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How does subsistence farming work in India? Types, characteristics, and cultivation

Subsistence farming work in India

What is Subsistence Farming?

Subsistence farming involves cultivating crops to meet the farmer’s daily needs. This type of farming is therefore done on a small scale without surplus trade. The reason this farming is considered family farming is because it just fulfills the food needs of farmers and their families. Most farmers practice traditional farming, which means they use little technology and do most of their work at home. A few acres of land are required for this type of farming, and it is enough to cultivate the land with the help of family members.


Subsistence farming in India: Characteristics

Subsistence farming is characterized by the following characteristics:-

1. Land Use

Crops are grown on small plots of land approximating 1 to 3 hectares in this farming method. Despite the small size of their land, they are able to farm. It is only for the family’s consumption that the goods are produced.

2. Labour

There is a high rate of labour employed in this farming, and most of the work is done by family members. It is not uncommon for farmers to hire labour at the time of cultivation because they were busy at the time.

3. Power and Transport

Power is primarily derived from livestock in so many countries. As a result of livestock, they can plough fields, carry their loads, and transport their goods. There are no facilities used in this farming, such as electricity or irrigation. A farmer also does not use old seeds or high yielding fertilizers. This results in a small amount of output.


4. Productivity

Farmers used fewer inputs in this type of farming. Farmers, for example, do not purchase seeds, cow dung manure, etc., so yields per hectare, production per person, and overall productivity are low.

5. Income and Living Standard


The fact that they are below the poverty line does not affect their income. Therefore, whatever farmers can grow, they can only use that much to support their livelihoods.

6. Role of livestock

This farming relies heavily on livestock as livestock is its power. Farmers save money by using animals, and their families also benefit from these animals. Investing in them helped farmers survive economically if a crop failed. Additionally, farmers’ families have access to livestock dairy products, meat, and eggs.


7. Social and Cultural Reasons

Traditional farming in LDCs relies heavily on cattle, horses, camels, and goats for social and cultural reasons. Animal ownership therefore serves as a measure of family status.

8. Element of Uncertainty

There is a high element of risk in this type of farming. A farmer’s whole year’s work can be ruined if one or more major crops fail.

Farming methods for subsistence

Subsistence farming can be divided into two types.

1. Primitive subsistence farming

2. Intensive subsistence farming

What is Primitive Subsistence Farming?


Agriculture’s oldest form is primitive subsistence farming. Simple subsistence farming, however, is a form of subsistence farming. Farming of this kind occurs on a self-sufficient basis, and farmers raise food and feed their families accordingly. They exchange their goods for cash if there are any small surpluses left. The tropics are home to many different cultures that practice primitive farming. Furthermore, shift cultivation and nomadic herding are two types of this farming.

Read More: Indian Grape Cultivation: Varieties, Uses & Methods


Characteristics Of Primitive Subsistence Farming

  • It is mostly cleared forest that contributes to soil fertility, and the ashes of the fires improve the soil. A form of slash-and-burn agriculture known as Shifting cultivation.

  • The land must be cleared by hand for a few people to grow food.

  • Food is produced all year long by crops that are planted at calculated intervals, often between the other crops.

  • Feed and water are transported by shepherds on fixed routes in Nomadic Herding.

  • As a result of this process, milk, meat, and other products are produced.

What is Intensive Subsistence Farming? 

An intensive subsistence farming system is characterized by a high output per acre of land and a relatively low output per worker. While agriculture has changed, its nature has not. Intensive agriculture is also known as monsoon type agriculture in monsoon lands of Asia.

The characteristics of intensive subsistence farming


  • Crops are grown on a smaller plot of land and require more labour, as well as less expensive equipment.
  • Growing more than one crop on the same land is possible due to the sunny climate and fertile soils of this cultivation.

  • In monsoon zones such as East Asia, South and Southeast, this cultivation spread widely.




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