Rice-fish farming: The perfect couple in the same place

Fish and rice are known to be two of Asia’s favorite food sources. They have also managed to combine the two to create delicious dishes such as sushi. And they went even further by developing an agricultural system called “integrated rice and fish farming”.

Integrated rice and fish farming is an agricultural system of simultaneous cultivation of fish and rice. This method originated in Asia and is believed to be over 2,000 years old. It was first practiced in China and spread to other Asian countries, and recently it has also found its way to Africa.

This practice was favored by Chinese farmers because it allowed them to easily get their rice and fish – common sources of protein – from the same place, so they didn’t have to travel to fetch fish from rivers. and distant dams.

Besides being convenient for farmers, rice-fish farming is a mutually beneficial process. The rice plant provides shade and insects for the fish, as well as organic matter for the fish to use, while the fish oxygenate the water and move nutrients, which benefits the rice.

Simply put, rice-fish farming is nothing but growing fish in paddy fields (paddy fields) using the same land area without impacting the quality and yield of the rice. Integrated fish farming offers the possibility of obtaining additional income from the main crop (rice).

A solution to better manage resources

According to an article written by Ashish Mansharamani, Abhimanyu Shrivastava, and Anukriti Choubey, rice is an important food grain that feeds about 50% of the world’s population, making it the most popular staple food in the world. The authors wrote that rice has been identified as a major crop consuming vast amounts of available water resources, while rice paddies at the same time emit a large amount of the greenhouse gas methane.

“Thus, solutions must be sought to improve the management of rice production systems. Rice-fish farming constitutes a unique agro-landscape across the world, particularly in tropical and sub-subtropical Asia,” the authors explained.

They said that co-cultivation of rice and aquatic creatures combining animal production – e.g. fish, shellfish, crab, shrimp and ducks – in rice paddy systems has been proposed as a technique to maximize the use of land and water resources to provide both grain and animal protein.

African countries have also started to explore rice-fish farming in countries such as Liberia, Nigeria and many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Photo: Kenza Loussouarn/Pexels.

It has also been suggested that the rice-fish system is beneficial to the environment. Indeed, as fish help control pests and weeds, fewer chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides are used, which benefits the environment as it reduces the impact of agricultural chemicals. In turn, biodiversity is increased.

According to an article on Down To Earth, global climate change is closely linked to agricultural production and the impact of rice cultivation on the environment, including its effect on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, is a concern for everyone.

“The two main GHGs in the agricultural sectors are methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide. Methane emissions depend on the anaerobic degradation of organic complexes such as plant residues, organic matter and organic fertilizers under submerged conditions where there is a lack of oxygen,” the article states.

Research has shown that the rice-fish culture system is able to reduce emissions of methane and other GHGs. In total, 10 to 20% of the methane present in the atmosphere comes from rice fields. This is significant because the global warming potential (GWP) of methane is 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide.

Opportunities for Africa

African countries have also started to explore rice-fish farming in countries such as Liberia, Nigeria and many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Local farmers have taken advantage of the economic and environmental opportunities that come with rice-fish farming.

According to an article on the Sud-Sud website, the rice-fish system was effective in doubling yields: on average, 6.7 to 7.5 tonnes of rice per hectare, and a total of 0.75 to 2.25 tonnes of fish per hectare in sub-Saharan Africa. The website says the production value is around $8,550 to $17,100 per hectare, which is very high by international standards.

“The system has had a noticeable impact in participating countries such as Nigeria, where it has been successfully implemented on over 10,000 hectares through over 35 demonstrations with different designs, models and fish species. Farmers have accepted low-cost, high-yield rice-fish farming, and many private farms and farmer groups have managed to include a large number of households,” the website reads.

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