Culture of Fish in Rice Fields
by Matthias Halwart ,Modadugu V. Gupta
Publisher: FAO, and the WorldFish Center, Penang, Malaysia.
“There is rice in the fi elds, fi sh in the water.” This sentence inscribed on a stone tablet from the
Sukhothai period - a Thai kingdom that fl ourished 700 years ago - depicts a scene that must have
been as idyllic then as it continues to be now.
Having rice in the fi elds and fi sh in the water is an epitome of abundance and suffi ciency. No other
combination would seem to be so fundamental and nutritionally complete in the Asian context.
As such, few other plant and animal combinations seem to be more appropriate to culture together
to improve nutrition and alleviate poverty. Fish culture in rice fi elds provides the means for “the
contemporaneous production of grain and animal protein on the same piece of land”
(Schuster 1955), and in this environmentally conscious age, few other food production systems
seem more ecologically sound and effi cient. In the strictest sense rice-fi sh farming means the
growing2 of rice and fi sh together in the same field at the same time. However, it is also taken to
include the growing of rice and fi sh serially one after another within the same fi eld or the growing
of rice and fi sh simultaneously, side by side in separate compartments, using the same water.
Fish by no means strictly refers to fi n-fi sh. It means aquatic animals living in rice fi elds
including freshwater prawn, marine shrimp, crayfi sh, crab, turtle, bivalve, frog, and even insects.