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Ivory Coast rice-fish farming improves yields

On October 10th, the Ivory Coast’s National Agency for Rural Development (ANADER) announced the results of its field trial in integrated rice-fish farming. Integrated rice-fish farming is the practice of cultivating fish and rice on the same irrigated plot.

Four rice varieties improved yields in the trial.  A new variety called ‘CB one’ yielded 8.5 tonnes per hectare under the integrated technique as compared to an average yield figure of 6 tonnes per hectare. ‘CY2’ yielded 5.6 tonnes per hectare in the trial compared to 4 tonnes on average. ‘Jasmine’ produced 2.6 tonnes per hectare as compared to 2 tonnes on average. ‘Orilux’ yielded 3.5 tonnes as compared to 2.5 on average. Between 3 to 5 tonnes of fish were cultivated per hectare.

Rice-fish farming has been practiced in China for around 2000 years, making up 4.5% of its current total rice planting. It is a recent introduction to West Africa but the region’s many floodplains and valleys offer suitable conditions for this sustainable method of irrigated farming.

Since the 1990s, the Ivory Coast’s National Centre for Agronomic Research has been adapting integrated rice-fish farming techniques to regional conditions. The recent trials were the first stage in a national project to promote the practice within agricultural communities. Sites were located in Abronamoué, San Pedro in Petit Pedro, Soubré in Sayo, Oumé in Tonla and Yamoussoukro in ​​Petit Bouaké. The project has been funded by the Interprofessional Fund for Agricultural Research and Advisory Services (FIRCA) through the Competitive Fund for Sustainable Agricultural Innovation (FCIAD) since June 2019.

Integrated rice-fish farming is a bio-based circular system that minimises inputs and waste. The rice and fish form a mutualistic relationship that benefits both species. For example, the fish eats pests and weeds while the rice reduces ammonia concentrations and shelters fish from predators. Studies have shown that the method contributes to pest control, reduces agrochemical inputs, improves soil nutrient availability, increases yields, and holds economic benefits. Elie Memel Esmel, head of ANADER’s research and development division, stated that it offers improved rice production, rationalised water management, and a way to augment farmer incomes through crop diversification.

For the last two decades, organisations around the world have been promoting rice-fish aquaculture as part of West African development strategies. Launched in May 2021, the EU’s DeSIRA Integrated Rice-Fish Farming System Project provides capital and training for Liberian farmers interested in adopting the method. Feed the Future, a US government food security initiative, is researching rice-fish farming in Nigeria. China has also been supporting rice-fish farming in Nigeria, Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Mali since 2002 under a South-South cooperation programme financed by the FAO-China Trust Fund.

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