazakhstan and the adjacent parts of the Uighur Autonomous Region of Xinkiang in China, were traditionally pastoral nomads, dwelling year-round in portable dome-shaped tents (called gers, or yurts) constructed of dismountable wooden frames covered with felt.

A few continue to migrate seasonally to find pasturage for their livestock, including horses, sheep, goats, cattle, and a few camels.

The Maasai, on the other hand, are fully nomadic. They travel in bands in East Africa throughout the year and subsist almost entirely on the meat, blood, and milk of their herds. The patterns of pastoral nomadism are many, often depending on the type of livestock, the topography, and the climate. Pasture refers to grass or other plants that have grown or are grown for feeding grazing animals (such as camels, cows, sheep, goats and donkeys) as well as the land used for grazing.

Normadism on the other hand is a form of social organization where people move from one place to another in search of natural resources for their survival.

Normadism incorporates the advantages of mobility and traditional nomadic groups were able to exploit natural resources such as grasses and water at dispersed locations in the course of their mobility. Pastoralism is a system of land utilization which features the grazing of livestock rather than the cultivation of crops.

Normadism on the other hand is the practice by members of tribes that move with their animals from place to place in search of pasture and water.

Normadic refers to normads that are herdsmen in an area that leads a nomadic existence by moving their livestock around an area or region to feed on available grazing.

Pastoral nomadism is thus a form of subsistence agriculture based on herding domesticated animals for their meat, hides, milk, products or item of trade.

Settled agriculture, started in about 9,000BC and pastoralism emerged somewhat later involving different people.

Pastoral nomads are found in different climatic regions of the world, ranging from the equator to the Arctic Circle. They are also found across arid deserts into tropical savannas of tall grasses on the equatorial margins of these deserts.

Pastoralism as a dominant economy has developed in the old world (Asia, Africa and Europe) where numerous pastoralists herd cattle for various Purposes. The movement of most present-day nomads is determined by the seasonal nature of rainfall and the need to find new sources of grass for their animals.

Examples of such nomads include the Bendouin and Tuaregs in the Sahara Desert, the Fulani in western Africa and the Masai in Kenya. Across the continent of Africa, several pastoral nomads herd their animals within the arid, semi-arid and savannah vegetation zones, one of these are the Fulani.

The Fulani are the largest semi-nomadic group in the world found across west and central Africa.

Over the years, they herd their animals across the various vegetation zones in search of pasture and water for their animals, frequently leading to conflict situations and clashes with sedentary farming communities in different countries.

These recurring conflict situations and clashes have become a national security challenge particularly in some West African countries such as Nigeria. The Fulani pastoralists/farmer’s conflicts have posed serious security challenges because for decades governments at local, state and federal level have not been able to overcome the challenge.

The conflicts continue leading to disruption of peaceful co-existence, destruction of properties, loss of lives and displacement of people from their homes and villages to internally displaced person’s camps. Accordingly, we have the following types of nomadic life.

1. Total nomadism – the animal owner does not have a permanent place of residence. They do not practice regular cultivation and their families move with the herds.

2. Semi-nomadism- where the animal owners have a semi-permanent place of residence near where supplementary irrigation is practiced. However, they travel with their herds to distant grazing areas every day.

3. Transhumance- where farmers with a permanent place of residence send their herds tended by herdsmen for a long period to distant grazing areas.

4. Partial nomadism is characterized by farmers who live continuously in permanent settlements with their herds remaining in the vicinity

5. Stationary animal husbandry occurs where the animals remain on the holding or in the village throughout the entire year.



Conclusion on Farming Systems: Concepts, Definition and Classification

A farming system results from a complex interaction of interdependent and interrelated components of elements that bear upon the agricultural enterprises of the rural household. 

At the center is the farmer who decides in an attempt to achieve his aspirations, goals and desired objectives within the limits of technologies available to him.

Many factors influence the determination of the type of farming system in a community which is influenced by the physical, biological and socioeconomic structure of the environment.

The farming system represents an appropriate combination of farm enterprises (cropping systems horticulture, livestock, fishery, forestry, and poultry) and the means available to the farmer to raise them for profitability.

It interacts adequately with the environment without dislocating the ecological and socioeconomic balance on one hand and attempts to meet the national goals on the other.

A farming system is a unique and reasonably stable arrangement of farming enterprises that a household manages according to well-defined practices in response to the physical, biological and socio-economic environment and following the household goals, preferences, and resources.

Depending on the scale of the analysis, a farming system can encompass a few dozen or many millions households.

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