Our Programme Foci
Ecological Agriculture
Where We Work: Guizhou

The Ecological Agriculture of Fish Farming in Paddy fields in Liping, Guizhou - Continuing the Ancient Farming System of People in Baiyue (Southern China)

In old times, ancestors of the Baiyue people (southern China) grew glutinous rice in marshes. Marshland flourished with micro-organisms, plants and animals, which co-existed harmoniously in interdependent relationships. “Fish farming in paddy fields” is a way to continue the ancient farming methods of the people of Baiyue.

In Liufang village in Guizhou, Dong people have long been practicing rice-duck-fish integrated farming. Paddy fields are used as the basis of this mode of farming, which has not only a cultural but ecological value in terms of the harmonious co-existence of human beings and nature. Dong people love glutinous rice and have grown it for generations. In festivals, every family makes traditional food such as glutinous rice wine, zongzi (steamed glutinous rice wrapped in leaves of reed, bamboo or lotus) and glutinous rice baba (fried rice cakes). Carps raised in the fields are marinated and prepared as sour fish, a special dish that villagers serve important guests. Integrated farming has contributed to sustainable agriculture systems which are both natural and thriving.

Since 2005, PCD has worked with villagers on organic farming practices. Drawing on the traditional knowledge and wisdom of the Dong people in Liufang, organic rice cultivation was based on the principles of “rice-duck-fish” integrated farming.

Due to the favorable ecological conditions and traditional farming habits, villagers rarely used chemical pesticides in the past. However, in recent years a few families have used some chemical fertilizers to overcome labour shortages resulting from villagers leaving for other work.

The beautiful Liufang village

Favorable ecological conditions, good timing and villagers’ concerted effort all contributed to the Liufang Organic Agriculture Association registering at the County Civil Affairs Bureau in 2006. Villagers subsequently built their own organic production management system. They gradually eliminated all use of hazardous chemicals. In 2005, only 12 households took part in organic rice farming. By 2006, all 538 mu of rice paddies were farmed organically. After a short period of 3 years, rice produced in Liufang was certified as an organic product by the Nanjing Organic Farming Development Centre.

When He Zong-mei, the vice-chairperson of Liufang Organic Farming Association, first learnt about organic farming, she found that it was very similar to the Dong people’s traditional way of rice-duck-fish farming in paddy fields. The only difference was that they had used some pesticides and organic fertilizers in the field. After 3 years of organic farming, she has become very aware of the taste and benefits of organic products. She told us with pride that the pigs she owned ate healthy food and were reared organically.

When ancient ways have demonstrated their effectiveness, we have more reasons to believe that rice can be grown without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. This is not only an ecological issue but it is also about creating a sustainable livelihood for farmers.

Words in picture:

Leaves to protect fish from their natural enemies;
The water is two inches deep. If it is too shallow, the ducks would eat the fish.
Fish nest: fish can hide here when water is being drained from the paddy field.

Photo caption: when harvesting, ditches are dug in the field and the fish are caught in the ditches.