Types of Agriculture: Subsistence and Commercial Agriculture


  • Subsistence Agriculture
  • Commercial Agriculture

Subsistence agriculture

Subsistence agriculture is defined as the type of agriculture which is concerned with the production of food (cultivation of crops and rearing of animals) by the farmer to feed himself and his family only. It is also known as peasant farming because it is practised by poor farmers. It is done on a small scale and involves the use of crude tools (e.g. cutlass, hoe, axe, etc.) only.

Commercial agriculture

Commercial agriculture is the type of agriculture which is concerned with the production of food and cash crops in large quantities for sale. It is done on a large scale because commercial farmers are rich farmers. Complex farm machines like tractors, bulldozers, planters, harvesters, etc. are used.


  1. Define the two types of agriculture.
  2. Who is a peasant farmer?
  3. State ten examples of simple farm tools used by subsistence farmers.
  4. State ten examples of complex farm machines used by commercial farmers.
Characteristics/differences between subsistence agriculture and commercial agriculture
Subsistence agricultureCommercial agriculture
1. Produce mainly for the family with little or no excess. Products are principally for sale
2. Practised on a small area of land.Practised on a large area of land.
3. Family labour is usedSkilled and mechanized labour is employed
4. Traditional management is employed.Modern or scientific management is employed.
5. Production is on a small scale 

Production is on large scale
6. Cost of production is low.Cost of production is high.
7. Does not need an organized market for the sales of its products.Need a well-organized market for sales of its products.
8. Operation results in low environmental degradation.Operation results in high environmental degradation.
9. Provide direct employment for many citizens.Skilled labour employed for different tasks.
10. Engages in mixed-cropping.Often engages in mono-cropping.
11. No specialization, since the farmer produces different types of crops and rears different classes of farm animals.Farmer specializes in the production of fewer crops and animals rearing. 


12. Has no access to credit facilities.Has to access to credit facilities.
General evaluation
  1. What is agriculture?
  2. List and explain five importance of agriculture
  3. Mention five agro-based industries and their raw materials.
  4. Define subsistence and commercial agriculture.
  5. State five characteristics each of subsistence and commercial agriculture.

Reading assignment

Essential Agricultural Science. Chapter 1, page 2 – 6

Fundamental Agricultural Science. Chapter 1, page 1- 4


  1. List out five agro-based industries and their raw materials.
  2. State five characteristics for each of (a) subsistence agriculture  (b) commercial agriculture
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