What Is Subsistence Agriculture?

subsistence-agriculture Credit: John Moore/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Subsistence agriculture is a traditional method of farming that relies less on modern technology and chemicals and more on hand tools and knowledge passed from one generation to the next. Counter Currents reports that subsistence farming is more focused on crops than livestock production. It has much less impact on the environment than industrial agriculture, which relies on chemicals and genetically modified organisms to generate high volume cheaply.

Counter Currents indicates that many subsistence farming cultures supplement their diets with hunting and fishing, enabling them to acquire high-protein foods without taking up more farming land. Those cultures that do include livestock in their farming operations tend to favor chickens, which take up less room than cows and other large animals.

Although subsistence farming continues in many parts of the world, industrial agriculture and other corporate operations requiring large tracts of cheap land are threatening that way of life, according to humanitarian news and analysis service IRIN. It reports that large companies are displacing small farmers throughout the world, most notably in Laos, in corporate land grabs. According to IRIN, former farmers who know no other way of life often fall into poverty and failing health once they lose their livelihoods.