The Journey So Far: DeSIRA Integrated Rice-Fish Farming System

Augustine Moore, beneficiary farmer of the EU-funded IRFFS project (Photo Credit: George A. Harris).  

-- Beneficiary farmer of EU-IRFFS Project explains secrets behind the rapid growth in the integrated fish-rice farming system 

“One of the problems with Liberians is that they run after the cultivation of big plots that produce little or nothing.  But the integrated rice-fish farming system confines one to a small plot, and the yield is three to four times better,” says Augustine Moore, beneficiary of the EU-funded DeSIRA Integrated Rice-Fish Farming System (IRFFS) project.

Moore is one of the 95 beneficiaries of the EU-funded DeSIRA Integrated Rice-Fish Farming System (IRFFS) project in Margibi County. His farm is situated in the Gborferhla area, a fifteen-minute drive from Kakata.  The 54-year-old farmer’s project is a destination of marvel for passers-by. 

Moore boasts of eight integrated rice-fish ponds on his farm. It is an achievement only he has made in Margibi under the IRFFS project.

According to Moore, passers-by are fascinated by his success in the integrated rice-fish farming system, a new system introduced by the AfricaRice Foundation.

“When I first started to apply the knowledge that I have gained, many friends questioned me.

“They were skeptical about this because no one had done this type of farming around here. But I was so sure from the heart that I was going to succeed under this integrated rice-fish farming system,” says Moore.

Stating the secret behind his early success under the IRFFS project that is geared toward improving food and nutrition security and creating wealth for rural farmers, Moore says that the distribution of improved farm inputs, specifically the improved tilapia fingerlings and rice seeds, inspired him to success. 

“When AfricaRice gave me the improved fingerlings and rice and told me that the rice matures in 100 days and the fish is 150, I knew that it was my time to graduate to another level.

“I told myself that if I can plant cassava for ten to fifteen months before I harvest or plant rice and wait almost the same time before I can harvest and still get something out of it, what more if I can deal with these short-duration crops and the improved tilapias given to me? I think there would be something different in my life,” says Moore.

Liberian rice farmers face many challenges that have kept their production low over the years. Causes of low production in the rice sector have been linked to the lack of improved farm inputs, weak extension delivery services, and lack of subsidies. 

But through the EU-funded IRFFS project, Moore and other farmers have benefited from the distribution of improved tilapia fingerlings and the Nerica-L19 rice seeds. The distribution is part of efforts to encourage farmers to produce beyond the subsistence level. 

The IRFFS project aims to improve food and nutrition security by transforming low-yielding, climate-risky traditional rice-fish production systems into more climate-resilient, high-yielding, resource-use-efficient systems in Liberia. 

The three years (2020-2023) project is implemented by AfricRice, WorldFish in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI), and the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA).  

Additionally, the integrated rice-fish farming system is practiced in the project’s five implementing counties, Gbarpolu, Grand Gedeh, Maryland, Margibi, and River Gee Counties.

Moore says that commitment to achieve desired results is one of the secrets behind the growth of his farm. He further reveals that he started with two integrated rice-fish ponds.  

“Commitment to production is the way forward for a farmer to make a better living. What I have just achieved over five months is not magic. I put in the time to achieve these results. I have cut down other activities that could distract me from achieving this goal because I am convinced that this system can take me to another level,” he says. 

Under the EU-funded IRFFS project, farmers practicing this farming system grow rice and fish together in ponds. Also, they grow vegetables close to the integrated rice-fish ponds. They use water from the ponds to fertilize their short maturing vegetables. 

The integrated rice-fish farming system efficiently utilizes the land, and it is a low-risk technology. Also, it saves farmers’ time and increases their income. 

Also, the modern farming technology is implemented in the IRFFS project’s five counties including Gbarpolu, Grand Gedeh, Maryland, Margibi, and River Gee. The project targets a total of 200 households farmers in these counties.  

Moore, through the IRFFS project, has also benefited from capacity development training organized by AricaRice. Similarly, the 54-year-old farmer routinely received guidance from AfricaRice’s technical team.

Despite finance, knowledge, and subsidies being preconditions to success in farming, Moore has claimed that most of his peers prefer financial assistance over knowledge.  

The acquisition of new farming skills, combined with excellent human relations skills, has also helped set Moore apart from his peers. He attributes these qualities to his success and urges fellow farmers to follow his lead.  

“The big cry has been about AfricaRice not providing money to farmers, but I have disregarded that. I told myself that I am going ahead regardless of the little resources I have.  It has been a challenging journey for me. It has been challenging in the sense that I have to divide the little money that was solely intended for family upkeep into half because I want to do this. 

“Let us [farmers] buy into these new technologies. When these NGOs come with these latest ideas try to learn from it and begin to change your farm,” says Moore.  

So far, Moore has recorded two harvests under the IRRFS project. “My team and I completed the sowing of the rice in July. The first plot was completed July 13, and the second just three days after. Last week Friday, October 30, we completed the harvest of the first plot, and we got seven bags. The second harvest started Tuesday, November 2.

Moore intends to upscale the farming system. “It will bring in more income to continue providing basic household needs,” he says. 

“The economic benefits as a family head could be graduating from poverty to wealth. Once you get wealth that means you can take care of your family. You can send your children to schools that provide quality education, take care of their feeding and health too,” says Moore. 

He also expressed gratitude to the European Union for its project. “The project has brought a great transformation to my farm,” he says. 

“Without this project intervention, I would have still been carrying out the same old farming method. Also, I want to thank the Government of Liberia for creating the conducive environment for this project because if there was no peace, this opportunity would have gone to another country,” he says.