The term agriculture comes from two Latin words:

Ager: meaning land or field

Cultura: meaning cultivation

Agriculture means field cultivation. But agriculture has continued to grow and expand that it can now be broadly be defined as: The art and science of crop and animal production

Agriculture -The art and science of crop and animal production

Agriculture as an art

Agriculture is referred to as an art because it involves the following:

  • Tilling of land
  • Construction of farm structures
  • Measuring of distances
  • Machine operations
  • Harvesting of crops
  • Feeding and handling of livestock
  • Marketing of agricultural produce

Agriculture as a science

Agriculture is referred to as a science because it involves the following:

  • Crop pathology: study of crop diseases
  • Entomology: study of insects and their control
  • Soil science/ Pedology: the study of soil
  • Genetics: the study of heredity and variation in organisms
  • Agricultural engineering: the application of scientific principles to the design construction and maintenance of agricultural tools and machinery
  • Ecology : the study of the relationship between living organisms and their environment


Careers in agriculture

  • Agricultural extension officer
  • Veterinary officer
  • Agriculture teacher
  • Crop pathologist
  • Floriculturist/florist
  • Fisheries / aquaculturist
  • Soil scientist
  • Farm manager
  • Agricultural marketer
  • Agricultural engineer


Branches of agriculture

  1. Crop production
  2. Livestock production
  3. Soil science
  4. Agricultural economics
  5. Agricultural engineering
  6. Crop production

This is the production of crop on cultivated land.

Crop production is divided into:

  1. a) Field crops

These are crops grown on fairly large area of land. May be annual or perennial crops

  1. b) Horticultural crops

Horticulture is the growing of perishable crops. It involves the following:

  1. i) Floriculture: growing of flowers e.g. carnation, roses
  2. ii) Olericulture: growing of vegetables e.g. cabbages, onions, kales,
  3. ii) Pomoculture/pomology: growing of fruits e.g. avocado, mangoes, passion fruits, citrus
  4. Livestock production

This is the rearing of all types of animals. It involves:

  1. a) Pastoralism (mammalian livestock farming)

Rearing of farm animals on pastures e.g. cattle, goats, sheep etc

  1. b) Aquaculture/fish farming

Rearing of aquatic animals e.g. fish

  1. c) Apiculture: keeping of bees
  2. d) Aviculture: keeping of poultry e.g. chicken, ducks, ostriches, geese, pigeons, etc.
  3. Soil science

This is a branch of agriculture that provides knowledge on how soil is formed, how it works to sustain life and how it can be kept alive through many years

  1. Agricultural economics

This branch deals with the utilization of scarce resources in the production of agricultural products.

  1. Agricultural engineering

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


This is how the farm and all the enterprises in it are organized.

Factors to consider when identifying a farming system                                   

  • Size of the farm.
  • Type of soil in the area.
  • Environmental factors.
  • Availability of resources/capital
  • Cultural factors.
  • Farmer’s knowledge and skills.


There are two main farming systems namely:

  1. Extensive system
  2. Intensive system
  3. Extensive farming system

This is a farming system which involves the use of large tracts of land.

Characteristics of extensive system

  • Low capital investment
  • Low labour per unit area
  • Low yield per unit area
  • Large land sizes
  • Less management
  1. Intensive farming system

This is a system of farming which requires high capital and labour investment.

 Characteristics of intensive farming

  • High yield per unit area
  • Use of modern technology/ Mechanization done
  • High labour per unit area
  • High capital investment
  • Land is maximally utilized
  • Produce for sale
  • High quality products
  • High level skill is required


N/B: Extensive and intensive farming systems can be practiced under:

  1. a) Large scale farming
  2. b) Small scale farming
  3. a) Large scale farming

This involves the use of large tracts of land.

Characteristics/features of large scale farming

  • Heavy capital investment
  • Use of skilled labour
  • High level of management
  • Products are for commercial purposes
  • Large tracts of land is used
  • Mechanization is common
  • Processing of the product in the farm
  • Provides more employment
  • Low operational costs / low cost of production /economies of scale

Large scale farming can either be:

  1. Plantation farming: growing of one type of crop (monoculture)

Characteristics of plantation farming

  • One type of crop on a large scale.
  • It is highly commercialized.
  • There is economic use of machinery and labour.
  • Good economic results where management is good.
  • Possible to carry out research to improve soils and crops.
  • There is labour specialization


  1. Ranching: rearing of beef animals

Reasons why ranching is important in the arid and semi arid areas of Kenya                 

  • Animals can survive and do well in areas where crop production is not possible
  • Pasture improvement in these areas help to increase the land carrying capacity
  • Animals can be moved with ease inside an enclosed area in search of food and water
  • Helps relieve population pressure in high potential areas
  • It is an important way of earning a livelihood in dry areas


  1. b) Small scale farming

This is a type of farming which is practiced on small piece of land. The products are either for subsistence or commercial purposes.

