Agriculture has been the basis of every civilization for thousands of years. It is an essential source of livelihood in many parts of the world. In fact, the vast majority of the rural populations of developing countries rely on agriculture in general and on peasant farming in particular. This article will give you a general view of this mode of production and how important it is to human lives.
What is peasant farming?
Peasant farming is an agricultural mode of production that refers to a type of small scale agriculture. It includes ten interconnected rules, such as seeking self-sufficiency in all of the farm’s operations, respecting the surrounding environment, and saving scarce resources.
An average peasant farm is less than 10 acres in size. This is comprised of family type farms, where a large part of the production is consumed by the family. In this farming system, the farmer combines in himself, the rules of an owner, a controller, and an operator of the farm. Therefore, family members account for most of the laborers.
Peasant farmers used most part of the arable land they controlled, beyond that around their residences for growing crops. They grow a diversity of crops which is appropriate to their climate including tomatoes, cabbages, spinach, peppers, ginger, yams, legumes, and rice. Peasant farmers also might grow a few fruit and nut. Crop rotation is usually practiced to maximize productivity.
Aside from a peasant’s house and land, peasants also rear some livestock including chickens, ducks, and other small animals. These animals are cheap to obtain, easy to be trained and they can provide a large number of their products to everyday life.
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Advantages and disadvantages of peasant farming
Each farming system has its own advantages as well as disadvantages, so does peasant farming.
Advantages of peasant farming
Supervision of work in the industry always presents a challenge because of the large area of operation for a worker.
Meanwhile, the small size of the peasant system requires less attention, hence the owner himself can efficiently supervise the work of the laborers.
Moreover, the proprietor can give personal guidance and direct him to do his job in a particular way. In this way, both supervisors and laborers can work with full devotion and responsibility to increase output per head.
Due to the small-scale farm, the use of machinery becomes costly and limited. Consequently, the peasant system is done using mainly labor-intensive methods and traditional hand tools.
Immune to fluctuations
Peasant farmers generally neither purchase any input from the market nor sell any output, they cannot be affected by the fluctuations in the prices of various inputs or crops.
Productivity per hectare on a peasant farm is larger compared to other systems. The main reason for this is the greater intensity of cropping. In other words, it requires greater use of labor per hectare on small farms when compared with that on a larger farm.
Furthermore, in large farms, they are much more likely to be monocultures while small farms tend to plant crop mixtures where the empty space between the rows is occupied by other crops.
Disadvantages of peasant farming
High cost of production
Limited resources and financial weakness makes it difficult for farm owners to purchase modern inputs for the farm. Indeed, the construction of farm buildings is relatively costly and the transformation of agriculture is more difficult owing to its small size.
The use of available resources is not optimum
Peasant family farms are units of both production and consumption. The resources of the farmer hence either remain unutilized or misutilized. What is more, the lack of division of labor leads to less profit for the proprietor.
The commercial motive is weak
Peasant farmers remain uninfluenced by the changes in the market forces because they neither purchase any goods from the market nor sell any surplus in the market. As a result, the crop patterns do not change with the fluctuation in prices remains un-remunerative.
The importance of peasant farming
According to the High-Level Panel of Experts of the Committee for World Food Security of the FAO, peasant farming contributes positively to food security, economic development, employment and income, productivity.
Plus, this model of agriculture has significant impacts on sustainability, landscape, biodiversity, climate, emancipation and cultural heritage.
On top of that, the peasant system contributes considerably more than other modes of farming, both in the Global North and in the Global South.
Denying space for the peasant system not only exposes a direct danger to the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people around the world but also poses serious threats to food security, sustainability, and economic development.
Farming holds the backbone of developing countries’ economies. Although the farming form has changed significantly over the years, peasant farming still plays a vital role in employment, natural resource management, cultural heritage security, and economic development.