Sustainable agriculture embraces several variants of nonconventional agriculture that are often called organic, alternative, regenerative, ecological or low input. One form of the sustainable agriculture practised in many parts of Asia, especially in China, is the traditional integrated livestock-fish farming. The integrated animal/fish culture system attempts to return all unconsumed organic residues and natural organic manure to support enhanced crop, animal and fish production. In the pond ecosystem the biological and chemical reactions such as photosynthesis, respiration, nitrogen fixation, ammonification, denitrification and decomposition help recycle nutrients and minerals. Since the main aim of the integrated system is to maximise fish production, the environmental quality of the pond must be of high standard.
Interaction between livestock husbandry and cropping, and between animals (chickens, ducks, pigs and ruminants) and fish provide a key to ecological sustainability of the integrated production systems by intensifying the nutrient and energy cycles. Therefore, a study of these interactions, especially in small holdings and commercial agriculture, is an utmost necessity, and the documentation of these studies is always encouraged.
In this workshop, national representatives and experts discussed various kinds of integrated systems, including the pond water quality, nitrogen and carbon cycle, primary and secondary productivity and economics of production. Recommendations of this workshop, particularly in relation to future research and development should be able to attract the attention of planners, policy makers and managers in the Asian countries. Considering the enthusiasm generated during the intensive sessions of the workshop, we feel that this publication may be able to arouse equal interest among its readers.
Dr. R.D. Branckaert
Animal Production Officer,
Animal Production and
Food and Agriculture Organisation,
Professor T.K. Mukherjee,
Institute of Advanced Studies
University of Malaya,
An International Workshop on Integrated Livestock-Fish Production Systems was held from 16–20 December, 1991 at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The workshop was sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Rome, Italy. This is probably the first time that scientists and administrators from different Asian countries have joined together to identify problems pertaining to integrated livestock-fish production systems and suggest ways to overcome some of the existing problems.
The objectives of the workshop were to:
discuss and device methods in order to maximise primary, secondary and tertiary productivity of the integrated ponds. This included an in-depth investigation of the macro and micro-environments in the integrated ponds;
evaluate the animal performance and total biomass (animal and fish) productivity in integrated systems;
identify areas for future research and development;
to discuss the economics of production in integrated systems; and
to suggest possible ways of extending the existing technologies to small holders and fishermen.
After the panel meeting and the groups discussions, the following recommendations were formulated and agreed upon.
1. PRINCIPLES OF INTEGRATION
The workshop recognised that there exists in the Asian region various types of animal-fish-crop integrated systems. The range of components is very varible and examples include non-ruminants (pig, poultry, ducks and geese), ruminants (buffaloes, cattle, goats and sheep), and crops. These components are linked both directly and/or indirectly in small farm systems.
However, it was also apparent that the principles of integration, the role and extent of each of the subsystems and contribution to sustainable and economic production remain largely unknown. There is an extreme paucity of information on the subject in most countries in the region.
Accordingly, the workshop recommended that:
A detailed assessment be made in individual countries to decide and document various types of integrated systems. This should provide information on identifying the more important systems.
Detailed socio-economic surveys should then be undertaken using a farming systems approach to characterise the production systems, the effects of interaction between the different components (sub - systems) on the systems, productivity and economic contribution. In particular, the survey will provide detailed information on the constraints to production.
The focus on constraints will enable in turn, a definition on research and development proposals, and the development of methodology appropriate to individual integrated systems. These proposals will obviously be country-specific and linked to choice of animal species, national priorities, market dictates and social acceptance.
Among the integrated systems, the integrated fish-duck-crops system was recognised as the most widely practised in South East Asia and China. Much more detailed information is required on the integrated systems on various aspects of this apparently successful system.
The possible role of individual ruminant species within the fish-duck-crop system was discussed at length, and the workshop further recommend that the potential role of individual ruminants be explored, relevant to individual species and national importance. The choice of type of ruminant(s) for the integrated systems needs to be carefully made.
Research needs to focus specifically on the role of ruminants within the fish-duck-crop system. The area to be addressed include inter alia, the amount of feed available, stall feeding system and management, type and number of animals used, performance and behaviour, dung production, nutrient utilisation, interactions between animals-fish-crops -soil-water and the farmers, biomass production and economic considerations. Interdisciplinary research is required that will relate to both production and post-production systems including marketing.
In view of the potential importance and relevance of integrating suitable ruminant animals to the fish-duck-crops system, the workshop strongly recommend the formulation of a project that can address the various research and development issues identified. This project can serve as an important forerunner for the catalytic development of sustainable integrated animals-fish-crops systems in Asia that can contribute not only to the efficient management of the natural resources, but also contribute to the improved livelihood of small farms.
The workshop also considered that this meeting was extremely useful in promoting the future of integrated systems, as well as linkages between fish and animals scientists. It should serve as a forerunner to promote future meetings as appropriate on the subject as well as to seek mechanisms to facilities information exchange, experiences and lessons learnt by scientists.
II. TECHNOLOGICAL IMPROVEMENT AND INNOVATION
The existing technologies should be reviewed and developed further in order to improve the technical feasibility and efficiency.
Characterization of different types of manure with special regard to their nutrient values for different fish species directly or through food chains. Testing efficiency of raw, fermented or composted manure.
