What Is Plantation Farming?

A plantation is a large estate, usually found in tropical or subtropical regions, that is primarily cultivated by unskilled or semiskilled laborers. While plantations are usually self-contained communities, their primary economic venture is the production and exportation of cash crops.

Plantations in America were directly linked to the slave trade because the commercial crops of cotton and sugar were highly labor intensive. After the abolition of slavery, the plantation system in America declined due to loss of unpaid laborers. In the aftermath of the American Civil War, most plantations were partitioned into smaller farms. However, some simply replaced slave labor with sharecroppers and the poor, primarily because of their economic insecurity.

Plantation farming still exists around the world in mostly in tropical regions. Plantation farming has often been criticized for its negative effects. One of the foremost concerns is the environmental impact because plantations tend to grow one crop exclusively. This can reduce the biodiversity in the region and have damaging effects on the soil. Additionally, the expansion of plantations often has disastrous effects on the surrounding area. Thousands of square miles of rain forest have been destroyed in order to make more room for commercial crops.

Plantations have also been criticized for the exploitation of local unskilled workers. Many of the workers are placed in debt slavery, which is occurs when the wages earned by the workers are not sufficient to pay off high interest rates, ultimately forcing the individual to remain working at the plantation for insufficient wages.