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Rome, ItalyAugust 1980


II.1 Characteristics of rice-fish culture

Rice-fish culture is an old and widespread practice in Asia (Japan, Philippines, Thailand, India) and Africa (Madagascar, Liberia). There are several forms of rice-fish culture.

Rice-fish culture cannot be carried out unless (a) the rice field is covered by at least 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inches) of water, which is usually possible with long-stemmed rice, and (b) fertilizer and pesticides are used in such low concentrations that they do not become toxic to the fish.

The major advantages associated with rice-fish culture (when compared to only rice culture for any given area) are:

Fish yields in rice fields have been recorded as high as 400 kg/ha for growing periods of 120 days.

II.2 Government intentions with regard to rice-fish culture

Most rice eaten in Jamaica is imported. It is only recently that the Government has started promoting mechanized rice culture. The first such scheme is located at Elim, St. Elizabeth. In mid-1980, about 300 acres of rice fields had been developed at Elim. They are managed by the Black River Upper Morass Development Company (BRUMDEC). Elsewhere in Jamaica, small farmers grow floating (Buffalo type) rice. In total, Buffalo rice is grown on about 250 hectares.

The Government is presently engaged in three irrigation and drainage projects, all managed by BRUMDEC. At Elim, it is intended to have 3 000 acres under rice; at Meylersfield, Westmoreland, 1 350 acres, and at Hague, Trewlany (close to Falmouth) 500 acres. Planting of rice is about to start at Meylersfield. By the end of 1980, there should be about 900 acres under cultivation at Elim. If the projects are implemented according to schedule, some 4 850 acres (1 950 ha) should be under cultivation by 1985.

Artisanal-level rice culture can be expanded. Whether the expansion can take place using systems and varieties such that rice-fish culture can be practised, remains to be determined.

Both at Elim and at Meylersfield, the Government intend to transfer to farmers the land now being developed. At Elim, plots will vary between 5 and 25 acres, at Meylersfield, small-holders, with between 2 to 5 acres, will be encouraged to acquire the Government land.

In these schemes, BRUMDEC is giving priority to rice cultivation (amongst many possible crops) as a means of assisting in the reduction of Jamaica's foreign exchange bill.

II.3 Technical feasibility of rice-fish culture

At Elim, a number of rice strains have been tried out. At present, culture is concentrated on CICA 4 and CICA 9 (obtained from CEAT, Cali, Colombia). The plants are about 60 cm and 90 cm respectively.

The rice is machine sowed. As soon as it is well established, usually after about 20 days, water is let onto the fields to a depth of between 7.5 to 15 cm. The water is kept on the field at this depth for about 100 days.

The rice field is fertilized, before sowing, with NPK. Ammonium-sulphate is applied after 21 days, and again 50 days after sowing. Depending on the availability of water, the field may be drained for the application of ammonium-sulphate. Trials in Madagascar show that, at the doses applied at Elim, there is no danger to tilapia and carp, given that the field has drains and a hole (as described in paragraph II.4 of this paper).

The rice fields are sometimes sprayed to prevent blast (Piricularia oryzae). No preventive spraying is done against insects. Weeding is presently done manually. Herbicides are available but not used, as the cost is reported to be prohibitive.

Fields will be better levelled to increase the productivity, now at about 1 500 kg paddy per acre and harvest. BRUMDEC intends also to try out other varieties of rice.

A BRUMDEC representative has agreed that rice-fish culture trials may be done after modification of a few acres of existing rice fields in the BRUMDEC experimental plots.

Present rice culture practises at Elim are compatible with culture of fish in the same fields. There is sufficient water and fertilizer; pesticides and other chemicals used are of acceptable levels. At Meylersfield, a slight salinity may make Tilapia mossambica the preferred species for culture, while T. nilotica and common carp can be cultured at Elim.

II.4 Rice-fish culture from the point of view of the farmer

Each rice field will need a perimeter drain of about 16 x 12 inches (40 x 30 cm). The earth so excavated will be used to raise the dikes surrounding the fields to a level of about 20 inches (50 cm). In the shallowest corner of the pond, a hole of about 30 x 30 x 30 inches (0.8 x 0.8 x 0.8 metres) should be dug. This hole serves to protect fish when the pond is drained. Water inflow and outflow should be screened.

For a 1 ha1 rice field, some 50 to 60 m3 of earth would have to be excavated. If done in wet soil, this task should not require more than 30–40 man-days. The area of the rice field will be reduced by the excavation of the perimeter drain, but not by more than about 4 percent. This reduction will be compensated by the higher rice yields on the remaining surface of the field. It is reported that the increase in paddy yield can reach as much as 15 percent, and even a 10 percent increase in the yield per unit of cultivated area would lead to an increase in overall production of paddy from the field of about 6 percent. The farmer should have screens for the water inflow and outflow, buckets and handnets. Jamaican $ 100 should be more than sufficient to buy these items. Placing labour costs at a high J.$ 10 per day, total investments needed to make fish culture possible in a rice field of one hectare, should total less than J.$ 600 (U.S.$ 343).

