FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Farming rice and fish together is helping to reduce rural poverty in Asia-Pacific

19/06/2017 Yunnan, China

Rice is a major food commodity and staple food for many, and adding fish to flooded rice paddies has been a farming tradition practiced in some Asian countries for many centuries. With the adoption of innovative technologies and a wider choice of fish species and rice varieties, the rice-fish farming system can play a significant role in poverty reduction and improving food and nutrition security.

A prime example of this successful practice is found in Honghe County of China’s Yunnan Province.

“Agriculture, integrated with fish farming, supports rural and indigenous communities and can significantly help countries address the challenges of poverty alleviation as well as improved food and nutrition security,” said Matthias Halwart, Senior Officer and Outreach Coordinator of FAO’s Sustainable Agriculture Programme. “The rice-fish farming system we witnessed here, also recognized as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS), represents the wisdom of millennia of farming, nowadays strengthened by innovative aspects such as public private partnership.”

Halwart also pointed out that there is scope for a wider adoption of rice-fish systems in the region and beyond. He noted that FAO was very pleased to partner with China as part of the Belt and Road Initiative and through its FAO China South-South Cooperation Programme to support countries on their path towards more sustainable agricultural systems.

Regional workshop on agro-aquaculture

A group of agro-aquaculture experts from seven Asian countries attending an FAO regional workshop on innovative integrated agro-aquaculture in Asia, visited the rice-fish farming systems in the terraced rice field in Honghe, where fish is integrated in rice paddy to achieve higher yield and better quality of rice topping with fish as an additional commodity. As a result, the value of the combined output has tripled.

Honghe is a mountainous area where more than 85 percent of inhabitants are the indigenous ethnic group called “Hani” and who are traditional rice growers in the terraced rice paddy. The county has been identified in the country’s list of poverty reduction areas.

The Freshwater Fisheries Research Center (FFRC) in Wuxi of China, which is an FAO Reference Centre for Fisheries and Aquaculture, has provided technical support and backstopping to Honghe on the rice-fish farming system and set up an experimental station. The experts from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, and Viet Nam said they were convinced that the experience of Honghe could be replicated in their respective countries to help the local farmers in their fight against hunger and to improve their livelihoods and reduce poverty.

The group further recommended that FAO set up a rice-fish farming demonstration village in Honghe to showcase their experiences and good practices.

Xu Pao, a professor and Director of FFRC, stressed the importance of cooperation among the countries concerned to share experiences and expressed a willingness to continue providing technical support and assistance for the technology transfer on rice-fish farming, not only to farmers in Honghe but nationally and internationally.

The experts participating in the workshop and site visit noted the importance of using scarce resources efficiently and manage to grow nutritious and safe food with a minimum of potentially harmful chemicals. They also concluded that promoting an enabling policy environment and providing necessary technical expertise are critical elements in developing their business plans.

The group agreed to continue collaborating and to develop a regional strategy for upscaling the rice-fish farming systems through a regional technical cooperation programme, supported by various funding sources, through south-south cooperation. 

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