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There are manifold interactions between fisheries and agriculture through the common use of land and water resources and concurrent production activities to support rural village communities and supply urban areas with the needed quantity and variety of food. Such interactions extend to the institutional sphere, as fisheries and agriculture often fall within one government ministry. Improved integration between the two sectors is therefore an important means to enhance fish production and food security. The term "fisheries" is broadly defined here to include the capture of wild fish stocks from inland and marine waters, the capture of fish stocks that have been enhanced through stocking and other measures and various types of aquaculture. The most direct interactions between agriculture and fisheries occur where these two sectors compete for the same kinds of resource, especially land and water, and where measures aimed at higher agricultural production can alter natural fish habitats.

At present, the reported global capture fisheries production from freshwater ecosystems, including rivers and lakes, is about 7.5 million tonnes. Actual catches, however, are believed to be significantly higher and could be as much as double the reported statistics.2 Except for some industrial commercial fisheries in the Great Lakes of Africa and North America, most inland capture fisheries are small-scale by nature and much of the catch is destined for local consumption. Inland fisheries activities are often undertaken by farmers during the agricultural lean season when they provide needed food and income. Thus, the significance of freshwater catches for food security far exceeds what recorded production figures alone might suggest 3 . The importance of fish, particularly in the diet of rural communities, can be judged by its contribution to total animal protein intake. In many Asian countries, over one-half of animal protein intake comes from fish, while in Africa the proportion is 17.5 percent.

Moreover, recreational fisheries in inland waters are gaining more economic importance in Asia, Europe and North and South America, where they serve as valued tourist attractions.

In spite of their nutritional and economic importance and their significant future development potential, inland fisheries landings relative to outputs from other fishery production systems have been waning over the past few decade 4 . The diminished role of inland fisheries has to some extent resulted from physical and chemical changes in the aquatic environment, brought about by agricultural practices such as damming, wetland reclamation, drainage and water abstraction and transfer for irrigation. Recent experience has shown that these environmental changes are often reversible, in which case fisheries habitats can be restored without compromising agricultural production. In other cases, changes can be anticipated and planned for in a way that enhances fisheries potential beyond natural productivity. The full range of fisheries enhancement techniques – including stocking, the modification of water bodies, fertilization and the introduction of genetically improved species – can only be realized when human-induced changes are planned and implemented in an integrated manner that prevents harmful effects on fisheries resources and their habitats.

Aquaculture is one of the world’s fastest-growing food-producing sectors, providing an important supplement to and substitute for stagnating yields from wild fish stocks. The importance of aquaculture for future food security was acknowledged by the 1996 World Food Summit, which agreed "to promote the development of environmentally sound and sustainable aquaculture well integrated into rural, agricultural and coastal development". Over the last decade, aquaculture production increased at an average compounded growth rate of nearly 11 percent per annum. By 1996, total annual production of cultured fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants reached a record


34.12 million tonnes, valued at $46.5 billion. Of special importance is the fact that more than 85 percent of total aquaculture food production came from developing countries, and in particular from low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs). Production within this group is concentrated in Asian countries, with China being by far the largest producer.

Annual aquaculture production is projected to exceed 40 million tonnes by 2010 5 . Much of this increase is expected to come from the farming of fish and crustaceans in ponds, enhanced production in small and medium-sized water bodies and integrated fish and crustacean farming, primarily with rice but also with vegetables and other crops as well as livestock. Efficiency in the use of water (particularly freshwater) and land resources is becoming a crucial factor in sustaining high growth
rates. In many areas where aquaculture has rapidly expanded over the last decade, there is growing pressure on limited land and water resources, and planning for integrated fisheries and agricultural development is therefore of the utmost importance.

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The overall objective of integrating fisheries and agriculture is to maximize the synergistic and minimize the antagonistic interactions between the two sectors. The former are mainly derived from the recycling of nutrients arising in the course of agriculture-livestock-fish production processes, from integrated pest management and from the optimal use of water resources.

Antagonistic interactions arise from: the application of pesticides and herbicides that harm aquatic living organisms; the eutrophication of inland water bodies and near-shore coastal waters caused by nutrient runoff (after excessive or inappropriate chemical fertilizer application); soil erosion, which increases the sediment load of natural watercourses; alterations to the hydrological regimes of rivers, lakes and other natural water bodies; drainage of wetlands and swamps; and the obstruction of fish migration routes.

The benefits to be gained from maximizing and minimizing synergistic and antagonistic interactions, respectively, are examined in the next section. Following this is a discussion on how institutional constraints can be overcome at various levels to achieve a better integration of the two sectors.

