Recent Developments in Rice-Fish Culture in China: A Holistic Approach for Livelihood Improvement in Rural Areas

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Abstract

Rice field-fish culture, also popularly referred to as rice cum fish culture, is a traditional integrated fish-rice production system. The earliest practices can be traced back to more than 2,000 years ago. China is the largest producer of fish and rice in the world. Rice-fish culture has achieved significant development in China in the past three decades, in spite of the major socioeconomic changes that have occurred during this period. There are some 1.55 million ha of rice-fish culture in China now, which produces approximately 1.16 million tons of fish products (2007), in addition to about 11 million tons of high quality rice. Fish production from rice— fish culture has increased by 13-fold during the last two decades in China. Rice-fish culture is now one of the most important aquaculture systems in China. While making significant contribution to rural livelihood and food security, development of rice-fish culture is an important approach for environment friendly holistic rural development, and epitomizes an ecosystems approach to aquaculture.

Rice-fish culture in China utilizes a range of production systems and practices, but all contribute to eco-environmental benefits and sustainable development. Many factors have contributed to these developments, but equally and still, there are challenges that need to be addressed for up-scaling these production systems and practices.

It is estimated that the area under rice cultivation in Asia approximates 140.3 million ha, accounting for 89.4% of the world total. The potential for development of rice-fish culture is very high in the region. The successful experiences and lessons of rice-fish culture development drawn from China can be a good reference for sustainable rice-fish culture development in the region as well as other parts of the world, thereby contributing further to food security and poverty alleviation.