Aigamo ducks swimming in a rice paddy.

Organic Growing Method Spreads Across Asia
October 22, 2002

A method of rice farming that relies on ducks to eat insects and weeds has been in the news recently. The "aigamo method" of growing rice was developed in 1989 by Takao Furuno, a farmer in Fukuoka Prefecture, and it allows for the production of healthy and delicious rice while relying on less labor than previous methods. From its beginnings in Japan, it has made its way to rice-growing countries like South Korea, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, and even to faraway Iran. Rice grown using this method is more resistant to typhoons and other problems, and some farmers who have begun using it have called it a "gift from God."

Organic Rice
The aigamo is a cross-breed of wild and domestic ducks. The aigamo method for growing rice involves releasing aigamo ducklings into a rice paddy about one or two weeks after the seedlings have been planted. Between 15 and 20 of these birds are needed for every 1,000 square meters of farmland. Also necessary is a shelter where the ducklings can rest and take refuge from rain. In order to protect them from dogs, cats, weasels, and crows, the field should be surrounded by an electric fence and protected from above by fishing line.

The ducklings help the rice seedlings grow by eating both insects and weeds that get in the way. The farmer can then grow the rice without using pesticide or herbicide. He or she is also free from the back-breaking work of bending over to pull weeds by hand. The ducklings' droppings become an important source of natural fertilizer. In addition, they stir up the soil in the rice paddy with their feet and bills, a process that increases the oxygen content of the soil, making it more nutritious for the seedlings. And when it comes time to harvest the rice in the fall, the ducks have grown fat and can be sold for meat. By allowing farmers to grow crops organically and also raise ducks to sell as meat, the aigamo method really does kill two birds with one stone.

Helping Farmers Financially
In countries across Asia, where people are reflecting on the overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the aigamo method of raising healthy and delicious rice is attracting attention, and many farmers have begun to use it. This method is beneficial from a cost standpoint in that farmers will no longer have to purchase expensive chemical fertilizers or pesticides. And the fact that extra money can be made when the fully grown ducks are sold off is another factor that many find appealing.

The aigamo is a cross between the kamo (wild duck) and the ahiru (domestic duck). Because kamo are migratory, it was believed that using ahiru would be better for agriculture. According to some experts, though, aigamo have come to be used because they produce a large amount of tasty meat and are easier to obtain than ahiru.

Furuno, the pioneer of the aigamo method of growing rice, has visited Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam in an effort to introduce the method. New technology and new ideas are being tried in various areas, and Japan has begun to receive feedback from the farmers themselves.

Copyright (c) 2002 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.
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