Conditions that lead to small scale farming                                  

  • Population pressure on land
  • Limited capital for large scale farming
  • Lack of incentives / market
  • Government policy
  • High costs of inputs.


Methods of farming

  1. Pastoralism
  2. Arable farming
  3. Mixed farming
  4. Shifting cultivation
  5. Organic farming
  6. Agro forestry
  7. Pastoralism

This is the practice of rearing livestock on natural pasture. Can be;

  1. Settled livestock farming
  2. Nomadic Pastoralism
  3. a) Nomadic Pastoralism

This is the practice of rearing livestock and moving with them from place to place in search of water and green pasture. Nomadic Pastoralism can only be practiced where:

  • Land is not a limiting factor
  • Land is community owned


  1. Arable farming

This is the growing of crops on a cultivated land. It can be,

  1. Mono cropping
  2. Mono culture
  3. Mixed cropping
  4. Inter cropping


  1. a) Mono cropping

This is the growing of one type of crop per season.


  • Cause soil erosion
  • Diseases spread easily
  • If the crop fails, the farmer suffers total loss
  • Leads to nutrient depletion in the soil

N/B: Mono cropping can be practiced under mono culture where only one crop is grown throughout as in plantation farming e.g. in Tea, Coffee plantations.

  1. b) Mixed cropping

This is the practice of growing different crops on the same piece of land but on different plots or strips. Usually helps to control soil erosion.

  1. c) Intercropping

This is the practice of growing different crops on the same piece of land per season.

Advantages of intercropping

  • If one crop fails, the farmer has the other crop to support him, i.e. does not suffer total loss
  • Helps to control soil erosion
  • If legumes are included, they will enrich the soil with nutrient
  • Also interrupts the spread of diseases
  • There is high yield per unit area of land
  • There is also proper utilization of land

Disadvantages of intercropping

  • Requires a lot of labour
  • Routine crop management practices difficult to carry out
  • Requires high capital investment
  1. Mixed farming

This is the growing of crops and rearing of animals on the same piece of land.

Advantages of mixed farming

  • Mutual benefit between livestock and crops (manure is used to improve soil fertility and crop residues are used to feed livestock)
  • Income is earned throughout the year
  • Draught animals such as oxen provide power for various farm operation
  • Enables good distribution and use of farm power.
  • It ensures maximum utilization of land, labour and management
  • A way of diversification of production against total crops failure / livestock losses by either pests ,parasites or diseases
  • Farmer gets a more balanced diet from both crop and livestock products.


Disadvantages of mixed farming

  • Requires high initial capital investment
  • There is lack of specialization
  • Limited land area allowed for each enterprise
  • Requires a lot of labour
  1. Shifting cultivation

This involves farming on a piece of land continually until its exhausted after which the farmer moves to a new fertile land. Shifting cultivation can be practiced where:

  • Land is abundant
  • Population is sparse
  • Land is communally owned
  • Low number of livestock units per area

Advantages of shifting cultivation

  • Low capital investment
  • No pests and diseases build up
  • Soil structure is regained
  • No land disputes as the land is owned communally

Disadvantages of shifting cultivation

  • Yield per unit area is low
  • A lot of time is wasted when the farmer shifts to new area and builds structure
  • Farmers have no incentive to develop and conserve water and soil
  • Cannot be practiced in areas where there is high population density
  1. Organic farming

This is the growing of crops and rearing of animals without using agricultural chemicals. It can be practiced through:

  • Use of organic manures instead of artificial fertilizer
  • Use of medicinal plants instead of chemical
  • Mulching
  • Crop rotation, to control diseases

Importance of organic farming

  • Its environment friendly
  • Does not require special skills
  • Conserve the soil e.g. soil structure, pH e.t.c
  • Easily carried out
  • Produce/fetch higher prices in the international market.
  • Materials used are easily / locally available/cheap
  • No chemical residues in produce


  1. Agro forestry

This is the growing of trees, crops and keeping of animals on the same piece of land.

Advantages of agro forestry

  • Trees help to conserve water and soil
  • High output per unit area
  • Helps to reduce soil erosion
  • Provides trees for building and fuel

Roles of agriculture in the economy

  • Provision of food
  • Source of employment
  • Provision of foreign exchange
  • Source of raw materials to the industries
  • Provision of market for industrial goods
  • Source of money or capital


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