The major costs of operation will be the purchase of fingerlings. At a price for fingerlings equal to present price of fish, the cost of fingerlings per hectare may reach U.S.$ 100. When culturing only rice, the farmer spends time on weeding, water management and bird control. The introduction of fish into the field will reduce the time spent on weeding (reported to be in the order of 10 days/ha and crop at Elim) but some additional time will be needed on dike maintenance. The farmer will need some help to harvest the fish. Overall, there will hardly be any change in labour requirements.

1 Rice fields may be smaller or larger. One hectare is used here for ease of calculation.


The Government of Jamaica is investigating ways to increase local food production, and thereby reduce imports. One possibility under investigation is rice-fish culture.

A preliminary investigation in mid-1980 by the Aquaculture Development and Coordination Programme (ADCP), a FAO/UNDP inter-regional programme, concluded that:

The ADCP Mission through this report, proposes that a one-year pilot rice-fish culture project be carried out. It would involve the modification of about 2 acres of rice fields, both at Elim and at Meylersfield, and require the services of a rice-fish culture technician.

The project would be the start of a Government policy aiming to introduce and popularize rice-fish culture. The trials should have the following objectives:

In addition, the rice-fish culture technician should:

The technician would be needed for a period of one year.

Personnel costs, plus transport, account for the dominant part of project costs, estimated at a total of about US$ 75 000, out of which it is proposed that FAO arrange for the funding of about US$ 28 400.

The introduction of fish into the rice fields will make it desirable to raise the level of water in the field sooner than might otherwise have been the case. At Elim, it is suggested that the level be raised to about 22 cm 30 days after sowing. As the water surface area remains unchanged, evaporation rates should not be affected by the introduction of fish, and as the great loss of water is through evaporation, the increase in water use caused by raising the water level is negligible. On the other hand, the introduction of fish means that the fields should not be drained for the application of fertilizers. This may mean some saving of water.

Calculating with an 80 days growing period (the fields are drained 10 days before harvest, which takes place 120 days after sowing), 10 percent mortality (due to birds) and an average growth of 0.75 g/day (for Tilapia nilotica), 250 kg of fish could be produced during one crop (300 kg harvested, less 50 kg of fingerlings) on a 1 ha field1. At a price of U.S.$ 1.50/kg, the harvest of fish would be worth U.S.$ 450. At present, the value of the paddy per ha and crop is estimated to be between U.S.$ 1 000 and 1 100.

Thus it would seem possible that with the first harvest the farmer would have paid himself for the effort of arranging the rice field (U.S.$ 343) for fish culture. Subsequent harvests of fish should give him sizeable profits.

II.5 Rice-fish culture - Its role in the Jamaican economy

A 1974 survey showed that in lower income groups the protein consumption falls short of FAO/WHO Recommended Daily Allowance by 14 percent. Since 1974 fish is not likely to have maintained its share in the diet of the average Jamaican. Fish production has stagnated and imports, after a decrease in 1977, have remained at the early 1970 level in spite of a growing population.

The project document for the ongoing AID inland fisheries project, reports (page 4): “Jamaica has always relied heavily on imports to meet its food needs. For example, from 1973 to 1978, food imports averaged $ 151 million per year, 18.6 percent of all imports for that period. These imports have contributed to the serious balance of payment deficit, which has risen from $ 69 million in 1972 to $ 284 million in 1978. Resulting from deficits in locally produced food, Jamaica imported 40 million pounds of fish per year from 1968 to 1976, of which 30 million pounds would be competitive with freshwater fish”. The import figure refers to product weight.

While per caput supply of fish (live weight equivalent) is one of the highest in the Caribbean (above 30 kg/inhabitant/year live weight equivalent), about three quarters of the fish is imported. For a long time to come, it is likely that foreign exchange saving is going to remain an overall priority for the Government of Jamaica; thus, replacing fish imports will continue to be an objective for fisheries policy.

There is increasing evidence that the marine fish stocks supporting the traditional Jamaican canoe fisheries, both in inshore and offshore bays, are at, or near, their optimum level of exploitation. Marine fish landings stagnated during the 1970s. While there are demersal resources capable of sustaining an increased fishing effort on grounds accessible to Jamaican-based, modern fishing vessels, were they to be introduced, those resources fall under the jurisdiction of Central American nations. Negotiations for access to those resources, carried out by Jamaica during most of the 1970s, had not, by mid-1980, yielded permits allowing significant quantities to be harvested.

1 Rice bran can be supplied as feed. Such a practice would increase yields but would, naturally, depend on possible other usages for rice bran.

In 1980, aquaculture is thus almost the only way left open for Jamaica to increase its fish production. Present aquaculture production is low. In mid-1980, slightly more than 100 fish ponds were reported to be in use. Most of them are a few ares in size. The recently started AID sponsored inland fish culture programme aims at popularizing this practise, and to arrive at a Jamaican production from fresh water aquaculture of about 2 700 t/year by 1983. If achieved, it would amount to an addition of almost 30 percent to Jamaican produced fish (almost all of which is marine), but to only about 10 percent of imports (landed weight equivalent) registered at present. Thus there is still need for considerable increase in national fish production.