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Agricultural by-products, such as manure from livestock and crop residues can serve as fertilizer and feed inputs for small-scale and commercial aquaculture. After availability of freshwater, the existence of livestock and agricultural crop production systems is the principal factor influencing aquaculture potential in countries and regions 6 .

Resource scarcity is commonly the overriding incentive directing technical and institutional change towards higher levels of efficiency. Sophisticated techniques and institutional arrangements for managing resource use can be found in areas of both high and low population densities, depending on the abundance of resources. In arid areas with a low population density, for example, complex systems for the allocation of scarce freshwater resources are known to have existed for centuries 7 .

Integrated farming in China dates back to more than 2 400 years ago, when it involved a complex complementary system combining fish polyculture with poultry, livestock and crop production and the integrated use of manure, grass and other crops as feed and fertilizer 8 . Rotational farming of rice and shrimps has a long history in the intertidal zones of Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Viet Nam and other Asian countries 9 . Globally, integrated farming systems are receiving increasing attention. In Argentina, Brazil, Haiti, Panama and Peru, the technical feasibility of rice-fish farming is being studied. Concurrent and rotational cultivation of fish and crustaceans with rice are also attracting interest in economically advanced countries: in the United States and Spain, while the revival of rice-fish culture is being considered in Italy. Although the scientific foundations of these systems as well as their regional diversity have yet to be fully understood, there is no doubt about their high level of efficiency, particularly regarding the use of natural resources. The extent of potential efficiency gains from integrated farming systems may be gauged by a report of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research 10 citing a twelve-fold increase in economic benefits from integrated rice-fish systems combined with vegetable or fruit crops grown on the bunds, as compared with traditional rice farming.

Generally, integrated pest management (IPM) practices are recommended for rice-fish farming. The use of pest- and disease-resistant rice varieties is encouraged to minimize the use of pesticide. In rice



monoculture, the chance of pests reaching a population level that economically justifies definite control action is usually low, and the potential income to be gained by integrating fish production shifts the economic threshold to a level that is even less likely to justify pest control. From the point of view of IPM, fish culture and rice farming are complementary activities because it has been shown that fish reduce pest populations. In Indonesia, evidence from the Inter-country Programme for Integrated Pest Control in Rice in South and Southeast Asia shows that the number of pesticide applications in rice-fields can be drastically reduced through IPM. Such a reduction not only lowers costs but also eliminates an important constraint to the adoption of fish farming. With savings on pesticides and additional earnings from fish sales, increases in net income on rice-fish farms are reported to be significantly higher than on rice monoculture farms by widely varying margins of 7 to 65 percent11.Viet Nam recent, experiments have demonstrated the effectiveness of carp as a means of biological control of snails, both in rice-fields and communal water reservoirs. In the Republic of Korea, researchers are focusing on the impact that indigenous fish species have on malaria vectors in rice-fields12


Efficient use of water resources

In economic terms, water use efficiency may be measured by the net economic benefits attained per unit of water. Fish and crustaceans are grown in artificial water bodies such as village tanks, reservoirs and channels whose primary purpose is water abstraction, storage and transport for use in agriculture and/or power generation and as drinking water. Engineering details of construction as well as seasonal water abstraction and use schedules can influence the potential of these structures for fish production. For example, rapid drawdowns in reservoirs may cause the loss of vital spawning habitat, thereby limiting fish production.

Under irrigated conditions, water losses associated with evaporation and seepage can be minimized by applying drip irrigation and by storing and transporting water in covered or underground structures. Since such measures impede fish production, however, the advantages of preventing water evaporation need to be compared with the economic and nutritional benefits derived from fish. Except for arid and semi-arid areas, water scarcity and evaporation rates may be too low to justify the cost of installing closed systems and forgoing the opportunities offered by fish production.     

Apart from the production of fish, the benefits gained through enhanced fish culture in reservoirs and channels often derive also from the maintenance of water quality and the physical functions of these bodies. Stocking with grass carp, for example, controls aquatic weeds in irrigation channels, thereby facilitating water flow and reducing evaporation rates during water transport. Stocking and fish culture can also reduce human health hazards caused by mosquitoes and other insects. Moreover, fish can be used to harvest certain plankton species and aquatic weeds, and thus indirectly reduce nutrient levels, thereby minimizing the harmful effects of eutrophication.


