Jamalpur is a region in northern Bangladesh. Many farmers are subsistence farmers, which means they only grow enough food for themselves and their families. Rice and wheat farming are most common in this area. The charity, Practical Action, has been supporting farmers in the region by introducing a new type of farming called rice-fish culture.
Rice grows in paddy fields. A paddy field is a level, flooded area. Practical Action has been working with small scale rice farmers on a technique called rice-fish culture. Rice-fish culture involves introducing small fish into the paddy fields. Not only do the fish thrive due to the dense vegetation protecting them from birds, but in turn they provide a natural source of fertiliser with their droppings, eat insect pests and help circulate oxygen around the paddy field. Keeping fish can increase yields by 10% as well as providing extra protein in the farmer’s diet. Fish is an excellent source of protein, bringing giving health benefits to people in the area. Additionally, due to the larger yields, farmers have extra rice they can sell at market.
Rice-fish farming in Bangladesh
Rice-fish farming is an excellent example of a sustainable approach to increasing food supplies as it does not involve any artificial fertiliser or pesticide. Also, it does not require expensive equipment or external expertise. It is also not harmful to the environment.
How does rice-fish cultivation work?
Farmers follow the steps below in developing rice-fish cultivation:
Practical Action works with a farmer to identify a site that will not be washed away if a flood happens;
A dyke is built approximately 60cm high around the edge of the field (this is to trap the fish and allow other crops to be grown around the side of the field);
A ditch for the fish to live in during the dry season is dug;
The farmer plants the rice in rows, 35cm apart. The farmer then fills 50% of the ditch with water;
The water is purified by adding lime;
When the rice starts to shoot, the water level across the field is increased to 12–15cm, and small fish or ‘fingerlings’ are released into the ditch.
As soon as they have got used to the rice field water, the farmer releases them into the field and raises the water level as both the fish and rice grow; and
4-5 months later, the rice is harvested. The field is drained and the fish are collected from the ditch where they can easily be caught.
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