Shifting cultivation and inter-cropping are the predominant cropping systems practice among the peasant farmers of Tropical Africa while the large scale farmers of East and Southern Africa as well as irrigated agriculture of the Nile valley in Egypt practice sole cropping with crop rotation. In each of these cases continuous cropping is the rule rather than shifting cultivation.
Plantation agriculture mainly practice sole cropping such as oil palm, cocoa, rubber, coffee and tea. In some instance, they may be inter-cropped with food crops when the plantation is still young.
For arable cash crop as tobocco and groundnuts, sole cropping is the rule but the sole crop may be subjected to shifting cultivation, or to continuous cropping with rotation.
Cropping system is basically concerned with the distribution of crops in time and space as well the resources expended in the production of crop and the types of crop that are grown.
Cropping system of a given area is influenced by climatic conditions, resources available and level of management skills of the farmers.
Now let us discuss more about the different types of farming systems in Africa below:
There are different types of farming systems in Africa. The major ones are: Maize Mixed Farming System, Irrigated Farming System, Rice-Tree Crop Farming System, Root Crop Farming System, Pastoral Farming System, Large Commercial and Smallholder Farming System, Highland Perennial Farming System.
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Types of Farming / Cropping Systems in Africa
Maize Mixed Farming / Cropping Systems
This method of farming is one of the most common on the African continent. The places of its most significant application are the eastern and southern part of the continent, namely: Kenya, Tanzania, Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi, Zambia.
The critical method of working in this type of farm is scattered irrigation schemes, (mostly small-scale), which accounts for only six percent of the total area of all irrigated land in the region. The main cultivated crop is corn.
Nevertheless, the primary source of financial income in this type of farming is the cultivation and sale of such crops as tobacco, cotton, coffee, cattle, small ruminants and corn and legumes.
Despite the fact that the farms that operate on the principle of Maize Mixed Farming System are somewhat fragmented, the internal connections between the farmers are very well developed, unlike other types of farms.
Irrigated Farming / Cropping Systems
This type of farm is based on large-scale irrigation schemes for irrigation of farmland. An excellent example of this type of farm is the Gezira irrigation system in Sudan, which is based on fertilization of river and flood waters.
In general, it is somewhat difficult to provide the high functionality of this irrigation system. That is why often this type of irrigation of farmland is often combined and supplemented with rainwater and combined with livestock farms to achieve higher efficiency.
Rice-Tree Crop Farming Cropping Systems
This system of agriculture is mainly focused on in Madagascar. This is mostly due to the climate of the region, which is dominated by humid and sub-humid zones.
Despite the relatively small size of this type of farm, a significant share of irrigation (about 10%) is involved. Crops are grown under this type of farming: coffee, bananas, and also rice, cassava, corn, and legumes.
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Root Crop Farming Cropping Systems
This type of farming is distributed in the territories from Sierra Leone to Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, and Cameroon. The kind of climate in these lands is the humid and sub-humid.
This type of farming has proven itself regarding high percentage of yields with a significant level of drought in the region. Cultivation of crops with this type of agriculture is a very long process.
However, its main advantage is that if a drought begins, this will not affect the yield and will not become a threat to the livelihoods of the local population.
Pastoral Farming Cropping Systems
This type of farming prevails mainly in the aridest regions of the African continent, namely: Mauritania, Uganda, Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Chad, Niger, and Mali; also in pastoral areas such as Namibia, South Angola and part of Botswana.
The pastoral type of farming is mainly focused on the cultivation of livestock, and not on the cultivation of crops. This is the sheep and woolen farming, dairy farming and livestock raising for meat and meat products. In general, the potential of this type of agriculture is not high at the moment.
Large Commercial and Smallholder Farming System
This farming system consists of two types of farming, namely: large-scale commercialized farming, and scattered small-holder farming. Both kinds of agriculture use a mixed system of agricultural production.
The main crop grown are grains. Among the main crops are corn, the cultivation of which is concentrated in the northern regions of Africa and millet, the cultivation of which is focused on the west. The annual growth rate of this type of farm is quite stable.
Large Commercial and Smallholder Farming Systems are mainly concentrated in semi-arid and dry sub-humid zones, i.e., in the northern and southern parts of the African continent.
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Highland Perennial Farming System
In this method of farming, the main crops are crops such as coffee, plantain, bananas and complemented by cereals, beans, sweet potato, and cassava. Despite the excellent potential for growth and development, this type of farming is undergoing a decline.
This is facilitated by two main factors: Decreased soil fertility and The relatively small size of farms
The Most Popular Farming Systems in Nigeria
The most generalized farming system in Nigeria is integrated crop-livestock. It is considered that this system might receive a real boost in next few years.
The main problem in achieving the growth of agricultural productivity in Africa is the diversity of agroecological conditions and agrotechnical backwardness of farms.
The yield increase associated with the use of high-yielding varieties is much lower in sub-Saharan Africa than in other regions, in part because of the imperfect distribution of agricultural knowledge and infrastructure.
The real option may be resource-saving agriculture, given the climate, the infrastructure situation, the lack of capital and labor in some parts of Africa.
A significant increase in livestock production would be facilitated by the use of progressive methods of livestock breeding, veterinary medicine and other technologies of production and processing at various levels.
Given the use of locally adapted techniques, the region could also use significant opportunities in fisheries and aquaculture production.