Rice farmers in Cyimpima marshland in Rwamagana District have adopted an innovative integrated rice and fish farming method that helps them increase yields and cut production expenses. According to the farmers, fish eat weeds and pests, thereby helping in weed control and reducing insect damage in the rice fields. Fish compost also serves as fertiliser, thus improving the cultivation of rice. ALSO READ: Rwf2bn invested in tilapia fish farming Emmanuel Kanobana, a rice farmer in the marshland, told The New Times a hectare of rice planted with fish seeds can produce up to five tonnes of rice compared to four tonnes produced from a hectare of rice planted with fertilisers. He said, “We tried samples on lateral trenches surrounding six blocks of one hectare each, and integrated rice with fish seeds in the trenched ponds. We used organic manure instead of fertilisers as we were trained. During harvest, rice yields were five tonnes per block compared to four tonnes in blocks where we used fertilisers. We harvested, on average, 200 kilogrammes in each of the fish ponds. To prevent any kind of predation to fish and rice in the farming method, bird nets are used as safe roofs.” ALSO READ: Govt to invest €15 million to boost fish farming This method was introduced in 2021 by the Food and Agricultural Organization in partnership with Rwanda Agricultural Board, aimed at improving food security and nutrition among smallholder farmers. Farmers were trained to use chicken manure in fish refuge ponds which produce worms and insects the fish feed on, while the rice uses fish waste that serves as fertilisers. According to Dr Solange Uwituze, Deputy Director General in charge of Animal Husbandry at RAB, the rice-fish in a single ecosystem is a triple win because it improves nutrition, increases income, and sustainably manages the agricultural landscape. She said, “When the fish gets bigger than 2.5 centimetres, it starts to meander around the rice fields and controls weeds, pests, and insects in the paddy. The ecosystem becomes symbiotic and the movement of fish helps turn over and loosen the soil, promoting fertiliser decomposition and root development of the rice.” Besides increasing rice yields, this has also helped farmers reduce production expenses, according to Joseph Nsekanabo, a farmer and chairperson of the area’s cooperative of 246 farmers planting rice on more than 240 hectares in the marshland. He said, “Previously, a hectare of rice was budgeted at Rwf120, 000 until harvest time. That included the cost of fertilisers, and manpower during the planting and weeding periods. We have noticed through samples on the six blocks that integrating rice and fish is less costly. We did not need to pay for fertilisers and weeding. Expenses were incurred at the beginning in preparing the land and the planting of fish seeds in the ponds.” “So far, 60 rice farmers are being trained through the system and after the completion of this season, this method will be disseminated to other farmers,” Dr Uwituze said. To sustain the farming method, Rwamagana’s mayor, Radjab Mbonyumuvunyi, told The New Times that besides the cooperative, an association was set up to monitor the use of water from designated valley dams to rice farmers. This, he said, will help ensure the sustainability of the farming method because water will be distributed and shared accordingly.