In light of the logistical challenges for gearing production and conservation efforts to the scale of the smallholder, there is growing interest in promoting Integrated Irrigation-Aquaculture (IIA), such as rice-fish culture, which has strong potential in Sub-Saharan Africa. Available literature has stressed institutional shortcomings in providing necessary services, including extension, training, and credit lending; ways in which farmers could craft new water-management regimes if these services were available have not been well studied and are key to successful farming integration. In this paper, we analyzed the conditions for achieving integrated water governance, with reference to the available evidence relating to the rice-fish system environment, investment incentives, collective action, and property rights. Our analysis suggests that the system design should be adapted to existing farm conditions to minimize topographical and technical modifications and maximize successful adoption of rice-fish culture. Labor and capital requirements must remain within the bounds of investment capacity, which is limited and seasonal among African smallholders. Investments in IIA should
promise an adequate profit margin to secure reinvestment. Since reinvestment is important for the advanced operation and maintenance of water facilities, sustainable rice-fish farming requires strong accountability in organizing water distribution, monitoring, and related rule enforcements. Therefore,
a preliminary need is to understand farmers’ socioeconomic characteristics and interests that affect participation and free riding.