To promote sustainable agriculture and rural development through policy and technical assistance, networking, research, training and education for safeguarding and dynamic conservation of the world’s agricultural heritage systems and sites.
Support countries and UN-FAO in building a major international platform to identify, recognize and safeguard “Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems” around the world
Promote science-based evidences of the resiliency, productivity and viability of smallholders, family farming and indigenous communities and communicate their knowledge systems
Promote higher education in sustainability science and agriculture heritage systems
Promote science-based, agroecological and dynamic conservation – methodological framework for agricultural heritage systems and sites
Support the establishment of a strong, stable and growing national, regional and global network to support GIAHS sites through guidance and advice to training, education, policy advocacy, and best practices in governance and management of agricultural heritage systems
Building networks and alliances for dynamic conservation of diverse agricultural heritage sites and systems and a network of in-situ conservation of agro-biodiversity harboured in GIAHS and NIAHS around the world.
Agricultural Heritage Systems and Sites feature distinctive characteristics of great importance and benefits to local, national, and global economy.
GIAHS are resilient, built up and maintained through local resources, hard labour and knowledge, individual and community investment and commitment. These smallholding, family farm-scale, agro-pastoral, forest and fisheries systems have survived the test of time and continue to be the basis of food security and livelihoods of the majority of the farmers around the world. Their associated, high-value ecosystems are sustainable and underutilized. Enhancing the benefits derived from the conservation and adaptive management of these agricultural heritage systems with the agricultural biodiversity of economic and global significance the designation of these systems as GIAHS will enhance food security and alleviate poverty.
A growing body of scientific evidence demonstrates that indigenous and traditional agricultural systems, feature a high degree of biodiversity and genetic resources for food and agriculture. GIAHS systems often reflect rich and globally unique agricultural biodiversity, within and between species but also at ecosystem and landscape level. Such systems are often located in centers of crop diversity, and they contain wealth of biological resources, both domesticated and adapted land-races, as well as wild and weedy relatives of crops. The richness of biodiversity in any form, can only be effectively maintained, adapted and conserved with the human management systems that have created it, including indigenous knowledge systems and technologies, specific forms of social organization, customary or formal law and other cultural practices. Having been founded on ancient agricultural civilizations, GIAHS are linked to important centers of origin and diversity of domesticated plant and animal species, the in-situ conservation of which is well documented.
GIAHS contain a set of practices, knowledge, institutions, technologies, skills, traditions, beliefs and values proper to a farming community. The traditional and indigenous knowledge systems employed in GIAHS are foundation and basis of managing the agro-ecosystem, including processes and functions, to keep maintaining the general ecosystem and landscape integrity. As such, agricultural system evolved, co-evolved with the human communities, handed down from one generation onto another, refined and continuously fine-tuned, primarily as a response to the specific natural environment change where they need to gain their livelihood, minimizing their risks and reducing their vulnerability to uncertain conditions.
GIAHS have many values beyond production of foods, fibers, conservation of biodiversity and other provisioning services. These evolving systems and communities have kept their distinct identities on the strength of unifying values such as family, community, history, religion, and a sense of belonging to their natural and cultural habitats. What sets apart the agricultural heritage systems from the UNESCO world heritage sites which are based on “outstanding universal value”, is that GIAHS are not static or frozen in time or space. They represent living, dynamic, socio-economic, cultural and institutional mosaic of how humans have adapted over centuries to the demands of dramatic advances in human civilization, while preserving and conserving to this day a rich heritage of customs, rituals, dances, songs, livelihood patterns and rural landscapes. Their cultural diversity is also a factor which reinforces the heritage characteristics of GIAHS. These systems are often bonded by a common thread of distinct identities, language use, ethnicity, aesthetics, and a respect for nature and ecosystem. GIAHS are agricultural legacies that not only represent important agro-ecosystems, landscapes or landmarks of historical value but also living and evolving ethnic groups, indigenous communities, family farming communities along with their institutions and ecological and cultural heritage.
GIAHS have evolved over time specific and highly adapted forms of social organization through which the ecosystems and landscapes management takes place, and cultural identity is preserved. These agricultural systems have resulted in outstanding landscapes with remarkable aesthetic values. Some of these GIAHS landscapes appear to satisfy the objectives of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Ifugao Rice Terraces of the Philippines is one example of GIAHS and a World Heritage Site. This system is an epitome of an agricultural legacy dated from more than 2000 years ago. The spectacular rice terraces’ landscapes allows protection and conservation of significant and important agricultural biodiversity and associated biodiversity, features marvellous engineering systems and innovativeness, promotes tourism, as well as expressing the conquered and conserved harmony between humankind and the environment. The system is also called the “Living Cultural Heritage.”
More detailed documentation is available at the FAO GIAHS website.