What is Sedentary Farming: Its Characteristics and Advantages

09 Sep 2023
What is Sedentary Farming: Its Characteristics and Advantages
Sedentary agriculture is also known as settled agriculture and is an advanced version of subsistence farming practiced in tropical lowlands. It is a farming method in which same land is cultivated every year. The farmers settle on a given land and earn their livelihood from agriculture only. That is why it is sometimes also known as sedentary subsistence farming.

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Farming has been a fundamental practice for human civilisation. It has sustained communities and driven economic development. Various types of farming methods are used around the world, including sedentary farming. Let us explore what sedentary farming is, its characteristics and its advantages.

What is Sedentary Agriculture?

Sedentary farming is also known as settled farming. It refers to a method of agriculture where farmers permanently settle in one place to carry out their farming activities. Sedentary farming is a more permanent form of agriculture. It allows farmers to improve their soil health and develop more sophisticated farming practices. Essentially, it is an advanced form of subsistence farming method.

Unlike nomadic or shifting cultivation, where farmers move from one place to another in search of fertile land, sedentary cultivation involves cultivating the same land over consecutive agricultural seasons.

Thus, shifting farming and sedentary farming are the two types of methods that are opposite to each other.

Characteristics of Sedentary Farming

Some of the prominent characteristics of sedentary agriculture are permanent settlements, well established irrigation systems, and crop diversification, among others.

Permanent Settlements

Sedentary agriculture establishes permanent villages or towns close to arable land. These permanent settlements serve as the hub for agricultural activities and the residences for the farming community.

Unlike nomadic tribes, sedentary farmers do not have to pack up and move with the seasons or deplete the resources in one area before moving on.

Sedentary farming involves the establishment of settled communities. Farmers build permanent structures and develop infrastructure like houses, storage facilities and irrigation systems. It allows for long-term planning and investment in the land.

Irrigation Systems

Sedentary farmers frequently invest in irrigation systems to ensure a consistent water supply for their crops. These may include canals, wells, and other methods for efficiently distributing water throughout the fields. Irrigation allows for year-round cultivation, even in regions with irregular rainfall patterns.

Crop Diversification

Sedentary farmers often cultivate a diverse range of crops in the same location. This diversity reduces the risk associated with monoculture farming, where a single crop is grown over a large area.

By planting a variety of crops, sedentary farmers can mitigate the impact of pests, diseases and adverse weather conditions that may affect one type of crop but not others.

Emergence of Specialised Skills

Permanent settlements often lead to the emergence of specialised skills and trades within the community. For example, some individuals may become blacksmiths, potters, or carpenters. They produce essential tools and goods for the community's agricultural and non-agricultural needs.

Sedentary farming techniques often involve intensive farming practices, such as ploughing, tilling, and applying fertilisers. Farmers concentrate their efforts on a smaller area of land. The aim is to maximise productivity and yield.

Intensive Land Use

Sedentary farming involves the careful management and intensive use of arable land. Farmers employ techniques like crop rotation, where different crops are planted in a specific sequence to maintain soil fertility.

Additionally, practices such as composting and mulching are employed to enhance soil health and maximise yields.

Sedentary farmers focus on cultivating arable land. This land is naturally more fertile and suitable for growing crops. They take advantage of the fertile soil and ensure its continued productivity through crop rotation and other soil conservation practices.

Advantages of Sedentary Farming

Sedentary farming played a significant role in the development and sustenance of societies throughout history. There are many advantages to sedentary agriculture, including:

Stability and Food Security

The most significant advantage of sedentary farming is the stability it provides to communities. Permanent settlements allow farmers to tend to their fields year-round. This stability contributes to food security, as crops are consistently available for consumption.

Unlike nomadic groups that may face periods of scarcity when moving between locations, sedentary farmers have a more reliable source of sustenance. Shifting farming and sedentary farming are the two types of farming methods that are most common in India.

Cultural and Social Development

Permanent settlements foster the development of culture and societal norms within a community. With more stable living conditions, communities can invest in educational institutions, religious centres, and cultural practices. It leads to:

  • Preservation of traditions
  • Growth of knowledge
  • Formation of a cohesive identity among inhabitants

With permanent settlements, communities can establish social structures, schools, healthcare facilities and other amenities. They contribute to the overall development and well-being of its members.

Economic Stability

Sedentary farming leads to economic stability in farming communities. Farmers can invest in infrastructure, equipment and techniques that enhance productivity and profitability with a permanent settlement. It also allows for the development of local markets and trading systems.

Sedentary farming communities often engage in various economic activities beyond agriculture. With permanent settlements, there are opportunities for local businesses to thrive. These activities include trade, craftsmanship and services. They contribute to a diversified and strong local economy.

Environmental Sustainability

Proper land management practices in sedentary farming, such as crop rotation, terracing and soil conservation, can promote environmental sustainability. Farmers become more invested in maintaining the long-term health of their land. It reduces the negative impact of agriculture on the environment.

Increased Productivity

Sedentary farming allows farmers to focus on a specific patch of land for an extended period, leading to improved land management and increased productivity. Farmers can take advantage of fertile soil, apply appropriate farming techniques, and optimise crop production.

Surplus Production

Sedentary farming enables the production of surplus crops beyond immediate consumption needs. This surplus can be stored for future use, traded with neighbouring communities, or sold in markets. Surplus production forms the foundation of economic development, as it allows for the accumulation of wealth and resources.

Disadvantages of Sedentary Farming

While sedentary primitive farming offers many advantages, it is not without its disadvantages. Here are some of the disadvantages of sedentary cultivation:

  • Land Degradation: Continuous cultivation of the same land over extended periods can lead to soil degradation.
  • Dependency on Fixed Resources: Sedentary primitive farming relies heavily on the availability of fixed resources such as arable land, water sources and infrastructure like irrigation systems.
  • Risk of Crop Failure: Pest infestations, diseases, extreme weather events and other factors can still lead to significant crop losses.
  • Environmental Impact: Deforestation, excessive water use, chemical fertilisers and pesticides can harm ecosystems and disrupt local biodiversity.


Sedentary farming is a complex and evolving system shaped by the environment, culture and technology of the people who practice it. It is a vital part of the global food supply and will continue to play an essential role in the future.

For more such interesting blogs on farming methods, visit Tractorkarvan.

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