ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel


Updated on February 27, 2012





What is subsistence farming?

The traditional agriculture or subsistence farming conveys part of its meaning. The word traditional means to do things the way they have usually been done. Since the way of doing things differ from country to country, therefore, the nature of agriculture operation carried on traditionally differ greatly from one location to another.

The term subsistence farming refers to self contained and self sufficient unit where most of the agricultural production is consumed and some may be sold in local market is sold. The goods produced by the farmer is only for family food i.e wheat, maize etc. There is a direct and close relationship between production and consumption. The goal of productive agricultural activity is family survival. The subsistence farming is for subsistence living.

In most of the LDC's including Pakistan, the land holding is gradually decreasing with the increase in population. The agriculturists particularly in remote areas are using old techniques of production. The goal of the productive activity of the majority of the farmers in cultivation is family survival. The farmers, are working for subsistence living.

Characteristics of subsistence farming

The main characteristics of traditional or subsistence farming in brief are as under.

(1) Land use

. Traditional farms are very small usually only 1 to 3 hectares. The goods produced on these small farming units is used mainly for consumption of the family. The consumption survival considerations dominate the commercial ones.

(2) Labour

. Labour used per hectare tends to be high in traditional farming. Mostly the family labour works on the subsistence farms. However the traditional farms may hire some labour during the busy time of the year. Family farm members may and do supplement their income by working off the farm part during slack times.

(3) Power and transport.

 In many countries including Pakistan livestock is the main source of power. They plough the field, transport products and carrying out processing tasks like grinding sugar cane. The level of technology mostly used is simple and less productive.

(4) Productivity and efficiency

. The subsistence farming or traditional farms are characterized by low of inputs which are mostly provided by the farmer himself . For example seeds, cow dung manure etc are not purchased by the farmers. Yields per hectare, production per person and overall productivity tend to be low.

(5) Rationality and risk.

 The traditional farmers are economically rational. They can be motivated to raise standard of living. The subsistence farmers are not adverse to changes but proposed changes must fit in into their current farming operations. The traditional farmers are now mentally ready to take risks of using modern inputs into their small scale farming operations.

(6) Income and level of living.

 The income and level of living of the subsistence farmers is mostly below poverty line.

(7) Decision making freedom.

The subsistence farmers have narrow limits on decision making. His degree of freedom both on the farm and in the home is extremely restricted.

(8) Role of livestock.

Livestock play important role in traditional farming system. Farm animals provide a special protection to farm families. Animals are like saving banks.  Farmers invest surpluses in them. When they grow, they can be sold or consumed during crop failure or for expenditure on marriages etc. The meat milk and eggs, etc are available free to the subsistence farmers.

(9) Fertilizer, fuel, hides.

Animal manure is an important source of both fertilizer and fuel in many LDC's. Clothing and blankets are mostly made from animal hides and sheep hairs.

(10) Social and cultural reasons.

In traditional farming cattle, goats, horses, camels etc are highly valued in many LDC's for social and cultural reasons. A family's social status is measured by the number and kind of animals he owns.

(11) Degree of outside contract.

 The subsistence farmers have less contract with the persons living in adjacent villages.

(12) Huge wastages of resources.

In subsistence farming there is much wastage of resources and production due to the use of unscientific method of production lack of transport shortage of storage facilities.

(13) Element of uncertainty.

 In subsistence farming the element of uncertainty is very high. The failure of one or more than one major crop ruins the farmer.

Subsistence farming to commercialized farming

Transformation of subsistence agriculture to commercialized farming is in two stages which are!

(1) The transition of subsistence to mixed & diversified farming.

(2) The transition of diversified farming to specialized & commercialized farming.

1. In first stage of transition. Just two cash crops (fruits, vegetables, silver fiber (cotton) tea or), simple animal, husbandry is introduced in diversified farm activities. At this stage of transition idle unutilized land and slack labour hour are exploited and better seeds, fertilizers and improved irrigation are used, Diversification reduces the element of ''Risk & Uncertainty'' regarding income. There is some marketable surplus which is to be sold in the market. At the stage of transformation, the output is for both self consumption and market purposes:

2. In the final stage of transformation of subsistence to modern commercialized farming.'' it is transformed from divergence to specialization.

The specialized farm represent the final & most advanced stage of agricultural farming. This stage is generally characterized by high level of living, biological, chemical and technological innovations including variety of high yield hybrid seeds, more use of fertilizers and insecticides and ultra modern mechanized techniques of production. This stage of agricultural development is also characterized by expansion of national (domestic) and international market. At this stage, capital formation, technological advancement, scientific research play a vital role in the promotion of agricultural output and product is entirely for market (commercial) purposes.

Factors promoting commercialized farming

Now let us examine the various factors which promote the transition of subsistence farming to modern commercialized farming & green revolution.

(i) Use of chemical, biological and technological innovations can assist in the transformation of subsistence farming to modern commercialized farming with the help of use of variety of high yield hybrid (H.V.Y) seeds, chemical fertilizers & other insecticides and use of huge tractors, thrashers etc. All these factor raise agricultural productivity.

(ii) Another important factor which promotes the transition of backward subsistence farming to modern dynamic farming is the ''Provision of SOC's and other social service including road rail, transport, and other means of communication which enlarge the extent of market and enable the farmer to dispose off his surplus output to the market places.

(iii) Provision of better inputs at suitable or subsidized rates at proper time also lift in the transformation of subsistence agricultural sector.

(iv) Improved irrigations system (canals, tube wells etc) also help in promotion of agricultural sector's because with improved irrigation facilities more land is brought under cultivation. So total output increases the productivity & performance of existing cultivated land also improves.

(v) In order to promote the transformation of subsistence agriculture sector to modern commercialized sector, changes in defective land tenure system should be brought about through land reforms. It will raise the productivity of agricultural sector as tenant & farmers cultivate land with more devotion, hard work and security.

(vi) Government can also assist in the transformational phenomena of agricultural sector by providing supervised credit facilities to poor farmers through improved financial institutions. Government should supply required inputs in time and stabilized the prices of agricultural products with market.

(vii) Terms of trade should not be such that they adversely influence the agricultural sector and tax structure should be of such a type that it does not discourage the farmers.

(viii) The provision of health training and education facilities also improve the efficiency & health of farmers engaged in subsistence farming.

(ix) The construction of dams provision of cheap electricity to tube wells curing of water logging and salinity also help in the transformation of subsistence to commercialized farming.

(x) Last but not the least is ''undertaking of investment which leads to increase in the area of cultivation also assist in the transformation of subsistence (traditional) backward agriculture sector to modern commercialized farming.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      13 months ago


    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Was very helpful and had exactly what I required for my study. Thank You

    • profile image


      2 years ago


    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Very informative

    • profile image

      felix owino 

      3 years ago

      very nice thank you

    • profile image

      Dileep singh 

      3 years ago

      Very nice and to the point matter,...

    • profile image

      anila malik 

      3 years ago

      very niceeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee article

    • profile image

      Umer Waheed 

      4 years ago


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      i like your ideas but ...........


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)