Definition of Agriculture
- Agriculture is the science and art of cultivation of crops and rearing of livestock.
As a science, it involves experimentation and application of scientific knowledge in such areas as;
- Soil analysis,
- Control of pests and diseases,
- Farm machinery and structures,
- Crop and livestock breeding.
As an art, it involves the use of learned skills in;
- Tilling the land,
- Harvesting of crops,
- Feeding and handling of livestock
Branches of Agriculture
Crop Farming (Arable Farming)
- The practice of growing crops on cultivated land.
It is subdivided into:
Field crops Cultivation:
- maize, beans, potatoes, coffee, tea, cotton to name but a few.
- It involves the growing of perishable crops which have high value.
- It is further subdivided into:
Floriculture – the growing of flowers.
Olericulture – the growing of vegetables.
Pomoculture – the growing of fruits.
- This branch deals with the rearing of livestock for various products.
It is further subdivided into:
- Pastoralism: This is the rearing of mammalian livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats, rabbits, pigs and camels.
- Fish Farming (Aquaculture): This is the practice of rearing fish and other aquatic organisms , in ponds.
- Bee Keeping (Apiculture): This involves the rearing of bees in structures known as beehives.
- Poultry Keeping: This is the keeping of domesticated birds.
- It deals with the allocation of scarce resources (land, labour, capital and management) for agricultural production.
- This branch of agriculture deals with the use and maintenance of farm tools, machinery and structures.
- A farming system is the organization of the various enterprises in a farm.
It is determined by the following factors:
- Resources available (land, labour, capital and management).
- Skills of the farmer.
- Environmental factors such as climate, soil type and topography.
- Government policy.
- Farmer’s choice and preference.
- Enterprise requirement.
- Social-cultural factors.
The following are systems of farming:
- It is a system where a large piece of land with low investment of resources per unit area is carried out.
- It is cheap.
- Does not require high level of management.
- Requires less labour.
- Low profit per unit area.
- Cannot be practiced where land is limited.
- Low output per unit area.
- The land is under-utilized,
- This system utilizes the factors of production to the maximum and involves high level of management.
- Maximum utilization of the resources.
- Can be practiced even where land is a limiting factor.
- Results in high yields.
- Labour intensive.
- High capital investment is required.
- Requires high level of management.
- Can lead to high loses in case of poor management.
Large Scale Farming
- Refers to the farming practice under large areas of land over 20 hectares.
- It is used mainly for commercial purposes.
- The system is highly mechanized.
- Results in high yields.
- Due to economics of scale high profit is realized.
- Lack of diversification may lead to total failure in case of unfavorable conditions.
- High level of management is required.
- Heavy capital investment.
- Requires skilled and qualified manpower.
Small Scale Farming
- Refers to farming carried out on a small area of land less than 5 hectares.
- Family or casual labour can be engaged during the peak periods.
- Most of the Kenyan farmers are small scale due to unavailability of farmland.
- Requires low capital investment.
- Possible where land is a limiting factor.
- Does not require high management level unless under intensive system.
- Uneconomical 10 mechanize due to small size.
- Low production.
- Provides limited employment.
- Labour intensive.
- Difficult to specialize.
Methods of Farming
- A method of farming is an established way of carrying out farming activities.
- The following are the common methods of farming:
- It is the practice of growing crops and keeping of livestock on the same land.
- Its common in high potential areas.
- Mutual benefit between crops and livestock.
- Crops supply feed for animals while animals supply manure for crops.
- Acts as an insurance against total loss by the farmer.
- The farmer is assured of an income throughout the year.
- There is maximum utilization of the resources.
- Animals can be used in the farm activities particularly draught animals.
- Ensures proper utilization of labour and land throughout the year.
- High initial capital.
- Lack of specialization.
- Land can be a limiting factor if both enterprises are to be raised.
- Requires high level of management for both enterprises.
- This is the practice of livestock rearing whereby animals are moved from one place to another in search of water and pastures.
- It is practiced in the arid and semi-arid areas where in most cases beef animals are kept.
Nomadic pastoralism is gradually changing to ranching with the introduction of:
- Improved pasture species, improved livestock breeds and supplementary feeding.
- Efficient disease and parasite control measures.
- Improved infra-structure such as roads, water supply, cattle dipping facilities.
- Extension services.
- Serves as the backbone of beef industry in Kenya.
- Proper way of utilizing the arid and semi arid areas.
- Source of income to the pastoral communities.
- It encourages the spread of livestock pests and diseases due to communal watering points, grazing and dipping facilities.
- There is a tendency to increased soil erosion and land degradation.
- Source of conflicts and ethnic tension among the nomadic communities for the control of good pastures and water.
- Difficult to control breeding and breeding diseases.
- High rate of inbreeding leading to poor quality livestock.
- Low production of milk, meat, hides and skins due to wastage of energy in traveling from one place to another in search of pastures and water.
- High death rates as a result of walking for long distances.
- It is a traditional method of cultivating a piece of land until the soil is exhausted and crop yields decline.
- The land is abandoned and the farmer shifts to a new field as the previous land is left fallow to regain its fertility.
- Land is allowed to rest and regain its fertility.
- No build up of pests and diseases.
- Soil structure is restored.
- The cost of production is low since inorganic fertilizers and pesticides are not used.
- Crop produce are chemical free.
- Not practical where land is a limiting factor.
- Farm planning and acquisition of credits for land development is ‘not possible.
- It is a cumbersome method due to constant movement.
- Lack of soil conservation measures
- Not possible to grow perennial crops.
- Low output per unit area due to poor farming methods.
- Where fire is used to clear the land organic matter is destroyed.
- It is a fanning method where crops are grown and livestock reared without the use of agrochemicals.
- It is a method of farming which has been adopted to reduce the long term effect of the agro-chemicals on crops which may eventually end up in man and livestock.
- Agro-chemicals are also expensive thus organic farming reduces the cost of production. Organically produced goods fetch high market prices.
- Cheap and cost effective.
- Make use of the locally available materials
- Useful in improving the soil structures.
- No side effects from the crops and livestock products.
- No environmental pollution.
- This is the practice of integrating trees and crops on the same piece of land.
- With land resources becoming more scarce, agroforestry is becoming more important.
Examples of common agroforestry trees and shrubs include:
- Cajanus cajan
- Grevillea robusta
- Sesbania sesban
- Calliandra calothyrsus
- Casuarina equisetifolia
- Leucaena leucocephala
Trees selected for agroforestry should have the following characteristics:
- Able to grow fast.
- Deep roots to minimize competition for nutrients.
- Should be preferably leguminous.
- Trees reduce soil erosion in a given area.
- Leguminous trees add nitrates into the soil thus improving the soil fertility.
- Some trees can be used as livestock fodder to provide a high level of proteins.
- They are important sources of wood fuel and timber.
- There is maximum utilization of land.
Importance of Agriculture to the Economy of Kenya
- Provides food to the population to meet nutritional requirements and to enable man to engage in other activities of farming.
- Provides employment. This for example can be direct as a labourer in the farm, tea plucker or indirect for example, working in agricultural based industries.
- Source of raw materials for industries for example cotton lint for textile industry.
- Provides foreign exchange – through exporting agricultural produce.
- Provides market for industrial goods agriculture is a consumer of the finished goods from agro-based industries.
- Source of income – farmers as well as the government get revenue from the sale of agricultural produce and tax payment.