Inland Fisheries

Culture of fish in rice fields

Managing inland fisheries

Rice today is grown in 113 countries in the world in a wide range of ecological conditions and water regimes. The cultivation of most rice crops in irrigated, rainfed and deepwater systems offers a suitable environment for fi sh and other aquatic organisms. Over 90% of the world’s rice, equivalent to approximately 134 million hectares, is grown under these fl ooded conditions providing not only home to a wide range of aquatic organisms, but also offering opportunities for their enhancement and culture. The purpose of this review is to synthesize available information and highlight the important role that aquaculture in rice-based farming systems can play for food security and poverty alleviation. Aquatic production, in addition to the rice crop itself, is a critically important resource for rural livelihoods in developing countries; its local consumption and marketing are particularly important for food security as it is the most readily available, most reliable and cheapest source of animal protein and fatty acids both for farming households as well as for the landless. This review describes the history of the practice and the different rice ecosystems in which fi sh farming takes place. The various production systems, including modifi cations of the rice fi elds necessary for integrating fi sh farming, and the agronomic and aquaculture management are examined. Pest management in rice has evolved tremendously over the past decades, and the culture of fi sh and other aquatic organisms can reinforce environmentally and economically sound farming practices. The real and potential impact of rice-fi sh farming in terms of improved income and improved nutrition is signifi cant but generally underestimated and undervalued. Hidden benefi ts of rice-fi sh farming such as risk reduction through diversifi cation of the farming system may have a strong attraction to many farmers and their families. Fish can be sold directly, or may reduce the dependence of families on other livestock which can then be traded for income. Also, fi sh from the rice fi elds may not be sold but the production may be used to feed relatives and those who assist in rice harvesting, a benefi t which could almost be considered essential in families with a labour shortage.