IN our world today, there is a great decline in the number of people that still engage in subsistence or family farming which leads to great increase in dependence on purchase of food from commercial farmers in markets both in rural and urban settings. What factors contribute to these shifts of interests in the system of farming?
Subsistence farming or family farming is a practice whereby farmers grow crops and rear livestock for family consumption, and sometimes, the remaining farm products, which are usually in small quantities are sold in local markets by the farmers to get some money for other needs of the family unlike in commercial system of farming where it concerns producing agricultural products in a larger quantities basically for sales or public consumption.
Before now, families in various communities produced most of the food crops that they consumed. Food crops like plantain, pepper, pumpkin leaves, cassava, cocoyam, okro, corn, yam, garden egg, curry, scent leaf, bitter leaf and others were found in farm lands or some portions behind the houses of farmers. They only buy little food stuff like meat and fish from the market, although some have animal farms also where they rear livestock for family consumption and excesses are sold in local markets. These animals also feed on herbs gotten from the farm lands.
Just like the saying, a hungry man is an angry man; food security is paramount in our country and the world at large. Human beings need food to survive and be able to perform their daily tasks in good health and condition. That is why to a great extent, it is a sector that needs attention as every other thing revolves around it. A sick person needs food to survive from the infirmity because the individual cannot get healed easily on an empty stomach. Armed forces men can’t fight or discharge their duties also on empty stomach; likewise other working class people or individuals, including students, equally cannot perform very well in their daily tasks without food.
One stands to gain a lot when engaged in this type of farming system as it provides farmers a means of livelihood, reduces the vulnerability of food insecurity of both rural and urban households. It also helps in reducing high food price (inflation) and saves families at times of financial challenges by selling some of the farm products in times of need.
The case is different in our world today, as it is very difficult to see a farmer or individual who still produces about 70% of the food he consumes. Almost every household depend solely in buying food items from the market as most of these farm lands have been left abandoned, and covered with structures with a few cultivated unlike before that every family have at least a piece of land where they cultivate vegetables for family consumption.
On the backdrop to encourage people to go back to the old system of agriculture, Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, in one of his programmes, made a wakeup call for ndi Anambra to go back to agriculture in order to ensure food sustainability through ‘Ugbo Azu Uno,’ especially as a way of boosting agriculture and to tackling the current and post effect of the coronavirus pandemic.
On May 22, 2020, Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation joined the wagon by launching her cottage farm as the workers cue in to the farm project. This move and others by interested persons have stirred up some people to embrace the idea, while most people are yet to fall in line with the great idea.
Speaking on reduction in number of people that still practice subsistence farming, the Special Assistant to Anambra State Governor on Agriculture, Mr. Obioma Davidson Mbanefo opined that the decline in subsistence farming was as a result of effect of globalisation and civilisation especially in this part of the world; Africa and Nigeria to be précise.
According to him, people focus on business and other aspects that have to do with their development like ICT, forgetting that agriculture can be a business of its own which will equally put food on their tables and make them earn a living out of it. While frowning at people who still regard farming of any type as what has to do with old people, he noted that a nation can boost its economy from its agricultural sector. “Agriculture can be vital for the growth of any nation”.
For Prof Uche Collins Nwogwugwu, a lecturer from Department of Economics, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, while speaking on his interest in agriculture said that the number of people that practice subsistence farming had drastically reduced, compared to the time when most of foods needed to make meals in the family were at great percentage gotten from individual farms and that in recent times, people virtually go to the market to buy almost all foods that they eat.
On the factors that contributed to the reduction of the number of people that have interest in the practice of subsistence farming, he said that the change was because most of the children of those people that engage in farming during agrarian era left their villages for western education and in search of white collar jobs, adding that there was also no plan for anybody to continue and sometimes, those farmlands are seen with buildings erected on them.
An N-Power agro volunteer, Victor Ozoemena expressed that subsistence farming in days of their forefathers was widely practiced due to its agrarian setting where farmers do almost all agricultural activities by themselves, noting that the strength and wealth of people were measured by the number of yam tubers in barns, animals and others.
According to Ozoemena, “lack of interest, time, availability of land, ignorance, fund, laziness, shame, presence of white collar jobs and western education led to rural to urban migration where everyone wants to be graduates and work in air conditioned offices contribute to negligence of subsistence farming”.
A civil servant and subsistence farmer, Emmanuel Elewechi who was seen at the Ministry of Agriculture waiting for his turn, said that he came to buy the improved cassava sticks. According to him, he learnt farming skills from his parents and also has decided to train his children on how to farm because he has benefitted very well from farming. ”People who because of the long process, patience and physical strength involved in farming regard it as waste of time are lazy people”.
He went further to advice government to keep encouraging and supporting farmers at all levels, advertising in media about benefits of farming and urged youths to focus also in farming as a means of livelihood and a way out while seeking for white collar jobs.