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Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Countryside and agriculture

About topic 9
The Countryside and agriculture topic covers social and physical changes in the
countryside, rural versus urban lifestyles, ways of using the countryside, and methods of farming including animals and crops.

It may seem surprising, but agriculture is actually one of the most common topics in IELTS across the Writing, Reading, Speaking and Listening tests. This means that you should definitely learn to use agriculture vocabulary as part of your exam preparation, even if the subject is not personally interesting for you.

Topic 9 example Task
It is sometimes said that the countryside offers a high quality of life, especially for
families. What are the arguments for and against families choosing to live and work in the countryside, for example as farmers? What is your own view about this?

Explanation of the Task
This is an Opinion>Discussion type Task. You should introduce the topic, present two or three ideas on each side of the discussion, and then give your opinion in the conclusion.

The Task asks you specifically to think of families and the example of farmers, so you should include some ideas about this. Always check carefully to see if the Task has any extra or specific instructions such as this – if you miss these, it may affect your score badly.

Band 9 model essay

There can be few choices in life more important than where to settle as a family, and the question of an urban or rural location is complex. There are strong arguments for and against living in the countryside, as we will discuss now.

On the one hand, it might be said that the countryside is rather a backwater, with fewer cultural amenities than a city in the form of museums, theatres and even sporting events. This may mean that families become isolated, especially as rural depopulation leaves fewer country dwellers in the area, as we see, for example, in central France. Added to this is the scarcity of schools and colleges, meaning that children may need to travel long distances for their education. Finally, career options may be more limited in the countryside for both parents and children, resulting in rural unemployment and long-term rural poverty in the worst cases.

Conversely, life in the countryside has rewards which go beyond material considerations. For example, the abundance of natural resources such as land, wildlife forestry and water bodies means that a comparatively simple life can be lived at a subsistence level. Many country residents are self-sufficient smallholders in this sense, safeguarding them from the changes in the wider economy which can afflict city dwellers. If the parents are farmers, children learn the importance of animal husbandry, methods of farming such as crop rotation and irrigation, and generally may become more in tune with the natural world as a result. Finally, as technology enables children to undertake distance learning or remote viewing of cultural attractions such as museums, they should
be less isolated from their cultural heritage.

Overall, it seems to me that quality of life in the countryside today is indeed quite high, with its advantages of resources, self-sufficiency and environmental awareness. This is especially true now that communications are reducing the risk of isolation in such far-flung communities.
(317 words)

Explanation of the topic vocabulary and examples in Speaking
rural = the adjective for ‘countryside’
Example =I come from a rural area originally, although these days I live in our capital city.

a backwater = an area of a country where little of interest happens
Example =I used to live in an agricultural town, but frankly it was such a backwater that I moved to one of the larger cities.

rural depopulation = the long-term trend for people to migrate from the countryside to cities, leaving the rural areas with few people
Example =Rural depopulation can cause huge problems with local infrastructure, as there aren’t enough people to run the services and transport.

country dwellers = people who live in the countryside (‘city dwellers’ = people who live in cities)
Example =My parents were country dwellers when they first married, but now we all live in a coastal town.

a scarcity = a lack or shortage of something
Example =The worst problem I experienced in the countryside was a real scarcity of sports events and music festivals.

rural unemployment = unemployment affecting rural workers specifically
Example =Rural unemployment has been ameliorated by innovative Internet start-ups.

rural poverty = being extremely poor in the countryside
Example =Rural poverty is a long-term situation exacerbated by lack of infrastructure and training.

material considerations = concerns about money and material possessions
Example =You can’t only think of material considerations when deciding who to marry, I feel.

an abundance = a very high level of supply or availability of something
Example =In the mountains, there’s an abundance of wild flowers and goats.

wildlife = animals living naturally in the wild
Example =It’s surprising how much wildlife you can see in the suburbs in Australia.

forestry = the industry of growing and cutting trees
Example =When I graduate, I want to work for a responsible forestry company.

water bodies = inland areas of water (rivers, lakes, reservoirs etc)
Example =My country is very arid and has almost no water bodies.

subsistence = adjective meaning ‘producing just enough to live on’
Example =Subsistence farmers grow their own food but have little left to sell for profit.

self-sufficient = not needing to import or buy resources from outside the farm or country
Example =During the war, our country became self-sufficient in crops and fuel.

smallholders = farmers managing very small farms, usually with their families
Example =I worked on a project training smallholders in South America in how to lobby politicians for reform.

the wider economy = the national economy in a country
Example =My business is growing, despite the decline in the wider economy.

to afflict = to affect (used for problems or diseases)
Example =Many forests in my area are afflicted by wood disease which attacks the trees.

animal husbandry = the skill of keeping animals
Example =My sister studied animal husbandry at college and enjoyed it enormously.

crop rotation = the process of using different fields each year to keep the soil healthy
Example =Some smallholders do not practise crop rotation, and so their land becomes infertile.

remote viewing = viewing places by Internet, not in person
Example =I took a remote viewing tour of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and found it very impressive.

environmental awareness = an understanding of environmental issues
Example =Environmental awareness is part of the school curriculum these days for most children.

far-flung = remote or far away
Example =My fiancé lives in a very far-flung village, but we keep in touch by Skype.