Africa is the second largest continent in the world, and hosts many distinctive climatic zones. Due to this, each area has different types of farming techniques because of each being developed differently. Traditionally, North Africa deployed mostly Mediterranean style farming and crops, the Eastern side is attributed with the domestication of coffee, sorghum, and watermelon, the Western Savanna side had 2 distinct cultural developments; on the East bank of the Bandama river people there mainly ate rice, while on the west their main staple food was yams, and lastly in South Africa, mostly hunter-gather villages were set up with some even existing in modern times. Most farmers in sub-Saharan Africa intercrop anything with everything. Planting a mixture of crops and variations in land management are tactics for adjusting to different soil and water systems. This paper seeks to discuss the 2 major African farming techniques that are common in all regions.
Inter-cropping can be defined as an agricultural system in which a farmer plants two or more crops together. Each crop must have ample space in order to maximize cooperation and minimize competition between the crops.
- Why inter-cropping?
This method of farming offers a protective cover of vegetation which in turn reduces soil temperature, enhances water infiltration, helps to prevent soil erosion, lowers the possibility of pests and diseases, and finally, reduces labor needs for weeding. In the use of light, water, and nutrients, intercropped plants complement each other by combining various heights, root depths, and maturity periods. The total yield that comes from intercropped plants is usually greater than mono-crops.
Mixed farming can be defined as the agricultural system in which a farmer conducts various agricultural practices together e.g. cash crops, and livestock. The aim of this type of farming is to generate income through different sources and to harmonize land and labor demands all through the year. The existence of mixed farming is reliant on internal and external factors. Internal factors include: local soil characteristics, composition of the farmers’ family and resourcefulness, while external factors include: market prices, weather patterns, political stability, technological advancements, etc.
- Why mixed farming?
Mixed farming increases the bio-energetic efficiency of agriculture and conserves environmental quality. The production objectives should be to: limit imported fertilizer applications and pesticide use, build up soil fertility and inhibit loss of nutrients, provide continuous vegetative cover probably by using legume-based rotations or green manure, sustain diversified agro-ecosystems with components having corresponding functions, and optimize productivity over a long period.
The situation for incorporating crop systems and animals is mainly based on the principle that by-products from the 2 systems are used on the same farm. Closed nutrient cycling, draught power, and use of roughage, improved environmental quality, and low quality feeds all together contribute to overall higher yield per hectare and per animal. Soil fertility improves as a result of the volume of organic components that circulate through the soil and plants and the animal manure that supplement the soil through lifelong effects. Livestock can also provide a ready means of attaining revenue and support the use of inputs in crop production which in turn generates higher levels of output from both the crops and livestock.