Integrating Agriculture, Fisheries and Ecosystem Conservation: Win-win Solutions
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Integrated Agriculture-Aquaculture (IAA) is essentially diversification of agriculture, leading to synergisms among sub-systems resulting in a higher productivity from land/water area under the farmers' control. One method of achieving this is adding a pond culture component to a farm system, basically to receive and utilize the nutrient inputs from the latter. The second method is physically integrating aquaculture into the other systems by modifying the farm design and operations. More than 30% of the total geographical area in 40 countries covering 9.2 million km2 in Sub-Saharan Africa is suitable for some form of integrated aquaculture. Based on the present production level, it has been projected that 35% of the Africa's increased requirement of fish in 2010 could be met by small scale fish farmers using IAA in just 0.5 % of the total potentially available area. The main motivations that enable farmers in adopting IAA are to i) reduce risk from cropping, ii) accumulate capital, iii) provide draught animal power and manure for fertilizer/fuel (in case of livestock), iv) satisfy cultural needs, v) enhance prestige/status, vi) provide food, and vii) generate income. An opportunity for further increased production in the flood-prone ecosystem is the integration of capture fisheries and fish culture with rice farming on a community management basis. However, a key requirement for win-win situation is the development and operation of a good governance system based on community approach in managing the IAA operations. This helps to ensure equity, minimize conflicts among stakeholders and ensure easy resolution of conflicts, should they arise. This has been shown to work very well in a floodplain rice-fish culture system, where in spite of individual ownership of rice plots, fish culture is done on a community basis. Rice-fish systems foster ecological conservation through a number of means such as use of natural organic inputs, least alteration in the physical habitat, safeguarding agro-biodiversity (both rice and fish), allowing free movement of wild stock (in flooded systems), efficient recycling of farm wastes, utilizing all possible synergisms in various farm sub-systems, encouraging community and participatory approach in managing the resources, which can facilitate mass awareness on conservation.