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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Food production - a longer term view

Some folk in the struggling nation of Bangladesh, have come up with a rather remarkable and far-sighted idea for addressing future food and economic need.

This is a poor nation. Its location has it assessed as being greatly at risk from impacts of environmental change. And, just like everywhere else, its population is growing. So how will the future Bangladesh manage to continue feeding its citizens?

Bangladesh already has extensive rice farming with a great many rivers and other water sources to support the water-needs of rice. A new proposal has been brought forth that this rice farming be combined with fish farming, by stocking the water-rich rice fields with fish. Thus the production of one staple – rice – is used to produce more of another staple – fish. It even provides the opportunity to produce crops of prawns in conjunction with the rice growing, thereby producing a product for export and increasing the flow of economic wealth into that impoverished country.

This is quite wonderful stuff. There would be issues needing to be addressed to make harvesting of the fish a viable process. Similarly as rice fields hold shallow water which is more subject to warming which in turn reduces oxygen retention and increasing water temperature to a level not conducive to fish of an eatable size, provision of cooler water refuges would presumably be necessary.  And the overall scale of fish-rice production would need to be at a level to make the fish harvesting economically viable. However these issues would surely not be beyond resolution?

If fish are increasingly introduced into the rice-growing process, then might that not also see through the natural food cycle, fish helping reduce the presence of other aquatic life that might not be so beneficial to the rice crop, making this a much more environmentally sustainable option?

Consumption of rice in Australia has been increasing. The Ricegrower's Association of Australia point out that Australian rice harvests are sufficient to feed “20 million people, 365 days a year.” That's a lot of rice. Continuation of water supply to satisfy the rice crop needs would be an issue to Australian growers. Yet it occurs to me that the more temperate northern zones with monsoonal water falls, might be quite well suited to this combined rice-fish farming.

If we as the human species are to survive, then I suggest this sort of sensible, multi-cropping, seemingly environmentally-friendly approach is one to be emulated and encouraged. What else might benefit from similar, wide-ranging thinking? 

Now if you have an opinion on what I'm blathering about or even just feel like saying hi, then don't be afraid to leave a comment or post something to me via Twitter or Facebook. I don't bite - at least not always.

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