Subsistence farming may be defined as the method of farming by which the production of crops or the rearing of animals, is mainly to feed the farmer and his immediate family. The primary aim is not to sell the produce for income. However, sometimes, some of the little surpluses are sold to take care of some basic financial needs of the family.
Despite the fact that this method is popular amongst many farmers in Namibia, it however comes with its own challenges.
One such challenge is that it depends on the rain to do well. For this reason, farming activity is restricted only to the rainy season. Sometimes the rain may fail leading to great losses to the farmer.
The answer to the problem of rainfall is to resort to irrigation for crop farming. However, subsistence farmers are mainly poor rural folks who are cultivating just about between one and five hectares of land. The level of rural poverty does not allow them to venture into irrigation, hence their restriction to farming alone. As for livestock farmers, it is sure death of their livestock when rain does not fall.
Another challenge is that the farm activity is mainly on personal or family lands held by individuals, therefore the farmers are unable to produce much. They produce only to feed their own families. Not much contribution is done towards national production.
The level of production is therefore very low, intended to feed only the family. If any surpluses are sold to other people, it is not to make any meaningful profit. It is only to make ends meet. So subsistence farming does not lead to financial profits in the real sense of the word.
Private entrepreneurs enter farming for business purposes. Their aim is to make profits. This being so, they are not attracted to subsistence farming. This is because there is no profit to be made. They prefer to engage in large commercial farming.
Another disadvantage of subsistence farming is that the farmers cannot take advantage of increased demand for their produce. The reason is that they can only produce so much and therefore even if the demand for their product increases, they cannot take advantage of it. Their output is constantly low.
Subsistence farming does have its benefits; for starters, it is much cheaper than any other farming type.
The reason is that it does not require the huge investments as would otherwise have been needed by a commercial farmer. The implements that are used are easy to acquire and mostly not expensive.
Another advantage of subsistence methods of farming is that it does not require the hiring of labour. The main source of labour is the children and the immediate family members of the farmer. The effect is that money is not expended on labour. This being so, the money for hiring labour is diverted to take care of other pressing matters of the family. Also, to become subsistence a farmer does not require any specialised skills or any high level of education. All that is needed is the ability to handle the hoe and cutlass and to plant according to the traditional timing of the locality. For these reasons, it is easy for folks to enter into subsistence farming.
So, if you are thinking of going the subsistence farming way, there are the hard choices you have to make. In the end, it all depends on whether it satisfies your need and yearning for a fulfilled farmer’s living. The choice is yours.