Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has an M.A in instructional education.
I live in a farming area of the Northeastern US. In fact, if look out my window, I can see my neighbors bright red barn and field after field. Also, it's not at all odd to find myself stuck behind a tractor that is using the road to get from one of these fields to another. It's just a part of life living in a farming community in the United States of America. However, it's very different than how many other parts of the world do farming. In fact, today we're going to step out of our Westernized paradigm of farming to explore what agriculture looks like in some of the least-developed regions of the world.
For starters, a least-developed country, or an LDC for short, is a country that has been classified by the United Nations due to its low gross national income, its small population and workforce, and its economic weakness. Stated very simply, they are often considered countries that are impoverished with very little technological advancement or industry.
With this in mind, it's not surprising to say that agriculture within LDCs looks very different than it does in our modern world. For instance, agriculture in a least-developed country is often that of subsistence farming, in which goods are produced for the consumption and survival of one's family group. In this subsistence lifestyle, all goods are produced by the family group for the family group. They are not being sold at road-side stands or being shipped to market in big 18-wheeler trucks. Many of the people groups living within the region of Sub-Saharan Africa practice subsistence farming.
As subsistence farmers, many living in LDCs practice shifting cultivation, in which they plant a piece of land for a short time, then leave it at rest for many years in order to allow its nutrients to renew. As the name implies, they will then shift their planting to another piece of land.
During this idle time, wild vegetation and brush will take over the unused land. Since LDCs have very little access to modern fertilizers, they have developed their own way to renew the land. After a certain amount of time, the shifting farmer will return to the dormant land and use the slash-and-burn technique, in which the wild vegetation is cut down and burned off, allowing the nutrients of the charred plants to nourish the soil.
This is not to say that all least-developed countries practice shifting cultivation. On the contrary, some are involved in what is termed intensive agriculture, or food production that employs permanent cultivation of fields, made possible by the use of more modernized tools. Now, in this definition, we are going to need to take off our Westernized glasses when we hear the word 'modern.' It doesn't just mean shiny green tractors or massive irrigation pipes. On the contrary, it actually means any tool that go beyond sticks, stones, and other basic tools. Intensive agriculture includes the use of things as rudimentary as a horse-drawn cart.
With this definition of intensive agriculture in mind, some intensive agriculturalists whose countries have formerly sat on the cusp of being LDCs have moved from subsistence farming to commercial farming, or the production of crops and farm animals for sale. This allows them to move from being an LDC to a more stable economy. Great examples of this are the farmers of Central America who have begun exporting things like broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, melons, strawberries, and more.
Highlighting that agriculture doesn't just mean growing crops but also includes raising animals, we come to the last form of agriculture we're going to discuss, pastoralism. Pastoralism is a form of living in which survival is based directly or indirectly on the maintenance of domesticated animals.
When speaking of pastoralism in least-developed countries, it is usually seen in areas that are semi-arid, or having very little rainfall. Pastoralists also tend to live in smaller communities with a nomadic lifestyle, or moving from place to place in search of food and water. Due to this difficult way of life, pastoralists are usually among the most economically poor in all of the world. An example of this type of pastoralism mixed with poverty is found in the African nation of Ethiopia.
A least-developed country is a country that has been classified by the United Nations due to its low gross national income, its small population and workforce, and its economic weakness.
Many inhabitants of LDCs take part in subsistence farming, in which goods are produced for the consumption and survival of one's family group. Many of these subsistence farmers employ shifting cultivation, in which they plant a piece of land for a short time, then leave it at rest for many years in order to allow its nutrients to renew. They will often use the slash-and-burn technique, where the wild vegetation is cut down and burned off, allowing the nutrients of the charred plants to nourish the soil.
Some others in least-developed countries practice intensive agriculture, or food production that employs permanent cultivation of fields, made possible by the use of more modern tools. This allows some of them to take part in commercial farming, or the production of crops and farm animals for sale.
Still others in LDCs across the globe practice pastoralism, a form of living in which survival is based directly or indirectly on the maintenance of domesticated animals. Most pastoralists live in an area which is semi-arid, or have very little rainfall. They are also nomadic, moving from place to place in search of food and water.
After this lesson is finished you should be able to:
- Define LDCs
- Explain subsistence farming
- List some agricultural techniques practiced in LDCs
- Discuss how some LDCs are able to move to commercial farming
- Characterize pastoralism
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