Plan for Small-Scale Fish Farming Wins “Nobel Prize of Food and Agriculture”

While we’re in the season of Nobel announcements (and I was very excited about Harold Pinter winning the Nobel Prize for Literature), USA Today points to another important honor that may get overlooked: the announcement of the World Food Prize. This year’s winner: “…an Indian scientist credited with launching a ‘blue revolution’ (a rapid increase in fish production) in the developing world.”

Modadugu Gupta has spent 30 years creating a cheap and ecologically sustainable system of small-scale fish-farming using abandoned ditches and seasonally flooded fields and water holes smaller than the average swimming pool.

The small ponds become tiny food factories, churning out protein and income for more than 1 million families in Southern and Southeast Asia and Africa. Gupta’s work has multiplied freshwater fish production in those countries by three to five times, says Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation.

In wet, low-lying countries such as Bangladesh and Laos, farmers routinely excavate soil to raise the level of their houses. This creates small ponds that fill with water in the rainy season. Roads also are built up with nearby soil, creating long, narrow ponds along roadways that can be used as fish farms.

The farmers, most of them poor women and landless farmers, typically raise as few as 200 fish, feeding the carp and tilapia farm waste such as rice and wheat bran. This creates high-protein food for their families and a cash crop for their financial needs.

This reminds me a bit of Louisiana rice farmers’ introduction of crawfish into their flooded rice fields several decades ago. I’d be delighted if someone would further elaborate the “ecologically sustainable” element of this system — on the surface, it sure seems like a winner… Thanks to my Dad for bringing this one to my attention (BTW — Mom and Dad are back in Lake Charles, where the power is on…)

UPDATE: Along the same lines, the Environmental Law Professor Blog points to an article from Science on making aquaculture more sustainable.

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