Use of biocides

The extent to which fish are able to tolerate pesticides and herbicides, including their residues, is an acknowledged indicator of the potential human health hazards associated with the use of these products in agriculture. Significant advancements have been made in recent decades in limiting undesired harmful effects of chemicals applied for pest and weed control. In fact, the negative impact of biocides on fisheries is often caused not so much by their use but rather by their inappropriate application, which may have wide-ranging effects on fish and other aquatic organisms. Mortality is not the only negative effect; equally serious consequences of biocide misuse include changes in an organism’s reproduction system, metabolism and growth patterns, in food availability and in population size and numbers, etc. If biocides are applied according to prescription, the risks for fish and fisheries can be minimized. Many governments have established lists of recommended pesticides and herbicides and have laid down regulations on imports and domestic production, while extension programmes and training of farmers in their correct use have expanded. All these measures help to reduce the risks of pest and weed control for fisheries and human health.


Nutrient runoff from fertilized agricultural fields and urban and industrial sewage discharge are the two main causes of nutrient enrichment of inland waters, near-shore marine waters and semi-enclosed water bodies such as the Mediterranean and Black Seas. The fisheries potential of nutrient-poor water bodies may initially increase owing to the enhanced availability of nutrients associated with agricultural runoff and other effluent, as has most likely happened in the Mediterranean Sea, which historically has been a nutrient-poor water body.


Overloading or excessive nutrient enrichment, however, can result in eutrophication, which may severely affect the reproduction, growth and survival of fish and other aquatic organisms by creating anaerobic conditions and by causing physical damage and intoxication associated with the occurrence of harmful algal blooms. Increasingly frequent occurrences and larger sizes of harmful, sometimes toxic, algal blooms in coastal marine waters have caused substantial losses to coastal fisheries and aquaculture over the last two decades. The contribution of agriculture to nutrient loading is often relatively small, but it is not insignificant. The introduction of sewage water treatment systems in the Austrian, German and Swiss communities and towns around Lake Constance over the past 20 years has led to a significant reduction in the lake’s nutrient loading.

Alterations in hydrological systems

Many of the world’s large and small river basins have undergone major human-induced changes in their hydrological regimes over the past 40 to 50 years. In some European river systems such as the Rhine, control measures were taken as far back as 100 years ago or more. The construction of dams, reservoirs, embankments, barrages and channels for purposes of water abstraction and storage, flood control, power generation and irrigation have produced large economic benefits. In some cases, these changes have also yielded large gains for fisheries in reservoirs, such as in Lake Kariba in Africa, as well as in irrigated rice-fields whose full fisheries potential still remains to be realized in many parts of the world.

In many other instances, modifications in hydrological systems have caused drastic declines in natural fish populations and dramatically reduced fish catches and incomes from fishing. In some cases where fish migration routes and spawning and nursery areas have been lost, species have become extinct. In many rivers of Europe, for example, wild stocks of salmon, sturgeon and Allis shad no longer exist.

Past experiences have greatly improved scientific knowledge regarding the short-term and long-term consequences of different designs and features of structural alterations to river basin hydrology. This expertise can now bear fruit by preserving the essential ecological features that sustain wild fish stocks and/or create optimal conditions for fish production in new reservoirs and channels. According to current ideas in the field of integrated water resources management (IWRM), ecosystems such as seasonal floodplains and coastal wetlands and estuaries are major water users that provide

essential permanent and seasonal habitat for fish and serve as repositories of aquatic biodiversity 13 . Wetlands are also important fish nurseries.

Soil and groundwater salination

In general, most culture-based fisheries and aquaculture activities have no or few significant negative environmental effects and are highly complementary to agriculture. However, shrimp culture practices have been associated with reduced agricultural yields in certain localities where soil conditions allowed saline water to seep through embankments and pond bottoms into adjacent fields. In addition, excessive abstraction of groundwater for various purposes such as agriculture, domestic water supply, industrial activities and, in some cases, shrimp culture, are causing seawater intrusion into coastal aquifers. Appropriate planning and allocation of land and water resources in coastal areas can help minimize the degradation of groundwater and soil quality resulting from salination. Furthermore, there are numerous experiences of the beneficial coexistence of coastal aquaculture and agriculture; for example, the rotational systems of rice-fish or rice-shrimp culture, where advantage is taken of saltwater-resistant paddy, an abundant freshwater influx in the rainy season and the opportunity to cultivate brackishwater aquaculture species.



