Despite the availability of scientific methods in agriculture and animal husbandry, present methods of farming tend to yield a much smaller percentage than is potentially feasible with proper crop rotation, more plant varieties, plant nutrients, fertilisers and proper pest control. In many villages in the developing nations only a little over 50% of the arable land is used for agricultural production, which leaves much land uncultivated that could possibly produce profitable crops. In many rural areas, even with plentiful rainfall, dependence on subsistence farming has resulted in only short-range agricultural planning.
With existing traditional farming methods, it is difficult to meet family food requirements. Continuous soil erosion, limited means of fertilization, inadequately cultivated fields, and uncontrolled grazing practices all work to create minimally-productive farmland. Farmers tend to have little experience in poultry-keeping or in mechanized farming methods because of the inaccessibility of training centres where they might learn modern farming methods.
Because of the low-yield farming methods, much of the village employment is cyclical rather than continual. Sometimes residents are blocked by outside ownership which controls their markets and brings minimal economic returns to the farmer. Land cultivation is often done with animal powered-single furrow ploughs; the farmers depend on regular rains to supply water where there is no irrigation system. Chickens, pigs, goats, cows, geese, ducks and rabbits live in family yards and are raised for home consumption only - these animals freely forage for food throughout a village since there is usually no common grazing land. Without proper upbreeding of present stock and a larger variety of animals, profitable animal husbandry is not possible.
[Developing countries] The decisive changes in agricultural structure, productivity and food production which created a vital surplus above subsistence level, and preceded the growth of industrial cities in Europe and America and later in Japan, have begun to occur on a sufficient scale only very recently in the developing countries.
Because the agricultural sector is predominant and pervasive in most developing countries, its performance has a profound influence on growth and the quality of life. Because industrialization alters the methods of production and distribution in all economic sectors, a close relationship between agriculture and industry is necessary in these countries to significantly improve the standard of living. However, during the past few decades of development, the links between the two sectors have been weak and transient. At times, agricultural development may have suffered from a diversion of investment funds to industry. The world food crisis of 1972-1973 was followed by staggering price increases for certain basic commodities (cereals, sugar, oil seed), which were, in fact, alarm signals set off by the great imbalances between the world's food supplies and its food needs. While the imbalances were aggravated by poor harvests, in the long term there has been a disturbing tendency for agriculture to stagnate. For example, in 1965-1975 agricultural output in the developing countries expanded very slowly. Several developing countries experienced a decline in agricultural output in absolute terms.
[Developing countries] Agricultural activities in the least developed countries have been characterized by low yields. The use of fertilizers is still very modest and production techniques are primitive. The whole area under irrigation represents less than one-tenth of the total arable land used, while the remainder is dependent on rainfall.
Major constraints to increased agricultural output in the developing world are the unavailability of adequate land and a lack of incentives for farmers to produce more. In many developing countries, small farmers produce the basic food crops; and it is not possible to increase food production significantly without giving them priority in the distribution of land, water, credit, fertilizers, energy and other production inputs. Although some countries could increase output by concentrating on larger modern farms, this would not benefit the income or employment prospects of small farmers.
In many developing countries governments have manipulated the level of food imports and food prices in favour of urban dwellers. This has often occurred at the expense of fair returns for the rural population. Cheap food policies and large imports of wheat have resulted in increased imbalance between rural and urban incomes and discourage farmers from growing more food. As a whole, the developing countries' agricultural sectors need improvements in transport, housing, water and education. In many cases national policies discriminate against agriculture and discourage production.
Latin America remains divided between latifundia too large for the entrepreneurial competence of their owners and minifundia too small even for subsistence. Many parts of Africa still have to invent acceptable and workable post-tribal forms of food production for the market. In the Indian subcontinent, managerial skills are only beginning to be sufficiently eveloped for decisive increases in productivity. Food production in the developing countries in general is not able to do more than keep pace with the growth of population at the old, inadequate levels of diet; this modest increase is not sufficient to offer a comparable rise in employment for the new millions born on the land. In Latin America, for instance, the economically active population grew from 32.5 million to 86.2 million between 1925 and 1960; farming offered only 12 million new jobs. Urban areas had to absorb the balance. The recent dramatic advances in agricultural production through the use of hybrid grains, coupled with improved fertilizer and irrigation practices, are changing this discouraging record. But at best they can only relieve the food shortage for about two decades, a short respite for achieving a better balance between population and resources.
Agricultural production in third world villages is not meeting the needs of residents and in some cases is declining, although present knowledge of technology, hybrid crops and animal husbandry should make self-sufficiency in food production possible in virtually any community. Problems inhibiting such progress include: decrease of available water while populations increase; tenant farmers working on as short-term a basis as one year or even one crop; non-resident owners who may receive 50% of the crop but leave upgrading of tools and supplies to the tenant, thus leaving little means or incentive to improve seed varieties, fertilizers or equipment, or to experiment with the practical application of new farming methods. Unless a new emphasis is placed on the more effective use of land and livestock, communities will be able to depend less and less on local food production and economic self-sufficiency will not be possible.
Traditional dependence on farming to suffice as a family's means of subsistence from season to season has been displaced by technological and urban developments beyond the control of individuals and even of nations, which require that farming become a mechanized industry. But scientific means of increasing productivity, seen from the farmer's point-of-view, are remote, expensive and difficult to understand. In many rural communities it is thought that development of new enterprises can be done only within certain technological means, levels and profit margins, and little has been achieved. The newly developed urban market overwhelms rural families with its impersonal deceit and confusing complexity. Continual reliance on present vegetable, fruit and animal farming methods can only leave small farmers with a continuing sense of futility and of being trapped in supplying day-to-day needs. This serves to perpetuate the existing lack of experience with technological production of people in rural villages. The refusal to adapt technology to differentiate between established and developing economies has fostered the tragic inequities of food production.
To make the necessary transition, more land must be put under cultivation. Traditional small, enclosed fields dictated by past methods and recent poverty do not provide adequate space for mechanization. Modernized farming requires increased labour just at a time when the average family size has decreased and family members already are overburdened. The single family unit cannot meet this demand for industrialized farming alone. The extent of planning, soil care, crop diversification, harvesting and marketing necessitates a larger unit.