Terrace Farming: A Unique Agricultural Solution

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Another way that people adapt to their environment is terrace farming. What is this exactly?

Well, think of a steep-sloping hillside. If this is the only land you have to grow crops on, how do you then grow crops without everything sliding down the hillside?

Since ancient times, farmers have built terraces to shore up a hillside, creating several levels of farms. In a small, seemingly inhospitable place, they can grow the crops they need to grow to survive.

Look at the above photo of an Inca hillside farm. See the "steps"? The Incas created those "steps" using rocks and trees. From a steep slope they created many level plains, on which they could (and did) grow crops.

Instead of flowing freely down the hillside, water stops on the level plain. In this way, the lower terraces are not eroded and, also, the higher terraces get enough water. On a straight, steep slope, water would tumble down the hillside, carrying crops and much-needed soil with it, letting nothing grow. But add the element of a terrace, and you have flat areas on which to farm.

The same sort of thing goes on today, in many places around the world. One of the most prominent examples is in the rice field of Southeast Asia. Acre after acre of what looks like unusable land contains terrace after terrace. Much of the rice that comes from Vietnam, Thailand, and other Southeast Asian countries is grown on terraces. Rice, especially, needs a lot of water to grow. The more flat areas existing on which to grow rice, the more rice people can grow. And with the terrace farming idea, water stays on the level surfaces, so rice grows in places that, on first glance, wouldn't necessarily look to be good farmland.

The more general question is this: Why don't people just move to places that have flat farmland? Well, some people can't afford to move. Others just don't want to. Still others have family all around and don't want to leave their parents, grandparents, or children. There are many reasons to stay in a place, even if you can't really afford to stay there. So people who decide to stay somewhere need to figure out a way to get their food. This is how terrace farming came about. And just like the Incas and other ancient peoples, today's terrace farmers get the most out of their land, in a way that might just have you scratching your head.

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