Thirteen Landscapes Declared Globally Important Agri Heritage Systems

Thirteen Landscapes Declared Globally Important Agri Heritage Systems

Thirteen new landscapes were formally celebrated as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHSs) in Rome recently, paying tribute to the ingenious ways those human needs and nature’s resources have been combined to create mutually sustainable livelihoods and ecosystems.

The new sites in this landmark Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) programme are in China, Egypt, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Portugal, Spain and Sri Lanka. Their primary production ranges from fruits, vegetables, salt and rice to meat, tea and wasabi. 

“These systems reflect a profound harmony between humanity and nature, Maria Helena Semedo, deputy director general, FAO, said at an international forum in Rome.

The new additions have brought to 50, the total number of GIAHSs worldwide. The programme has highlighted the unique ways that rural communities have, over generations, forged to foster food security, viable livelihoods, resilient ecosystems and high levels of biodiversity, all while enhancing remarkable beauty. 

Among the new GIAHS sites are the first members from Europe and North America: An agro-sylvo-pastoral system in Barroso, Portugal; a unique way of making salt in Salinas de Añana, Spain’ a millennial way of growing muscatel grapes in Axarquía, Spain, and a set of artificially-developed farmland in Mexico City (Chinampas) based on oral transmission of traditional techniques widely used during the Aztec civilisation. 

Today’s international forum focused on exchanging lessons learned so far and included senior government officials from China, Italy, Japan, Spain and Tanzania, along with authoritative experts from Algeria, Chile and France, as well as from Unesco, which operates the acclaimed World Heritage programme of its own. 

The idea is to draw attention to the unique and ingenious ways that sustainability has been achieved in the most basic human activity, converting natural resources into viable food systems.

The goal is to foster their dynamic conservation and to enable the smallholders who helped make them and serve as custodians of their legacy to keep their heritage alive amid new challenges such as urbanisation and climate change. 

A Bridge to the Future:

Semedo called for taking the GIAHS programme to the next strategic level to create more synergies and valuable opportunities for the great artists who have sculpted our past, design our present and will shape our future.

FAO’s criteria for selection to GIAHS includes that sites be of global importance, having value as a public good in terms of supporting food and livelihood security, biodiversity, knowledge systems and adapted technologies, culture and, and outstanding landscapes.

Many of the sites provide important ecosystem services that benefit people elsewhere, which bolsters the case for providing economic incentives for their conservation.

Some countries have even set up their own national programmes, including the People’s. Republic of China and Japan, whose governments have been particularly strong and generous advocates of the GIAHS programme.

By BOA Bureau