Share this:

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,
  • Construction,
  • Measurement,
  • Harvesting of crops,
  • Feeding and handling of livestock
  • Marketing.

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.
  • Horticulture:
    • 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.


Livestock Farming

  • 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.


Agricultural Economics

  • It deals with the allocation of scarce resources (land, labour, capital and management) for agricultural production.

Agricultural Engineering

  • This branch of agriculture deals with the use and maintenance of farm tools, machinery and structures.


Farming Systems

  • 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:

Extensive System:

  • 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,

Intensive Farming:

  • 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:

Mixed 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.


Shifting Cultivation

  • 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.

Organic Farming

  • 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.

Share this:

EcoleBooks | Agriculture Form 1: Introduction to Agriculture


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Accept Our Privacy Terms.*