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N. J. De Silva Amarasinghe and O. Amarasinghe
University of Ruhuna, Matara,
Sri Lanka


This paper attempts to describe the present status and future prospects of livestock-fish integrated farming in Sri Lanka.
It is shown that attitudes of people and infrastructural facilities available until recently have been conductive to the development of integrated farming in Sri Lanka. Poultry-fish integrated farming appear to be the most attractive system among widespread among livestock-fish integrated farming systems in the country and high levels of production have been reported.
Although Buddhism has a negative influence on animal farming in general, the largest impediment to the development of livestock-fish integrated farming in Sri Lanka appear to be recent withdrawal of state sponsorship to inland fisheries which makes these farming systems less attractive to the small farmer.


In the Sri Lankan diet, fish forms the most important source of animal protein and about 70% of the animal proteins consumed in Sri Lanka come from fish. While the per capita fish consumption remains at a level of 13.13 kg/year in 1985, the level of nutritionally adequate fish proteins per person is 21.9 kg/year (if fish is the only source of protein) or 60 grams of proteins per day, as recommended by the Medical Research Institute of Sri Lanka, and to meet these needs a supply of 344,000 tones of fish was required in 1985, while the actual supply in that year has been 208,000 tones. Therefore, it is well evident that there is a widespread protein malnutrition in Sri Lanka (Amarasinghe, 1988).

Freshwater fishery constitutes 20% to the total fish production of the country and, more importantly, it provides the principal source of proteins to the inhabitants in the non-coastal regions of the country. Intensive agriculture aiming at increasing the returns per unit land area is one of the few prospects open to the poor peasants in the country and integrated livestock-fish farming could serve as an important component in such systems.

Aquaculture in Sri Lanka is mainly based on pond culture and ‘seasonal village tank’ culture. The seasonal village tank programme depends almost entirely on introduced species such as Oreochromis mossambicus, Oreochomis niloticus, Ctenopharyngodon idella and Aritichthys nobilis, Catla catia, Labiorohita and Cirrhinus mrigala and Cyprinus carpio. However, extensive carp polyculture is the common practice in both culture types. It appears that seasonal village tank culture is the most attractive system of aquaculture while scope for freshwater pond culture development is limited (Subasinghe & Siriwardena 1990). The major reason for the poor success shown by the latter system are the fixed and operational costs compared to the price per unit of output.

Being a Buddhist country, rearing animals for flesh was not a widespread practice in ancient Sri Lanka. Rearing of cattle for milk has been the most popular animal farming activity in the country until recently. However, changing attitudes of the Sri Lankans towards animal farming were witnessed during the last two decades. During the 1975–1987 period, population of pigs and poultry increased by 193 % and 51 % respectively. The state has actively participated in the development of cattle farming since the establishment of the Department of Animal Production and Health, while pig and poultry farming took off without much state help.


Integrated livestock-fish farming falls under activity diversification', a ‘self insurance’ strategy, which has several important implications towards the eradication of absolute poverty and improving the living standards of the rural masses. First, it leads to productive use of agricultural byproducts and therefore, nothing in the farm is wasted. Second, it increases the amount of animal proteins in the diet of the rural inhabitants thereby improving their nutrition. Third, it increases the returns per unit of land area giving farmer a high disposable income. Fourth, it lowers the farmer's risk of production failure since he has diversified his production activities which do not confront covariant risks.

Poultry-fish integrated farming systems appear to be the only type of integrated farming practiced in Sri Lanka. Several reasons are attributed to the adoption of the above integrated farming model by the Sri Lankan farmer; (a). of the animals reared, poultry has become the most popular among Sri Lankans, (b). poultry excreta is of superior quality (see Chakrabarty & Hettiarachchi 1982), (c). poultry can be raised inlow-cost pens, (d). poultry eggs provide the farmer with a continuous flow of income until fish is harvested, and (e). requirement of land for rearing of other animals, such as cattle and goats. By 1982, approximately about 60 such farms have been established by various individuals all over the country and about a handful of them have been monitored by the officers of the Ministry of Fisheries.

