Photo credit: World Fish Center
Review: Abdel Rahman El Gamal (Founder of the website)
Rice and fish have been an essential part of the life of Bangladeshi people from time immemorial. Due to the high birth rate, the demand for rice and fish in Bangladesh is constantly increasing each year.
Bearing in mind that the total area of rice fields in Bangladesh is more than 10 million ha, the scope for increasing fish production through integrating aquaculture with rice seems highly promising.
The multiple benefits of the integration between rice and fish has been globally documented and could be summarized in enhancing farm productivity whether in biomass or in economics. Fish in rice field improves soil fertility through their organic waste. Moreover, Fish play a significant role in controlling aquatic weeds, algae and snails, and hence reduces the need for chemical spray leading to better farm economics within ecologically-sound low-cost, low-risk option for poor rice farmers in Bangladesh and elsewhere. More importantly, the integrated rice-fish leads to the production of a more balanced diet of rice as a main source of carbohydrate and fish which is an important animal protein source required for the health and well-being of farming households. The integration of aquaculture with rice can increase rice yields by 8 to 15% in addition to about 260 kg/ha of fish produced. Based on field surveys and studies, farmers households tend to eat small fish than sell them and hence fish consumption contributes significantly in the nutrition of children and lactating mothers to avoid child blindness and reduce infant mortality.
In integrated rice-fish culture in Bangladesh, the most common fish species are common carp, Nile tilapia, silver barb, and silver carp. Typically, farmers’ stock fish of about 4-8 cm in rice fields 15– 20 days after rice has been planted.
Although small-scale fish farming in rice fields relies on the natural food (phytoplankton, zooplankton, benthos), supplemental feeds are used by most farmers whereas on-farm inputs are used including rice bran, wheat bran and mustard oilcake, termites, vegetables, leaves, etc. The inserted picture shows a Bangladeshi women while feeding fish in the ditch of rice field.