3. What Is Agriculture?
The elaborations have shown that the `prototype' of agriculture,
a holding using all family labour and providing all the family
living, does not always apply. In a few cases, it depicts
the situation, but in many others, not. Agricultural policy
usually is directed to this form of agriculture and bypasses
more or less the numerous other forms.
method in the past and today still is that father and son
work on the same farm, and the son takes over after his marriage
or later, when the father becomes too old. In this case, no
change in farm size is necessary, perhaps only in intensity
or in the number of animals in order to adjust to the changing
work capacity. Problems may arise if more children expect
a share of the land.
In reality, we have a wide variety of farms with widely differing
goals and support requirements. Other farms of numerically
lesser importance(commercial farms, plantations, landlords'
farms, etc.) being left out of consideration, the main types
differing from each other are
For this group, the notion of the farm absorbing all the
labour of the cultivating family and providing their living
applies. This group is the target of agricultural policy,
justified as long as only production considerations play a
role. It benefits from price and market policy, from subsidies,
extension service, credit programmes, cooperatives, etc. However,
in many societies, only 15 or 20% of all holdings counted
in the statistics belong to this group.
Households with Multiple Employment
It has been explained already that agricultural policy hardly
meets their needs, and, in view of the insecure future of
this group, these measures may not be advisable at all. Regional
development(including some aspects of agricultural policy)
comprising training for non-agricultural activites, development
of small scale industries, commerce, handicrafts is more in
the interest of this group. Its share in the total number
of holdings varies between countries and regions, but often
exceeds one third.
'Holdings of the Aged'
They are on the fringe of the agricultural sector. Land,
in this case, is a kind of social security, often the only
means of avoiding poverty in old age. Agricultural policy
has no place, here. With the upcoming social policy, their
instruments will improve the lot of the people concerned.
Their mere existence is of a transitional character :in traditional
agricultural societies, they hardly play a role, then come
up with beginning industrializtion and migration, while later
on an established social security system makes them superfluous.
In the meantime, they can be widespread. In some regions of
Turkey, more than 30% of all holdings belong to this group.
Their marginality results usually from a too small farm size
without possibilities of increasing their income by means
of off-farm employment. Many of them are tenant farms. The
low acreage provides a meagre subsistence only, while there
is little to sell and little money to buy inputs. Therefore,
neither market and price policy nor subsidies reach this group.
It would be necessary for marginal farmers to take up non
agricultural jobs or be trained to a greater extent Their
number varies; it is usually smaller when multiple employment
is widespread, but larger, if it is difficult to find work.
No policy is optimal for all these cases, and agricultural
policy has no meaningful place in some of the cases. Looking
at it from the opposite angle, while all types are more or
less engaged in land cultivation, not all of them can be perceived
as `agriculture' understood in terms of farms employing the
labour of the cultivating family and providing the living
for these people.
It is perhaps necessary to come to a different paradigm
to explain the different types of households cultivating land.
Instead of farms, it might be better to speak of households,
which use all the resources available to them(land, labour
and perhaps some capital) to secure survival and to raise
the standard of living.
Depending on the resource endowment, this may take place in
If land is sufficient, the household might concentrate on
farming, and agriculture is the sole activity. In this case,
agricultural policy is the proper means to assist these people.
But if there is a shortage of land, people have to make
other arrangements for their living. Either they try to find
non-farm additional jobs and thus increaset their total income,
or they engage in household production and aviod expenditures
in order to survive, or only an old couple instead of a family
lives on the land. In each of these cases, it is not so much
agricultural policy as other policies that can help these
people who are often the most needy.
Dividing the land cultivating population according to these
groups and designing policies according to the different target
groups is the way to improve the effectiveness of policy efforts
and help those for whom the support is intended.
What is Agriculture? The development in the course of the
last 40 years has led to the emergence or spread of existence
patterns which, in former times, hardly played a role. Development
policy has to take note of this differentiation. Agriculture
in the 90s is not the eame as in the 50s. Especially the underlying
theoretical assumptions have to be reconsidered.