FAO: Progress being made in Asia-Pacific’s agro-aquaculture growth
The Asia-Pacific region is witnessing considerable advancements on approaches that combine agriculture and aquaculture, which are leading to improved livelihoods for smallholders, according to senior officials at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
While the practice of adding fish to flooded rice paddies was established hundreds of years ago in China, and is now recognized as one of the country’s Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS), the approach is being practiced in many other countries around the region. In more recent years, other agro-aquaculture systems have followed, such as mixing shrimp into flooded paddies.
In these systems, fish eat pests in the water and their excrement fertilizes the plants.
FAO and member countries are studying and promoting new innovations within these traditional practices, taking into account varying socio-economic and environmental conditions.
The organization said that introducing these methods would help to improve the income of small rice farmers where innovation in agro-aquaculture can easily double the economic return. These can significantly improve productivity from the crop system.
For instance, good rice-fish farming practice can increase the rice yield by 20 percent while producing tons of fish and other aquatic animals, it said.
Methods have been discussed at a regional workshop on innovative agro-aquaculture for blue growth in Asia-Pacific with 25 senior government officials from Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines and Vietnam.
The workshop was convened jointly by FAO’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and FAO’s Strategic Program on Sustainable Agriculture in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences (CAFS). It emphasized the potential to scale up agro-aquaculture with more robust market-oriented production and an eye to better value chain development, particularly with respect to small-scale rice farming, which would greatly benefit smallholder livelihoods.
“In promoting innovative integrated agro-aquacultural systems-such as rice-farming systems to areas where these are still not common practices, it is key to take up a truly multi-stakeholder approach. There is an increasing potential to promote such systems in a number of Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Philippines, Lao PDR or Myanmar, but also in other areas of the world. South-South Cooperation is a very appropriate platform to scale up innovative rice-fish and other IAA farming systems,” said Hans Dreyer, director of FAO’s Agriculture Production and Plant Protection Division.
“Innovative integrated agro-aquaculture is recognized as an effective approach to promote aquaculture for improved efficiency and sustainable growth by the Chinese government. The Chinese Academy and its subsidiary institutions have been supporting the innovation and dissemination of integrated agro-aquaculture farming technology and management practices across China and have made great achievements. CAFS will closely collaborate with FAO to support the dissemination and scaling up of successful stories in Asia,” said Cui Lifeng, president of CAFS.
Workshop participants were also to visit field sites and share the status of adoption of different systems and practices among the participant countries. Country teams are also expected to draft national strategies and develop business plans for scaling up appropriate innovative agro-aquaculture farming systems and practices.