Study Notes

GCSE Geography | Case Study: Jamalpur Rice-Fish Farming (Resource Management - Food 9)

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas

Last updated 25 May 2024

Jamalpur is a district in northern Bangladesh (an LIC) where farming accounts for around 57% of income - mainly rice, wheat and jute. The farmers here are mainly subsistence farmers - this means that they are producing food for themselves and their families, and not to sell commercially. However, life in this region is difficult and these farmers live in poverty, struggling to grow enough to meet their needs. As a result, charity Practical Action stepped in to support the farmers in increasing their income and improving the diet of local people.

Rice-fish culture

This has been achieved through the introduction of rice-fish culture - a small-scale type of agriculture. This involves small local breeds of fish being added to the rice paddy fields. The rice plants protect the fish from predators by hiding them, which means that birds don't eat them, and the fish fertilise the rice with their droppings. They also eat the insects that would have eaten the rice plants, and enable oxygen to be circulated around the plants more effectively. This type of farming is considered sustainable as it is small-scale and doesn't need to use chemicals, therefore it is not harming the local environment.

This type of farming has been really successful and has increased rice yields by 10%. It has also provided protein-rich fish, which has improved the diet of local people. Because the farmers are growing more rice they have a surplus which they can sell at local markets. So as well as having more food, they also have more money, improving their quality of life.

How does rice-fish farming work?


The first stage is the farmer choosing a suitable site with the support of Practical Action (a non-governmental organisation - NGO) - they need to choose a site that is not going to be washed away during times of flood (a big consideration with Bangladesh's monsoon season). Once the site has been picked workers from Practical Action help the farmer to build a dyke around the edge of the field. These dykes are about 60cm high and are in place to stop the fish escaping from the rice fields, but also to enable other vegetables to be planted around the edge (increasing food production further). The farmer also needs to dig a ditch for the fish to live in during the dry season when the rice fields are not waterlogged.

Planting and stocking

Rice plants are then placed around 35cm apart, and the ditch is filled with water half way up. A small amount of lime is added to purify the water, and a bit of natural fertiliser (manure) is added. The water level is then increased to 12-15cm when the rice starts to shoot. At the same time small fish are also released into the ditch to acclimatise them to the rice field water, before releasing them properly into the rice fields. When the fish are released into the rice fields the farmer has to increase the water level again so there is enough water for the growing plants and fish.


It takes between 4-5 months for the rice to grow fully - when the crop is ready for harvest the rice is picked, before the rice field is drained to collect the fish, which can be easily caught in the ditch.

Sustainable food management

Rice-fish farming is an example of a sustainable strategy to increase food supply. Sustainable solutions have the following features in common...

Small scale - sustainable solutions to increasing water supply are usually small-scale - they improve the quality of life for individual communities, rather than whole regions or countries. They are easy to manage and relatively cheap.

Appropriate technology - these are small projects using basic machinery that are cheap and easy to maintain, for example, hand pumps. This is better than using complex machinery that require specialist skills to operate and maintain.

Community management - sustainable water projects need to be managed by the local community, rather than relying on other people - for example, local people build and maintain them, so it they breakdown they know how to carry out repairs.

Local decision making - local people decide what they need to improve their water supply, where they will build their project, how big it is, etc - this is an important part of sustainable solutions - it’s not just telling the people involved what they need - therefore there is more by-in and projects are likely to be more effective.

Non-governmental organisation - NGOs have no government funding and rely on donations, e.g. Practical Action, who work across LICs and NEEs to improve food security. NGOs are important here as they give local communities the support and skills they need to get their sustainable food projects up and running.

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