16 October 2019

World Food Day

Wu Lizhen

“Our traditional fish-rice farming method is now recognized as a one-thousand-year-old treasure.”

China

 

Like many others, Wu Lizhen’s children have migrated away from Zhejiang Province in China in search of work. An estimated 230 000 people in Qingtian County, where Wu lives, now reside abroad.

“My son is in Brazil, and my daughter is in Spain,” Wu says.

Now, an ancient, local tradition is bringing modern benefits to her county, thanks to FAO recognition of a 1 200-year-old farming system that combines rice growing with fish production.

This time-tested system has been designated a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) by FAO, making Qingtian County famous for something other than emigration.

In Wu’s hometown of Longxian village, the rice paddies offer protection and organic food for the fish, while the fish soften the soil and provide nutrients and oxygen for the rice crop.

The fish also eat insects and weeds, helping to maintain a perfect ecological balance that improves biodiversity while limiting production problems.

The rice-fish system has attracted bird species which had disappeared in recent decades. It’s also helped to increase household food security for people like Wu.

“People were so amazed by the beauty and wonder of the rice-fish culture system that our village has become the focus of international attention,” says Wu, a participant in the GIAHS programme.

In connection with the programme, government experts helped the villagers to plan for conservation and expansion. As Wu’s village became famous, many city dwellers and some foreigners began arriving for holidays.

“I seized the opportunity to open the first locally-owned and operated restaurant in Longxian village, selling fish produced from the rice fields,” says Wu.

As of August 2019, there were 57 GIAHS sites in 21 countries.

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