The Department of Livestock and Fisheries last week held a meeting to discuss the results of an experimental initiative to increase the yield of aquatic animals and plants in rice farms as a means to address food and nutrition security.
The policy consultation meeting took place in Vientiane and was attended by Director General of the Department of Livestock and Fisheries, Mr Somphanh Chanphengxay, and the Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) to Laos, Dr Stephen Rudgard.
The trials are part of a larger collaborative project between FAO and the government called the Regional Rice Initiative.
The trials were conducted in Xieng Khuang and Savannakhet provinces. They included over 20 family farms in each province with the goal of refining simple aquaculture techniques to address the issue of food and nutrition security.
The recommendations tested and developed in the trials improved the way farmers manage aquatic animals and plants in rice fields. Aquatic animals and plants play a crucial role in supplementing many rural people’s diets. The development of advanced aquaculture techniques means farmers can increase their yield of safe and nutritious food for their families.
A workshop was held prior to the official meeting in which government officers and farmers summarised the results of the trial. They discussed the results for two days before presenting them at the policy consultation meeting.
The presentations included technical data (e.g. fish growth), in addition to the benefits experienced at both the individual family level and within the wider community. The possibilities of implementing the project on a wider level were also discussed.
The information presented by the participating farmers and the subsequent discussion with policy makers highlighted the importance of aquatic animals and plants in rice fields for the food and nutrition security of many rural families.
Surveys of daily consumption undertaken by farmers during both the dry and wet seasons demonstrated that the value of aquatic animals and weed (e.g. fish, frogs, snails and aquatic plants) exceeds the value of the actual rice crop.
However, the increasing use of pesticides and herbicides is causing a decline in the number of these animals and plants. Farmers are keen to explore ways in which this decline can be reversed.
Higher nutritional yields are especially important for young children, and policy makers discussed how the new techniques could be more widely disseminated and integrated into government strategies to improve nutrition security and achieve poverty reduction.
Senior representatives from key departments in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, who attended the Policy Consultation Meeting, agreed that small-scale aquaculture farming has an important role to play in improving nutrition security.
Low-cost and simple techniques in farming fish and frogs in rice fields, like the ones tested in Savannakhet and Xieng Khuang, must now be more widely promoted.
Source: Vientiane Times