Assuming that the practice of fish culture in rice fields were carried out in 2 500 acres (or 1 000 ha) and that an average crop will yield about 100 kg of fish per acre, with two rice and fish crops per year, total fish production from rice fields would be about 500 tons.

Rice-fish culture is extensive in nature. It does not require foreign inputs of any significance, in addition to those already used in the cultivation of rice. It represents an excellent manner of combining food production with foreign exchange savings.

Given the limited costs associated with trials and introduction of rice-fish culture, it would seem an excellent use of government resources.


The long term objective of the project is to introduce and popularize fish culture amongst rice farmers in Jamaica.

During the project's life-time, rice-fish culture trials should be started at Elim and at Meylersfield. They should have the following objectives:

In addition, the rice-fish culture technician should:


IV.1 Operation of experimental farms

Two experimental farms would be established, one at Elim and one at Meylersfield. Each farm would have 8 ponds, each of one-quarter of an acre (10 ares). In each of the ponds, rice would be grown as it is now grown at Elim, but with two modifications. Water depth will be increased to 9 inches (or more) as soon as feasible after sowing, and fields will not be drained for application of fertilizer.

At each unit, four different fish stocking rates should be used (see below), each stocking rate being applied to two ponds. Each stocking rate should be repeated during three cycles. The pilot programme will, thus, last about one year and a half, and for each “farm” there will be six results for each stocking rate. Succeeding trials would attempt to establish optimum stocking rates.

Pond No. 1 Pond No. 2 
Stocking rate:common carpStocking rate:common carp
2 000/acre2 000/acre
Pond No. 3 Pond No. 4 
Stocking rate:common carpStocking rate:common carp
1 000/acre1 000/acre
T. mossambicaT. mossambica
1 000/acre1 000/acre
Pond No. 5 Pond No. 6 
Stocking rate:common carpStocking rate:common carp
1 000/acre1 000/acre
T. niloticaT. nilotica
1 000/acre1 000/acre
Pond No. 7 Pond No. 8 
Stocking rate:common carpStocking rate:common carp
1 000/acre1 000/acre
T. mossambicaT. mossambica
T. niloticaT. nilotica

Work will be supervised by an expatriate technician who knows both rice culture and fish culture. He will be responsible for procuring fingerlings, preparation of ponds, recording of activities (application of fertilizers, level of water, fish kills, etc.) and for training of the local technicians.

IV.2 Training

  1. Two Jamaican technicians will each spend 6 weeks in the Philippines to familiarize themselves with:

  2. subsequently, an expatriate expert in rice-fish culture will give on-the-job training to two Jamaican technicians, one at Meylersfield and one at Elim, during 12 months of pilot project operations.

IV.3 Description of project activitiesDurationStarting Date
 (a)Study tour to the Philippines for 2 Jamaican fishery officers6 weeks 
 (b)Recruitment of expatriate rice-fish culture technician 
 (c)Preparation of 8 rice fields, each of one-quarter acre at Elim2 weeks
 (d)Preparation of 8 rice fields, each of one-quarter acre at Meylersfield2 weeks
 (e)Stocking of rice fields with fingerlings4 months per trial
 (f)Monitoring of fish growth and rice culture practices
 (g)Harvesting of fish
 (h)Techno-economic evaluation of rice-fish culture trialsContinuing
 (i)Preparation of report on trialsContinuing

IV.4 Follow-up

It is unlikely that all trials will have been completed by the time the expatriate technician leaves. At that time, the Jamaican technicians should have acquired the knowhow necessary to continue.

The extension work needed to bring the results of the project to the farmers will be carried out subsequent to the project.


(a)Technical Assistance PersonnelU.S.$
A freshwater aquaculturist with experience in rice-fish culture should make two visits to the project; the first when the rice fields are ready and fingerlings are about to be introduced, and the second before the departure of the rice-fish technician5 000
One light vehicle for the rice-fish culture technician6 000
Equipment and spare parts3 000
(c)Funding for TCDC activitiesU.S.$
Top-up of salary of expatriate rice-fish culture technician: U.S.$ 700/month8 400
Printing of report2 000
Tickets for 2 Jamaican fishery officers Kingston/Manila and return4 000
(d)Total FAO Costs28 400


The rice-fish culture technician will prepare and submit a technical report on the execution of each trial on culture of fish in rice-fields at Elim and at Meylersfield. These reports should describe the activities which the technician has undertaken to achieve the objectives listed in Section III of this document. These reports should be submitted within one month of the termination of the trials and supplied in two copies, one to FAO and one to the Government of Jamaica. A final report should be provided within one month of the termination of field activities.


(a) Government of Jamaica

The Government of Jamaica should provide the foreign rice-fish culture technician, with:

(b) TCDC participating country

The Government of the TCDC participating country should provide a technician in rice-fish culture (i.e., someone who has personal experience both in rice culture and fish culture) for a period of 12 months. While in Jamaica, the technician should receive an appropriate Philippine Government salary in convertible currency.

It should provide the technician it sponsors with air travel from his home country to Kingston and back.

It should furthermore provide internal travel, board and lodging for two Jamaican fishery officers while on study tour in the Philippines.

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