Community-based fish culture (CBFC) was carried out for 3 years in China under different circumstances in two minority villages in the southwestern province of Yunnan and two villages in booming Jiangsu Province on the eastern seaboard. Heqing County, in the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture of northern Yunnan, is rich in mineral and water resources. In Mutun, the better off of the two villages, with an average net income of US$215 per farmer, a quarter of 514 households already engaged in pond aquaculture. The villages of Liangzhuang and Baihu in Huaian County of northwest Jiangsu are close to an urban center that provides jobs and business opportunities that attract younger residents, leaving farm work mainly to housewives and the elderly. Crab accounts for 70% of aquaculture in this area, where incomes per farmer are almost 70% higher than in Heqing.
Aquaculture, He Qing Yunnan, China
The Freshwater Fisheries Research Center in Wuxi, Jiangsu, recommended the sites for their hydrological conditions, aquaculture infrastructure, willingness to participate and support from local authorities. In Yunnan, fish were stocked in flooded rice fields that were also used to produce lotus blossoms. In Jiangsu, CBFC was in irrigation canals. In both cases, management was entrusted to a caretaker who received a larger proportion of the benefit (a much larger portion in Yunnan), with the remainder shared among project participants and local community funds.
In Yunnan, all villagers participated by virtue of plot ownership and received benefits in kind or in cash, with 36 households in each village selected on the basis of income and interest in the project for monitoring and evaluation. Under the supervision of a village committee, a contractor was engaged to manage the whole process, with households contributing a few days of labor. After deducting costs, the remaining benefit was equally divided between the contractor, on the one hand, and farmers and the village committee on the other.
The Mutun CBFC site was a 2-hectare rice nursery pond surrounded by 20 hectares of paddies and lotus ponds, which were flooded from June to October, after which stocked carp were herded back to the nursery pond.
In Jiangsu, 36 farm households who used the canal for irrigation were selected in each village. Participants chose from among themselves a project management committee of 5-6 people and a keeper in charge of the culture process, with participants contributing labor during stocking and harvesting. The canal area was 5 hectares at Liangzhuang and half that at Baihu. Villagers had never before stocked either canal for lack of expertise but were encouraged by the offer of guidance and free fish seed.
Summary of Outcomes
Although material benefits were slim in both provinces, the project generated social benefits by improving relations between villagers and village committees and exposing rural communities to the methods of international aquaculture research. National research partners also cited the opportunity to build international partnerships, which garnered them increased visibility and encouraged official funding for national projects in areas that previously received little attention. Despite relatively low production, and limited impact on income, the increased availability of fish for consumption made important contributions to household nutrition and food security that were sufficient to encourage the community to continue fish culture.
In both provinces, CBFC improved participants’ incomes only fractionally, by 0.1%. In Yunnan, stocking was late because of fingerling unavailability in the spring and cold water temperatures; the consequent need to stock larger fingerlings added to costs. Growth was slowed by villagers’ preference to avoid artificial feed and adhere to organic production. Flooding in 2008 caused the loss of many fish. Poaching losses were estimated at 100 kilograms (kg) in 2007 and 1,000 kg in 2008 and 2009. Production was extremely low in 2009 in Mutun because of the poor quantity of fingerlings and lack of variety in the species stocked.
Production in Jiangsu was higher largely thanks to the use of artificial feed, 113 kg of which was applied per hectare. Project sites’ proximity to the Chuzhou Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Animal Husbandry Bureau allowed frequent consultation. Production costs were much lower in Jiangsu because farmers shouldered the work of stocking, harvesting and flood prevention, thereby avoiding a contract fee and subsidy to a contractor. However, most participants found production sufficient only for home consumption and expressed interest in moving toward a contract individual system on a larger scale.
In Yunnan, fish culture improved lotus yield by 5%, as the presence of fish improved water quality and helped control pests, and improved security to prevent poaching prevented the theft of lotus blossoms. Continuation is favored to sustain ready supplies of safe food fish and provide subsistence employment.