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1,000-year-old Chinese farming technique a big hit with the UN

  • 15
  • 09
  • 2016

Jose Graziano da Silva is onto something fishy, but it’s not exactly something new. The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations praised the practice of raising fish in rice paddies for environmental and community reasons.

It’s a good thing he found out about this technique. Don’t tell Mr. da Silva, but Chinese farmers have known about the practice for at least 1,000 years.

Rice fish culture

In his search for sustainable farming techniques around the world, da Silva was impressed with this agricultural practice so typical to Chinese mountainsides. He visited Qingtian county in in the mountainous area of East China’s Zhejiang province on his journey to find sustainable farming practices.

Not only do the farmers benefit from the practice, but it also creates a win-win situation for the fish and the rice. The rice plants give shelter to the fish from the sun and birds of prey, while the fish eat the larvae and weeds that would otherwise inhibit the plant’s growth. In addition, the fish fertilize the soil after they’re done eating.

This practice means that the yield from fish and rice plants is greater than it would have been if the two weren’t combined. It also cuts down on using fertilizers and uses less space than separate fish or rice techniques.


As a final benefit, da Silva praised the community aspect of the whole situation as well. “Not only the environment is preserved and used in a sustainable way, but also it generates benefits for the local community.” The green farming technique draws tourists from nearby regions (and the occasional UN Director-General), thereby adding an extra stream of revenue for farmers.

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