ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY: ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY PROJECT TOPICS AND MATERIALS
Economic Geography is the study of how people earn their living, how livelihood systems vary by area and how economic activities are spatially interrelated and linked.
FACTORS THAT CONTROL DISTRIBUTION OF ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES
- The Physical Environment: Many production activities are rooted in the limits set by the physical environment. For example logging is only possible in a forested region. The unequal distribution of minerals makes mining only possible in areas where specific minerals occur.
- Cultural Considerations: Economic activity or production of specific goods is sometimes dictated by cultural considerations. For example, culturally based food preferences, rather than environmental limitations may dictate the choice of a crop or a livestock farm. Maize is a preferred grain in Africa, Rice in Asia, and Wheat for North Americans. Pigs are not reared in Muslim countries
- Technological Advancement: The technological advancement of a group of people affects their ability to recognize resources and exploit them. Highly advanced technologies make possible farming in dry areas such as deserts.
- Political Decisions: Decisions made by a country’s rulers, congressmen, and leaders may cause some economic activities to be located in certain areas. The government can influence such locations through subsidies, taxes and protective tariffs.
- Economic Factors: The demand for certain goods may attract capital and entrepreneurship and stimulate production for the goods in specific regions.
CATEGORIES OF ECONOMIC ACTIVITY
- Primary Economic Activities: These economic activities are directly tied to the extraction resources of the earth. Such economic activities occur at the beginning of the production cycle where people live in close contact with the resources of the land. Such primary economic activities produce basic food stuff and raw materials for industry and may include; agriculture, hunting and gathering, pastoral farming, crop cultivation, forestry, mining, logging and fishing
- Secondary Economic Activities: These economic activities add value to the raw materials by changing their form, or combining them into useful and hence more valuable commodity. Examples are: steel making from a combination of minerals, Milk production from pastoral farming, textile production from cotton farming, furniture production from logging etc., Manufacturing and processing industries are included in this phase of the production process.
- Tertiary Economic Activities: Consist of those businesses and labor specialization that provide services to the general community. They include professionals such as teachers & professors, lawyers, medical officers, clerical and personnel services. Others include professions such as postal services and music.
- Quaternary Economic Activities: Economic Activities composed entirely of services rendered by white-collar professionals working on management and information processing and disseminating.
TYPES OF ECONOMIC SYSTEMS
An economic system refers to the means or structures in society within which decisions about what to produce, how, and when to produce goods and services and allocate them are made and implemented. The four main economic systems are:
- Traditional Systems
- Capitalist or Commercial Systems
- Socialist or Centrally Planned Systems, and …
- Mixed Economic Systems
There are no pure economic systems in the world for none of the systems exist in isolation in an increasingly interdependent world.
1) Traditional Economic Systems:
An economic system under which people produce just enough to feed their households with very little goods or services left for sale or exchange in the market. Production is geared towards subsistence and basic survival. Market and money are of little importance for trade is mainly by a barter system (direct exchange of goods and services. Several traditional systems are today replaced by market systems.
2) Capitalist or Market Systems:
Under market capitalist systems, decisions about what to produce and how to allocate resources are influenced by interactions of price, supply and demand for goods. Demand for a commodity tends to fall when the price rises and falls when price drops. Conversely, supply for the commodity will increase when the price rises and decrease when the price falls. The capitalist system encourages competition and allows for increased production. There are therefore externalities or environmental side effects such as air and water pollution that result from market operations.
3) Socialist or Centrally Planned Economic Systems:
Under the centrally planned economies, decisions about what commodity to produce, how, and where to produce and distribute the products are made by a central government rather than individuals in a market. Such command systems exist in socialist countries such as the former Soviet Union, Cuba and China.
4) Mixed Economic Systems:
Mixed economic systems combine elements of market and centrally planned economies. It is currently the most common economic system for many countries. In the mixed systems, governments often intervene to modify the market economy. For example, governments intervene to prevent monopolies and ensure free competition, influence prices of agricultural products rather than leave them to be influenced by market forces. Government may also offer incentives (tax relief, grants, exemptions or penalties) to encourage particular activities (e.g. tree planting).
Agriculture involves the deliberate human effort to modify a portion of the earth’s surface through cultivation of crops and the rearing of livestock for sustenance or for economic gain.
Plants and Animals that serve as Food.
Biologists estimate that even though the earth has about 30,000 plant species with parts that people can eat, only 15 plants and 8 animal species supply 90% of our food. FOUR CROPS, namely – Wheat, Rice, Corn and Potato – make up more of the world’s food production than all other crops combined. All the four crops and most of our other food crops are ANNUALS, whose seeds must be replanted each year.
Two out of three of the world’s people survive on grains (mainly rice, wheat and corn) and as incomes of people rise, they consume more grains but now indirectly in the form of meat (especially beef, pork, and chicken, and milk, cheese, eggs, and other products of grain-eating domesticated livestock).
Types of Subsistence Agriculture in the Tropics (Developing Countries)
- Traditional Subsistence Agriculture: Consists of numerous forms of shifting cultivation in tropical forests and nomadic herding practiced mainly in Developing countries. It is a form of agriculture in which only enough crops and livestock are produced to meet the food requirements of the family. In good years, there may be a surplus to sell and put aside for hard times. Subsistence farmers primarily use human labor and draft animals.
- Traditional Intensive Agriculture: In this type of agriculture also practiced in developing countries, farmers increase their inputs of human labor, fertilizer and water to reap a higher yield per area of cultivated land to produce enough to feed their families and sell the surplus.
