Before the advent of agriculture, all human beings were hunters, gatherers or fishers. Even today some communities are occupied in hunting and gathering, but they are isolated groups comprising a very small number. Now agriculture is practised practically all over the world. The major agricultural types are discussed here.
SIMPLE SUBSISTENCE FARMING Mainly practised by tribes of .the tropics, especially in Africa, in tropical South Central America, and in South-east Asia; better known as shifting cultivation. Farmers grow food only for themselves and their families. Shifting cultivation goes by different names in different parts of the world, e.g., mi/pa in Central America and parts of Africa, eonueo in Venezuela, roea in Brazil, masole in Zaire, ladang in Malaysia, lIulI/all in Indonesia, eaingin in the Philippines, tallllgya in Burma, tamrai in. Thailand, fhum or bewar or poda in India and cllC1W in Sri Lanka. The elders select sites, usually in the virgin forest and preferably hilI slopes as they have better drainage. The forests are usually cleared by fire and the ashes add to the fertility of the soil. Trees not burnt are cut down or left to decay naturally. Shifting cultivation is thus also called ‘slash-and burn’ agriculture. The cultivated patches are usually very small, and primitive tools are used. Starchy foods comprise the main crops-tapioca, yam, cassava, corn, millet, bananas. Crop growing is for short periods, followed by long periods of fallowing. ‘Field rotation’ rather than ‘crop rotation’ marks this type of agriculture. As the ideal requirement of fallow periods of 20 years is hardly practised, the practice leads to soil erosion and even total destruction of forests. It is noteworthy that continuous slash-and-burn farming in West Africa has extended the southern limit of savanna well into the former forested zone. Shifting cultivation is usually supplemented by hunting, fishing or gathering fruits. Sedimentary subsistence agriculture in tropical lowlands, where the fallowed fields are frequently re-used and the community stays permanently in one spot, is an advanced form of subsistence farming.
INTENSIvE SUBSISTENCE AGRICULTURE It is in the monsoon lands of Asia that this type of agriculture is to be found. Some geographers term it ‘oriental agriculture’. Its striking features include an intensive use of land, much manual labour, low use of farm machinery or modern tools and the use of a variety of manures and fertilisers. Irrigation is often resorted to in order to compensate for lack of moisture.
PLANT A TION AGRICULTURE This type involves specialised commercial cultivation of cash crops on estates of plantations. It is a distinctive type of t!9pical agriculture, found in many parts of Asia, Africa and tropical and subtropical America. The main plantation crops are rubber, cotton and copra, beverages like coffee, tea and cocoa, fruits like pineapples and bananas, as well as sugarcane, hemp and jute. It calls for heavy capital outlay and scientific maniigement.