Results of Poultry-cum-Fish Integrated Farming

Only a few integrated farms have been monitored by the officers of the Ministry of Fisheries. Interesting results were obtained by Chakrabarty and Hettiarachchi (1982) who established a duck-dum-fish at the Polonnaruwa research station in 1982. A pond of 5,060 sq. ft. was used for the study and it was stocked with fingerlings of bighead carp (Aristichthys nobilis), common carp (Cyprinus carpio), Tilapia nilotica, and grass carp (Ctenopharygodon idella). A duck house measuring 10×5 ft. had been constructed on the bank of the ponds which housed 25 ducks of Moscovy and Aylesbury breeds. The shed was constructed with a brick-paved, sloping concrete floor to facilitate the duck house washings entering the adjacent pond by way of a cemented drain emptying into it. In addition to this, fish were fed with 3–4 kg of duck weed (spirodella) which have a high content of protein and they are rich in lysine and arginine. The culture period had been approximately 6½ months. Results of this experiment are presented in Table 1. The experiment has yielded 4.387 kg of fish per hectare with 160 ducks raised per hectare of pond in 197 days. The results indicate a high level of fish production compared with results reported by workers in other countries from poultry-cum-fish integrated farms (see for example, Pathak 1981; Woynarovich 1979).

Of the few poultry-fish integrated farming models monitored by the Ministry of Fisheries, one such model tried out by a private farmer at Nattandiya is of particular interest. The owner has constructed a pond of 110×150 sq.ft. (60 perches) close to the chicken houses. Initial fertilization of the pond had been done with 400 kg of chicken manure, 200 kg of cow dung and 100 kg of slake lime. The pond had been stocked with fingerlings of common carp, grass carp, rep carp, tilapia, milkfish and gouramy. The farmer has made arrangements to empty drains from chicken houses, carrying chicken house washings that include chicken droppings and unconsumed chicken mash, to the fish pond. Two water taps had been kept open during the night to increase the dissolved oxygen content in the pond. The total culture period has been 10 months. Table 2 provides information on fish stocked and fish harvested. It should be noted that the farmer has not kept any records of the number of birds raised in the chicken houses, their production and records of feeding the fish. Yet, it is noteworthy that the farmer has also provided the fish with chicken mash whenever necessary.

It is evident from Table 2 that, after 10 months, the farmer has obtained a fish yield of 788 kg from his 110×150 sq. ft. pond, which approximates 5,000 kg/ha.

Table 1. Results of the experiment on duck-cum-fish farming*

 Fish stockedFish harvested
No.DensityNo.Total weight
Bighead carp12.470 6635.00 
Common carp11.670 6646.32 
Nile tilapia10.370 4213.50 
Grass carp9.470 7223.0 
   5000/ha  4,387/ha


in grams
Live weight at 6 months in kgs
Aylesbury20 52748.9

* Chakrabarty & Hettiarachchi (1982)

Table 2. Fish production in chicken-cum-fish farming.*

 Fish stockedFish harvested
O. niloticus3–15275306 
Chanos chanos7–1020077 
Bighead carp4–7250100 
Grass carp6–715070 
Common carp6–8175215 
Red carp6–81810 
Giant gouramy12–14610 

This is a significantly high yield compared to the average yield obtainable from similar types of culture (Sharma 1981). Results of both experiments reveal that poultry-cum-fish farming can be successfully carried out in Sri Lanka.

While results of integrated farming experiments such as above indicate their potential of yielding an array of benefits to the Sri Lankan farmers, it is worth asking why integrated livestock-cum-fish farming is not widespread in Sri Lanka, which is the focus of the next section.

Constraints to the Adoption of Livestock-Fish Integrated Farming in Sri Lanka

Impact of religion:-

Sir Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country where approximately 68 percent of the people are Buddhists. Non-violence to living beings is a cornerstone of Buddhist theory - it is a vital component of the state of spiritual attainment toward which all Buddhists are expected to strive. However, in Sri Lanka society - as in all Buddhist societies - the slaughter of animal for food is part of empirical reality (Fernando et al., 1985).

The very first of the Five Precepts which calls on Buddhists to refrian from killing living beings, infact, presupposes the existence of slaughter trades such as fishing and people who are engaged in them. It is also clear that although doctrinally the slaughter of fish was considered incompatible with the above precept, fishing as an occupation has been a social reality in our country from time immemorial. Today, there are individuals from traditionally Buddhist families engaged in the fishing industry, most of whom intellectually accept the position that there is a breach of the First Precept when they take part in the slaughter of fish (Fernando et al., 1985). Economic needs appear to outweigh the culture and religious factors in determining the economic behavior of the low income groups and attitudes the consumption of animal flesh is changing.