- Plantation Agriculture: A form of industrialized agriculture found primarily in developing countries in the tropics. It is a permanent agriculture in which cash crops such as banana, coffee, tea and cocoa are cultivated and harvested for sale in developed countries.
A form of subsidence agriculture based on the herding of domesticated animals. It is adapted to dry climates where intensive subsistence agriculture is difficult or impossible.
Pastoral Nomads live in the arid and semi-arid belts of North Africa, Middle East and parts of Central Asia. The Bedouinsof Saudi Arabia and Maasai of Kenya are examples of nomadic groups. Some pastoralists practice Transhumance which is a seasonal migration of livestock between mountains and lowland pastures in search of green pasture following changes in climate.
Agricultural practices in Developing Countries:
- INTER PLANTING; is the simultaneous cultivation of several crops on the same crop of land. Common inter-planting strategies practiced in developing countries include the following:
Ÿ Polyvarietal cultivation: a plot of land is planted with several varieties of the same crop.
Ÿ Intercropping: two or more different crops are simultaneously planted on the same crop of land. (Merits include- pest control, self sufficiency, full use of fertilizers and nutrients).
Ÿ Agroforestry or Alley Cropping: crops and trees are planted together. For example, a grain or legume can be planted around fruit-bearing orchard trees or in rows between fast-growing trees that can be used for fuelwood.
Ÿ Polyculture: A more complex form of intercropping in which many different plants maturing at various times are planted together. If cultivated properly, such farms can provide food, fuel, fertilizers and meet other food needs of farmers.
Ÿ Merits of the Polyculture type of Farming are:
- Root systems at different depths in the soil capture nutrients and moisture efficiently and minimize the need for
fertilizer and irrigation.
- Year round plant coverage also protects the soil from weeds, and erosion.
- The mixed cropping is a check on insects that may feed on one crop and leave the others.
- Crop diversity is also an insurance against bad weather.
- Recent ecological research on crop yields of 14 ecosystems found that on the average, polyculture (with four or five crops) produces higher yields per unit of area than high-input monoculture.
Commercialized Agriculture in Technologically Advanced Countries:
Characteristics of Commercial agriculture in the developed countries.
- Crops and animals are raised primarily for sale
- Small percentage of people (about 5% of the population) are involved
- Same plot of land is cultivated every year.
- Large farm sizes usually larger hectares (US farms an average of 187 hectares)
- Heavy use of machinery and chemical fertilizers.
- Integration with other Businesses (food production is integrated into a large food production industry)
The Green Revolution and Food Production:
Between 1950 and 1970, farmers in developed countries engaged in agricultural practices that resulted in an increase in global food production. The process involves:
- Developing and planting monocultures of selectively bred or genetically engineered high-yield varieties of key crops such as rice, wheat and corn.
- Applying fertilizer, water and insecticides on crops to produce high yields
- Increasing the intensity and frequency of cropping. The green revolution dramatically increased crop yields in many developed countries.
The Green revolution failed to improve food production in many developing countries because of the following:
- Depends mainly on fertile soils that are generally not available in tropical areas of the world.
- The green revolution depends heavily on capital for machinery, fossil-fuel energy, fertilizer, irrigation and pesticides which many farmers do not have
- To sustain continuous production, the green revolution requires research into local crops for development of high-yielding and disease resistant varieties of crops.
- More often, new varieties of crops (hybrid types) that get produced outside the crops forming the main diet of the people may be neglected and not eaten by local people.
FOOD PRODUCTION IN THE UNITED STATES
Since 1940, US farmers have more than doubled crop production without cultivating more land. This has been the result of industrialized agriculture using green-revolution techniques in a favorable climate. Farming has become agribusiness as big companies and have taken control of most US food production.
Between 1880 and 1995, the percentage of US residents living on farms dropped from 44% to 1.8%. By 1997, only about 650,000 Americans were full time farmers. However from growing and processing food to distributing and selling it engages about 9% of the total US population. In terms of total annual sales, agriculture is the biggest industry in the United States -bigger than automotive, steel and housing industries – generating about 18% of the country’s GNP and 19% of all jobs. US farms with about 0.3% of the world’s farm labor force produced about 25% of the world’s food and half of the world’s grains exports. US is the world’s largest producer of poultry, and the third largest producer of pigs, (after China and the EEC).
Problems Facing American Farmers:
- Buckshot Urbanization: suburban homes, shopping centers, factories and highways have taken up much prime farmland. New England has lost about 50% of its best acreage. Florida could loose all of its high quality farmland by the year 2000.
- Soil Erosion: Soil erosion has destroyed or seriously impaired about 60 million hectares (150 million acres) about 15% of the nations total cropland area. Erosion losses are estimated between 22-29 tons per hectare (9 and 12 tons an acre) per year.
- High Fuel Costs: Modern American agriculture depends upon huge inputs of energy derived from fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas.
- Limited Water Supplies: Water available for irrigation will sharply fall in the near future because of declining groundwater supplies and competing demands of expanding urban population and industrial development.
- Salinization: Because of poor drainage and improper farm practices some irrigated farms in California have been rendered impoverished by salinization. The salt is deposited when irrigated water evaporates from poorly drained soil.
- High Fertilizer Costs: American agriculture is heavily dependent upon the use of synthetic fertilizers, the cost of which is rising. The Fertilizer is also causing groundwater pollution.
- Harmful effects of Pesticides: The intensive application of pesticides to crops has resulted in soil contamination. Some of these pesticides affect nitrification, a process by which soil bacteria convert nitrogen to a form usable by plants.
- Soil Compacting: Continued intensive use of heavy machinery such as tractors and harvesters on soils are causing them to be compacted.
ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY: ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY PROJECT TOPICS AND MATERIALS