Human resource development and institutional strengthening are widely held to be the principal requirements for improving integration at the level of individual farms and communities, in river basin and coastal area management and at the level of sectoral and macroeconomic policies. At the farm level, attention needs to focus first on resource use efficiency and the economic incentives that influence farmers when they decide on cropping patterns and the use of water, fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides and other inputs. Next, the emphasis should be on farmers’ knowledge of available production and pest management options as well as on their ability to apply these. Agriculture and aquaculture offer a large variety of cropping patterns under different climatic and soil conditions. If they have the right skills, together with access to the necessary inputs, farmers will adopt the farming or aquaculture system that is most suitable and economically advantageous for their specific situation. Extension and training are crucial for informed decision-making, and physical infrastructure, efficient input markets and credit


facilities are indispensable for the optimal development and integration of farming and aquaculture systems. Markets for certain important natural resource inputs, such as water, and the environment’s capacity to assimilate effluent are often entirely non-existent or distorted because of their common property or open access nature. The levying of use fees and/or the introduction of tradable rights have been suggested to achieve a higher level of efficiency in the use of water and other natural resources such as wild fish stocks. Resource management through such market-based instruments can entail high administrative costs because of the need to monitor individual farmers’ resource use and to institute well-defined and enforceable individual user rights. Where tradable rights are applicable, they may reinforce an inequitable distribution of incomes and assets, especially where other services (e.g. for credit) are inefficient.

The alternative approaches of co-management and community-based management of common property resources have received increasing attention in recent years because of their assumed greater efficiency and prevention of undesired distributional implications. Factors that users themselves have identified as being important for successful resource management include: small group size, which facilitates the formulation, observance and monitoring of a collective agreement; social cohesion; resource characteristics that facilitate the exclusion of outsiders; and visible signs of successful collective management 14 . These factors could well apply to a number of fisheries in reservoirs and other small water bodies, where the potential for self-management, however, is not utilized because responsibility is not delegated to the local level and collective rights are not sufficiently protected. Similar favourable conditions exist in many other situations, for example for resources such as water and mangrove forests where, again, the potential for effective management has yet to be realized. In addition to the recognition of common rights, community-based and co-management need support through extension and training services and scientific assessments of resource abundance.

At the level of river basins and coastal areas, integration is aimed at managing sectoral components as parts of a functional whole, explicitly recognizing that management needs to focus on human behaviour, not physical stocks of natural resources such as fish, land or water. Integrated river basin and coastal area management employs a multi-sectoral strategic approach to the efficient allocation of scarce resources among competing

uses and the minimization of unintended natural resource and environmental effects 15 . Land use planning and zoning, together with environmental impact assessment procedures, are vital tools for preventing the occurrence of antagonistic inter-sectoral interactions and for fostering synergistic and harmonious development while preserving ecosystem functionalities. The involvement of fisheries agencies in these activities therefore is absolutely essential.

The participation of all resource users and other stakeholders at an early stage is indispensable for effective land use planning and zoning, not least because of their intimate knowledge of local socio-economic conditions and the state of natural resources. At the government level, the functions of the various agencies with regulatory and development mandates need to be well coordinated. Two broad distinctions can be made in the wide range of possible institutional arrangements for integrated river basin and coastal area management:

Multi-sectoral integration.This involves coordinating the various agencies responsible for river basin and coastal management on the basis of a common policy and bringing together the various government agencies concerned as well as other stakeholders so that they can work towards common goals by following mutually agreed strategies.

Structural integration. Here, an entirely new, integrated institutional structure is created by placing management, development and policy initiatives within a single institution.

Multi-sectoral coordination tends to be preferred, since line ministries are typically highly protective of their core responsibilities and the associated power base and funding. The establishment of an organization with broad administrative responsibilities overlapping the traditional jurisdictions of line ministries as would be the case if management, policy and development functions were integrated within a single institution – is often likely to meet with resistance rather than co-operation. Integration and co-ordination should be thought of as being separate but mutually supportive 16 .

However, a caveat has arisen from experiences to date. Integrated planning and institutional coordination are often difficult to achieve and can entail significant costs. The difficulties and costs relate to the often cumbersome bureaucratic structures and procedures of government agencies; the complexity of the scientific, technical and economic issues involved; and the potentially large


number of informed decisions that need to be taken. In addition to high administrative costs, the decision-making process could be protracted and may unduly slow down economic development. Many river basin and coastal management issues can be addressed through sound sectoral management, but taking into full account the impacts of and interdependencies with other sectors and ecosystem processes 17 ; the provision and enforcement of environmental legislation; the need for a transparent and consultative process of land use planning and siting; and the design of major infrastructure projects such as dams. The costs of a formal process for the preparation of a river basin or coastal area management plan are always likely to be justified in areas where intense multi-sectoral resource utilization either exists or is planned. At the macro level, economic policies such as subsidies for production inputs and import and export duties can have profound impacts on the characteristics and level of resource use as well as on the occurrence of undesirable environmental effects. The advantages of subsidizing chemical inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides need to be weighed

against the potential harm they can do to aquatic environments and to fishery resources, which provide food for fishers and fish consumers alike. CONCLUSION

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Modern advances in information and data processing technologies have dramatically increased the capacity of humans to analyse complex multiple resource-use options and to link up large numbers of people into integrated decision-making structures. At the same time, new research findings have greatly broadened the understanding of local communities’ ability to co-ordinate common property resource use while maintaining their essential social and cultural attributes. Finally, governments have become more aware of sectoral and environmental inter-dependencies. Such all-round progress has created conditions favourable to the full realization of benefits resulting from the enhanced integration of fisheries and agriculture as well as their integration with the rest of the economy.


