GCSE Revision - Agriculture - Farming in LEDC's

Most people in less economically developed countries are farmers and most of these are subsistence farmers. Subsistence farming means producing crops and rearing animals for the use of the farmer. Very little surplus produce is grown.

Extensive Shifting Cultivation

An area of land is cleared by cutting and burning the vegetation. Crops are planted and harvested. When the land loses its fertility after about 5 years the area is abandoned and another area is cleared and farmed e.g. shifting cultivation in the Amazon Rainforest, Brazil

Extensive Pastoral Nomadism

In regions where grazing is poor, farmers herd animals over wide areas in search of pasture e.g. sheep herding in North Africa.


The Main Types


Intensive Arable Farming

The most common kind - Usually small patches of land near to the village are farmed. Most of the work is done by hand or using oxen - eg rice farming in S.E. Asia

Case Study - Subsistence Rice Farming in the Ganges Valley

Physical Factors

  • A five month growing season  with temperatures over 21degrees centigrade

  • Monsoon rainfall  over 2000mm

  • Flat land to allow the fields to flood

  • A dry period for harvesting

  • Rich alluvial soils to provide nutrients

  • A large labour force (intensive)



Human Factors

Problems of Rice Growing

  • Rice gives high yields per hectare which helps to feed the large population.

  • Water buffaloes are used for work and as a source of manure for the fields

  • Rice seeds are stored from one year to provide the next year's crop

  • Rice growing is labour intensive so many people can be employed in the paddy fields looking after the crops.

  • Flooding - This provides water and fertile silt to grow the rice but sometimes disaster strikes when the floods are so severe that they destroy the rice crop.

  • Drought - In some years the monsoon rains fail and the rice crop is ruined.

  • Shortage of land and a growing population - many patches of land are far too small to support the family. The situation is made worse by the ever increasing population. Food shortages are a real problem.

Plantation Farming

Plantation farming involves the growing of one type of crop over a large area such as Bananas as in Ecuador, Sugar Cane and coffee

It requires a lot of investment, usually from a wealthy company in an MEDC. Plantations are well organised to get the highest possible yields.

Plantations have advantages and disadvantages for LEDC's


  • Plantations can provide employment

  • They provide investments in modern machinery and workers are trained

  • They provide export earnings for LEDC's


  • They can destroy large areas of natural vegetation

  • Much of the profit from plantations goes to MEDC's

  • Workers are low paid and usually exploited

  • If world prices in the crop fail the country gets very little income

  • Monoculture plantations are vulnerable to pests diseases or climatic hazards can wipe out a whole years crop.

Links - Revision DVD

Common Questions

  • Using an example explain how physical and human factors affect the farming type in an LEDC country

  • Why is S. E. Asia an ideal location for Rice farming

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of plantation farming in tropical countries

  • Explain how one of the following improvements can bring changes in LEDCs - Irrigation, appropriate technology or soil conservation