Rationale of integrated farming
The peasant economies, under which farming of fish originated, probably
accounted for the practice of integrating it with crop and animal production.
It is an ancient practice in China and the immigrant Chinese have introduced it
into several Southeast Asian countries. Historically, fish farming has been a
part-time activity of peasant farmers, who developed it as an efficient means
of utilizing farm resources to the maximum extent. Farm ponds and reservoirs
had to be constructed and maintained as sources of water supply for farm
animals and plants, and it was only logical that non-consumptive uses for these
water bodies would be developed in the course of time.
Fish culture can be carried out in these waters without a great deal of
additional expense and with minimum adverse effects on crop and animal farming.
It is a means of diversifying farm outputs and producing food for the peasant
families and neighbourhood populations. The labour required can easily be
shared between family members or even hired labour, with much of the hard
labour being carried out when there is less demand for other farm activities.
Farm wastes can be used for fertilizing and feeding the fish and accumulations
of silt in the ponds can be used for fertilizing agricultural crops, vegetables
and fruit trees grown around the pond farms. The embankments of the farm can be
used very conveniently for the cultivation of different cash crops. The ponds,
together with their embankments, also provide suitable areas for raising ducks.
The ponds are generally built on low-lying areas not suited for
agriculture and therefore they do not in any way affect crop production. In
fact, it is a means of land reclamation in certain areas and the relatively
wide embank-ments built in such pond farms serve to increase the total land
area available for crop and animal farming. Integrated farming of fish and
ducks has been developed as a means of reclaiming sodic soils for agriculture
in countries such as Hungary.
Because of the role that such integrated farming can play in increasing
the employment opportunities, nutrition and income of rural populations, it has
received considerable attention in recent years. Besides many developing
countries of Asia, some in Africa (Madagascar, Central African Republic,
Zambia) and South America (Panama, Brazil) have introduced this system on a
pilot or larger scale. Some of the East European countries have expanded and
improved in recent years the practice of integrating animal production with
fish culture. The rationale of rice-field aquaculture is also very similar.
Flooded fields which lie fallow after harvest were used to raise crops of fish.
The benefits derived from this practice led to the cultivation of fish along
with rice. Such farming flourished under circumstances where rice farming and
fish culture were truly comple-mentary and there were no conflicts in the
The basic principles involved in integrated farming are the utilization
of the synergetic effects of interrelated farm activities, and the
conservation, including the full utilization, of farm wastes. It is based on
the concept that ‘there is no waste’, and ‘waste is only a misplaced resource
which can become a valuable material for another product’ (FAO, 1977).
Thiswould seem to imply as well a certain amount of self-reliance and the
minimum use of inputs from outside the farm. In an integrated farm, the
importance of different crops may not be the same, from the point of view of
production capacity, inputs involved and benefits gained. In China there are
farms where fish are the main crop and livestock and agriculture of secondary
importance. In others, livestock or agricultural crops form the mainstay. The
allocation of land and water for fish, crops and livestock also varies. For
example, in a state farm in China, about 60 per cent of the land was devoted to
fish culture, 14 per cent to pigs and cattle, 14 per cent to the cultivation of
fodder and 10 per cent to growing rice and wheat (UNDP/FAO, 1979). The use of
animal manure in fish ponds for promoting live food production is an ancient
practice in Asia and there is as yet no evidence that this causes the
transmission of pathogenic organisms to humans through fish.