1 This article was prepared by Rolf Willmann, Matthias Halwart and Uwe Barg. Valuable comments on earlier drafts were received from Bram Born, Richard Grainger, James Kapetsky, Gerd Marmulla and Krishen Rana.

2 A household food consumption survey undertaken in north-eastern Thailand, for example, has revealed that fish consumption was five to six times higher than reported fish catches from the Mekong River (Mekong Fisheries Network Newsletter, August 1996, 2 (1)).

3 The importance of inland fisheries for food security has been highlighted by Coates, D. 1995. Inland capture fisheries and enhancement: status, constraints and prospects for food security. KC/FI/TECH 82p. Contribution to the International Conference on sustainable Contribution of Fisheries to Food Security, Kyoto, Japan, 4- 9 December 1995, organized by the Government of Japan, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

4 FAO. 1997. Inland Fisheries. FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries N 6. Rome, FAO.

5 FAO. 1997. Review of the state of world aquaculture. FAO Fish. Circ. 886, Rev. 2. Rome, FAO. 163p.

6 The development of agriculture implies that at least a minimum amount of physical and institutional infrastructure has already been developed. Kapetsky and Nath conclude that, in general, the conditions encouraging agriculture favour aquaculture development and vice versa. This fact has been used by these authors and by Aguilar-Manjarrez and Nath in their estimates of aquaculture potential in Africa and Latin America. See J.M. Kapetsky and S.S. Nath in FAO. 1997. A strategic assessment of the potential for freshwater fish farming in Latin America. COPESCAL Technical Paper N. 10. Rome; and J. Aguilar-Manjarrez and S.S. Nath in FAO. 1998. A strategic reassessment of fish farming potential in Africa. CIFA Technical Paper N. 32. Rome.

7 Many examples of traditional management of water resources and other common property or common pool resources can be found in National Academy Press. 1986. Proceedings of the Conference on Common Property Resource Management. Washington, DC.

8 Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia and the Pacific (NACA). 1989. Integrated fish farming in China. Technical Manual N. 7.


9 A recent review of the trends in rice-fish farming is provided by M. Halwart. 1998. Trends in rice-fish farming. In FAO Aquaculture Newsletter, N 18: 3-11.

10 K.C. Mathur. 1996. Rainfed lowlands become remunerative through rice-fish systems. Indian Council of Agricultural Research News, 2(1): 1-3.

11 See M. Halwart. 1998. Op. Cit.

12 Ibid.

13 A comprehensive discussion on this issue took place during the Expert Group Meeting on Strategic Approaches to Freshwater Management, organized by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and held in Harare, Zimbabwe, 27-30 January 1998.

14 See E. Ostrom. 1990. Governing the commons. The evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press; and J.-M. Baland and J.-P. Platteau. 1996. Halting degradation of natural resources. Is there a role for local communities? Published for FAO by Oxford University Press (Clarendon academic imprint), UK.

15 Fallon Scura, L. 1994. Typological framework and strategy elements for integrated coastal fisheries management. FAO/UNDP Project INT/91/007 "Integrated Coastal Fisheries management". FI:DP/INT/91/007. Field Document 2. Rome. 23p.

16 For this and other aspects of integration, such as conflict management and economic valuation of natural resources, see the detailed discussion in FAO. 1998. Integrated coastal area management and agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Edited by N. Scialabba. Rome.

17 This has been named "enhanced sectoral management" in a recent survey of coastal management programmes. See S. Olsen, K. Lowry, J. Tobey, P. Burbridge and S. Humphrey. 1997. Survey of current purposes and methods for evaluating coastal management projects and programs funded by international donors. Coastal Management Report N. 2200. Coastal Resources Center, University of Rhode Island, USA. A detailed discussion of integration aspects with respect to inland fisheries is provided in U. Barg, I.G. Dunn, T. Petr and R.L. Welcomme. 1996. Inland Fisheries. In A.K. Biswas, ed. Water Resources Environmental planning, management and development. New York, McGraw-Hill.