Agriculture and countryside areas in Śląskie Voivodeship are an important part of economy in the region.
50,5% of total area in Śląskie Voivodeship is covered by farmlands. Comparatively, in Poland farmlands cover an area of 59 %.
There are about 111 thousand of individual farms on the area of 621 thousand hectares, among them 80% are small farms of less than 5 hectares.
Types of soil are very varied. The worst conditions for agriculture are in Żywiec Poviat, better in Zawiercie, Kłobuck, Będzin, Myszków and Częstochowa Poviats. Average conditions are to be found in Gliwice, Tychy, Tarnogóra, Mikołów, Lubliniec, Rybnik and Cieszyn Poviats. The best soils are in Racibórz area.
Small and fragmented farms are the basic obstacle on the way to achieve high effectiveness of farm production and its competitiveness.
A disadvantageous tendency of increasing the area of grain cultivation is being observed in the last few years (54% of all arable areas), as well as a tendency to limit vegetable and seed- plant growing areas.
Simultaneously there is a constant increase of uncultivated area.
There are 37 heads of cattle and 66 pigs per 100 hectares in Śląskie Voivodeship, which is similar to the Polish average (cattle - 39, pigs - 97).
Population in the rural areas is 1,9 m., which is nearly 40% of the whole population of Śląskie Voivodeship. At the same time migration to the rural areas is being noticed.
39% of the population in the rural areas are able to work. About 338 thousand people over 15 years of age are employed in agriculture sector and among them 49 thousand people work on their own farms. It means that over 20% of employed people work in agriculture which is very unprofitable according to European assessments and it has fundamental influence on effectiveness of farm production. Therefore one of the main goals of economic strategy in rural areas is to upgrade the effectiveness.
Lowering employment in agriculture must go together with changing agricultural structure mainly by concentration of production in bigger units and also by creating opportunities for people to work beyond this sector of economy.
A chance to develop countryside areas is agrotourism, dynamic development of farm production services and also highly technical services (as production, tax and law advice).
Nowadays the most urgent problem is waste water treatment. Lots of money is needed also in road building and school infrastructure.
These challenges are very ambitious for the poviats and the local communities. In order to achieve these goals the financial help from SAPARD and PHARE 2000 programmes will be reached.