Rice-fish Systems – Back to the Future
Designs on ancient Chinese pottery show us that integrated production of rice and fish in the same space is at least 2000 years old. Today, in a world where modern agricultural systems simultaneously fail to deliver nutritional benefits for huge numbers of people, wreak environmental damage, and are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, there is renewed interest in reviving and enhancing this age-old form of food production.
Research by World Fish, IWMI and IRRI, some of which is summarized in a newly published journal article, demonstrates that rice-fish systems can make efficient use of increasingly scarce water and land resources and reduce the need for chemicals in rice production. The fish both fertilize the rice and help control pests. In addition, rice-fish systems can contribute to local food and nutrition security and, because fish are worth more financially than rice and reduce the need for purchased inputs, often generate more income per hectare than rice monoculture. There is also evidence that rice-fish systems are more resilient to the impacts of extreme weather, further enhancing their sustainability.