Optimisation of manure loading rates under different climatic conditions. Testing the modes, timing and frequency of manure introduction in case of indirect integration. Quantification of livestock density, location and distribution on or around the fish pond in case of integration. Evaluation of growth performance, survival rate, disease resistance and other factors for the type of species being cultured.
Technology for the integration of other produce such as macrophytes, algae and other aquatic plants.
Technology for utilizing the pond residues (discharged water and sediments) for irrigation and crop integration.
Considerations should be given to adequate utilization of crop residues and foldder produced by the integrated system for sustainable livestock production.
III. ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT OF INTEGRATED PONDS
Management of the pond environment in livestock-fish integrated system may be broadly categorised into two aspects being Management of the Physico-chemical Environment and Manipulation of the Energy and Nutrient Flow in the System'.
Management of the Physico-chemical Environment
It is well known that fish mass-mortality occurs in aquaculture if environmental factors are limiting and where conditions detrimental to fish physiological processes exist. Under such conditions, pathogens become important as fish become more susceptible to infections. The best strategy is thus to manage the primary factors limiting fish growth and production. This is important in livestock-fish integrated systems because of the input of organic matter into the system.
The primary factors are identified as pH, dissolved oxygen and ammonia. Sub-lethal and lethal effects of these parameters have not been welldocumented for the range of fish species cultured in livestock-fish integrated systems. In recent years, there have been significant progress in development of techniques for monitoring environmental stress on fish using direct analysis of blood. These diagnostic tests range from simple to sophisticated techniques.
Improper management of these primary factors would lead to decreased fish production due to increased incidence of pathogenic infections. Similarly other components like the algae and zooplankton may also be affected. Thus, an ecosystem approach should be taken into consideration in the proper management of the pond environment for optimum fish production.
Manipulation of Energy Flow and Nutrient Cycling in the System
In many culture systems, artificial feed is used and nutrient cycling is not important, but in livestock-fish systems, the actual fish production is based on the energy flow and nutrient cycling with the driving force of manure and sunlight. However, quantification of the energy flow and nutrient cycling have been limited to the temperate zone farming systems. During the last decade, there have been research centres developed in the tropics which are capable of conducting such quantification studies. In recent years new techniques have been developed which are simple and more efficient. The quantification process must be based on standard methodology and correlated to important pond operation parameters like organic loading rates and livestock and fish stocking densities.
Besides the complex energy and nutrient cycling it is necessary to survey natural fish food resources using simple direct methods. These resources include bacteria, algae, aquatic plants, zooplankton, zoobenthos and coarse detritus.
In view of the importance of pond environment management, the following projects were recommended.
Management of Physico-chemical Environment
Determination of sub-lethal growth-retarding ammonia concentrations for selected fish species, in correlation with varying dissolved oxygen levels.
Survey of pathogens and their role in livestock-fish integrated systems.
Manipulation of the Energy Flow and Nutrient Cycling in the System
Energy flow (primary production, bacterial production) under different organic loading levels.
Relative importance of the various groups of natural food resources to fish nutrition in the livestock-fish integrated system.
IV. SOCIO-ECONOMICS AND INSTITUTIONAL FACTORS.
It is now being well demonstrated that integrated livestock-fish farming is one strategy that can be undertaken by the small farmer in developing countries, since by doing so the farmer is able to reduce his production costs and increase returns. However it has also been shown that the rate of adoption of this technology is low and that the fish produce in the system confront low consumer acceptance. Low rate of adoption may reflect not only the inappropriateness of the system to the small farmer in strictly technical or economical terms, but may also imply socio-economic barriers to its diffusion, which is also true with low consumer acceptance. It is therefore necessary to understand the farmer and his environment before a particular technology is recommended. The following, which form the future course of action in respect of the introduction of a particular farming system into a particular farming community, are recommended.
Identify the target group
The major concern here is the farm households and the object of production has to be understood.
Conducting of Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA)
A Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) helps to understand the farmer and his environment. The factors considered include, physical factors, social factors, economic factors, health hazards, etc. Moreover, one needs to understand the market potential for the farmer's produce.
The above information, along with scientific information available, will help to identify the type systems that can be introduced into the target group. In identifying suitable systems among different alternatives, emphasis should also be given to those systems that efficiently utilize non-marketable resources, such as female and child labour.
On station trials.
The identified systems should be subject to on station trials to verify their technical feasibility.
Systems found to be technically feasible should be tested on farmer's fields to assess their technical feasibility, economic viability and sustainability under farmer's conditions. These on-farm trials, if successful, can serve as ‘demonstration’ that accelerates the process of diffusion of technology.
Transfer of technology
Technology developed, following the above four steps should now be introduced to the farmers. The rate of adoption of the technology and its subsequent diffusion will depend on an efficient extension service. The extension officers should be involved in the conducting of on-farm trials and they should be trained using proper teaching material including guidance by the scientists involved in the trials. One of the most important requirements on the part of the extension agent is his ability to understand the farmer and to communicate in a common language.
Comparative studies in different localities should be conducted to understand the variations of the different systems under different farmers and environmental conditions.
Dissemenation of information
An information dissemination network should be established with the possible use of existing networks.
At the end of the workshop, the participants suggested strongly that a follow-up workshop be held in about three years time to judge the progress that has been accomplished in the respective participating countries with respects to the recommendations and ideas generated during the workshop.