The role of the state:-

In terms of integrated livestock-cum-fish farming, the most important steps taken by the state is the formation of Inland Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Fisheries (IFD) 17 years ago, which is responsible for the development of aquculture in the country. Among other things, the IFD commenced stocking of fingerlings of Chinese and Indian carps, and tilapia in seasonal reservoirs regulating effort in perenial reservoirs and stocking of them, organization of Fisheries Cooperative Societies, operation of subsidy schemes for the purchase of boats and gill nets and, subsidy scheme for popularizing pond culture, etc. (De Silva, 1991).

Surprisingly, last year, the state decided to withdraw its spoasorship of inland fisheries development of the country which resulted in the closure of the IFD. This was infact, the result of pressure exerted on the government by the Buddhist leaders of the country who always publicly despise killing of animals. “Surprisingly though, the state involvement in the marine fisheries sector was not curtailed in any way; the government continues to operate its subsidy schemes for distributing fishing boats and gill nets and its programme to develop existing fishing harbors and to establish new ones. Buddhist leaders also do not seem to have much objection to marine fisheries” (ibid). It is well evident that the present situation is an impediment to the adoption and diffusion of integrated livestock-fish farming although they have been proved successful under Sri Lanka conditions.

Future Prospects

Assuming the religion impose less restriction on its adoption, the major impediment to the successful adoption of integrated farming systems appears to be the high costs involved in pond construction, low price of freshwater fish and the withdrawal of state help to inland fisheries. In the absence of government subsidies for pond construction, the majority of innovative peasants may not be able to undertaken fish culture as a component of his farming enterprise. Moreover, withdrawal of state sponsorship also meant unavailability of fingerlings for stocking purpose. Chinese and Indian major carps do not breed naturally in Sri Lanka and any individual small-scale farmer can not establish and operate profitably a hatchery and other facilities for fish seed production" (De Silva, 1991). Even if private enterprises engage in fingerling production, farmers are unlikely to purchase them since the profit margin enjoyed by them from fish culture may not high enough to cover up production costs. The problem also lies with the received for freshwater fish compared to marine fish (Chandrasoma, 1988). Other alternative open to peasant farmers is to organize themselves into cooperatives so that they could economize on fingerling production, implement fishery regulation measures, undertake more efficient fish marketing, etc. However, throughout the development of the cooperative movement of Sri Lanka, cooperative have been supervise are doomed to failure under the withdrawal of state sponsorship to fisheries. It therefore appears that livestock-fish integrated systems have very limited future prospects for the small-scale farmer. It is time that policy makers give adequate thought to the multiple facets of the problem under concern, especially the socio-economic problems of the peasants, the extent of their malnutrition, and their precarious position in terms of meeting their basic subsistence needs.


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Chandrasoma J. (1988). Observations on Marketing of fish produced in seasonal tanks', Jour Inland Fish Sri Lanka, 4: 63–67.

Chakrabarty R. D. & A. Hettiarachchi (1982). ‘Preliminary Observations on Fish Polyculture cum Duck raising in a Farm Pond in Sri Lanka’, Jour Inland Fish. Sri Lanka, Vol 1. 54–61.

De Silva K. G. H. M. (1991). ‘The Predicament of the Freshwater Fisheries and Aquaculture of Sri Lanka’, NAGA, The ICLARM Quarterly, Jan. 1991, pp. 6–7.

Fernando S., L. Devasena, R. M. Ranweera Banda & H. K. M. Somawantha (1985). Impact of Buddhism on the small-scale fishery of Sri Lanka. In: Small-scale Fisheries in Asia - Socioeconomic Analysis and Policy (T. Panayotou (ed.). International Development Research Centre, Canada).

Pathak V. (1981). Patterns of Energy Flow and Nutrient Cycle in Integrated Farming Systems, Summer Institute on Farming System Integrating Agriculture, livestock and fish culture, 6 July - 4 August, Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute, Barackpore, West Bengal, pp. 422–430.

Sharma B. K. (1981). Fish Culture Integrated with Livestock Raising; Summer Institute on Farming System integrating agriculture, livestock and fish culture, 6 July - 4 August, Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute, Barackpore, West Bengal, pp. 128–142.

Subasinghe R. P. & P. P. G. S. N. Siriwardena (1990). Aquaculture Sri Lanka; In: Aquaculture in Asia, M. Mohan Joseph (ed.). Asian Fisheries Society Indian Branch, pp. 333–343.

Woynarovich E. (1979). The feasibility of combining animal husbandry with fish farming, with special reference to duck and pig production. In: Advanced in Aquaculture, T. V. R. Pillay and W. A. Dill (eds.). Fishing News Books Ltd. Farnham, Surrey, England, pp. 203–208.

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