>> Saturday, July 18, 2009

The most impressive aspect of Chinese aquaculture that the study group observed was the integration of fish farming with livestock production and farming of agricultural crops, including vegetable farming. Integrated farming is a traditional. Chinese practice and, as mentioned earlier, has in recent years been further supported by the concept of an all-round 'development of agriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries and other sideline occupations. Although integrated farming is economically and environmentally sound, the motivation for integration would appear to be the national policy of diversification of production. 

 Nature of integration

The fish cultivated and the general farming practices are amenable to easy integration, The grass carp feeds on grass and other vegetable matter which can be grown on the dikes and adjacent agricultural land. They also feed on aquatic plants which can be raised in canals and other adjacent water bodies. Aquatic plants such as Pistia stratiotes, Eichhornia crassipes, Alternanthera phyloxorides and duck weeds, are grown for feeding fish or pigs and poultry on land. Sugar cane, corn and bananas are some of the other crops grown in association with fish farms. Ipomea aquatica, Lolium perenne, sorghum, maize and mulberry are also grown in many areas. The leaves, stalks or other waste products are chopped or crushed and fed directly to the fish or composted to be used as fertilizer. Silver carp and big head feed on plankton which can be grown by the application of organic manures provided by pigs, cattle, and chicken raised by the side of fish farms. As mentioned, pigsties are often built on pond dikes, facilitating the application of manure, either directly or after fermentation. Duck farming in association with fish, is also reported to be practised in a few places. In areas where silk production is prevalent, mulberries are planted on the pond dikes. The silkworm pupae and other wastes are used to feed the fish. Fish pond silt is an excellent fertilizer for land crops and is commonly used by farmers. In areas without adequate irrigation, pond water may also be used for irrigating crops, when necessary. The commune or production brigade members can also be considered as an element in this type of integration and recycling, as they eat fish and other farm products and human wastes are used to fertilize ponds and crop land.


In Lin Fu State Fish Farm in Hengyang, farming is closely associated with a winery. Waste water from the winery goes to the fish ponds for fertilizing and feeding fish and the solid wastes are fed to the pigs. The fish and wine, of course, go to feed man! In many places fish farms are also used for the rearing of the freshwater mussels, Anodonta and Hyriopsis, for the production of pearls. The methods adopted are described in FAO Fisheries Technical Paper, No. 168. 

The allocation of land and water for fish, crops and livestock varies. For example, in one state farm, about 60 percent of the land was devoted to fish culture, 14 percent to pigs and cattle, 14 percent to cultivation of fodder and 10 percent to growing rice and wheat. 

The experiences gained over several years of integrated farming of this type, when critically analysed and rationalized, could be of considerable value to all developing countries interested in integrated rural development. There are many aspects of such farming that are fascinating subjects for research, which, when carried out, could give a scientific understanding of the processes involved and consequently, lead to better management of the system. 

 Basis of fish, crop, and livestock combinations

About 20 000-25 000 jin of aquatic plants can be produced in every mu of water area and this will be enough to feed ten pigs. One mulberry tree can produce up to 270 jin of leaves. The production of sugar-cane leaves is estimated to be up to 12 000 jin per mu of land. Over 70 jin of grass or other plant material will be needed to produce 1 jin of grass carp and 200 jin of manure for producing 1 jin of silver carp of big head. Each pig produces 4 000-5 000 jin of manure a year and, based on local experience, about 3-5 pigs are grown for every mu of fish ponds. Similarly, 30 chickens are raised for every mu of fish ponds. It is estimated that a cow can produce 1 t of "manure water" per day and this is used to calculate the number of cattle to be raised. One mu of fish ponds produces 20 000-30 000 jin of silt and silt from 2 mu of fish ponds will fertilize about 1 mu of land. It should be pointed out that the above estimates are rather empirical and remain to be confirmed through critical studies. 

Advantages of integration

The advantages of integration are obvious. As far as fish production is concerned, it serves the major purpose of providing cheap feedstuffs and organic manure for the fish ponds, thereby reducing the cost and need for providing compounded fish feeds and chemical fertilizers. By reducing the cost of fertilizers and feedstuffs the overall cost of fish production is reduced and profits increased. The study group was told that the profit from fish culture is often increased 30-40 percent as a result of integration. Secondly, the overall income is increased by adding pig and/or poultry raising, grain and vegetable farming, etc., which supplement the income from fish farming. Thirdly, by producing grain, vegetables, fish and livestock products, the community becomes self-sufficient in regard to food and this contributes to a high degree of self-reliance. Fourthly, the silt from the ponds which is used to fertilize crops, increases the yield of crops at a lower cost and the need to buy chemical fertilizer is greatly reduced. It is estimated that about one third of all the fertilizer required for farming in the country comes from fish ponds. The production of freshwater pearls in fish ponds provides one more additional source of income. 

Management of integrated farms

Integrated farming calls for skill in different types of activity such as raising pigs and poultry, crop and vegetable farming, growing grass and aquatic plants and farming of fish. One person can take care of 6-8 ponds of 5-7 mu each; or 30-50 pigs or 500-1 000 chickens, but many of the activities, including harvesting, will need a large number of people. Obviously, if integrated farming has to be done on a large scale, a sufficient number of people with the required skills have to work together. The organization of production brigades and communes appears to be very well suited for the adoption of the practice. A production team may be found to be too small a unit, as was reported in Hengyang, where, with the introduction of integrated farming, the organizational and accounting unit was changed to production-brigade-level.


As pointed out earlier, the main motivation for integrated farming is the accepted national policy of all-round development, where the economic benefits of individual operations do not figure very prominently. The social and political milieu of the country is highly favourable for such development. From the limited experience in some other countries also, it appears that the introduction of integrated farming can play a major role in rural development in developing countries. However, the study group does not believe that the Chinese system can be transplanted as such to other countries. Species of fish, crops and livestock to be raised will have to be selected on the basis of local conditions and requirements. In most other developing countries the objectives of integrated farming will have to be heavily oriented to economic, social and nutritional benefits. Farmer cooperatives or other associations may have to be built up to meet the manpower requirements for economically viable units. Suitable pilot projects will have to be designed and implemented to test the systems and based on the results of such projects, further development will have to be planned.

Written by:

Md. Harun- Ar- Rashid

Regional Agricutural officer

Kampala, BRAC Uganda.


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