FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

Chinampas of Mexico City were recognized as an Agricultural Heritage System of Global Importance

Chinampas of Xochimilco, Tláhuac and Milpa Alta are an important source of fresh food for one of the most populated cities on the planet.

Chinampa Agricultural System in Mexico City Mexico© GIAHS Secretariat, FAO

April 19, 2018, Santiago de Chile - The Chinampero agricultural system of Mexico City is one of the thirteen new landscape environments celebrated today as Important Global Agricultural Heritage Systems (SIPAM) by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Agriculture, FAO.

The chinampas agricultural system is an articulated set of artificial floating islands. Traditionally built based on oral wisdom transmitted since the time of the Aztecs.

The chinampas located in Xochimilco, Tláhuac and Milpa Alta comprise more than two thousand hectares in which about 12 thousand people work mainly cultivating vegetables and flowers, including 51 domesticated agricultural species and 131 species of ornamental plants.

The system stands out for having a great biodiversity: It houses 2% of the world's biodiversity and 11% of the national biodiversity with 139 species of vertebrates, 21 species of fish, six amphibians, 10 species of reptiles, 79 species of birds and 23 species of mammals.

It also stands out for preserving ancestral agricultural knowledge and technologies, as chinamperos farmers preserve traditional prehispanic cultivation techniques that have been transmitted orally: in the chinampas you can still find four of the five main crops used by the Aztecs: corn, beans, pumpkin and amaranth.

The chinampas are an important source of food for one of the most populated cities on the planet, generating 40 thousand tons of agricultural production per year

In addition, these communities have demonstrated an enormous resilience, with a great ability to adapt to changes such as urbanization, becoming not only a productive area, but also of tourist and cultural interest.

It is a unique agroecological landscape with 406 kilometers of canals that provides multiple ecosystem services to Mexico City and that knows how to make use of species such as native willow -ahuejotes- as live fences, wind barriers and habitat for insects and birds .
 
FAO's world agricultural heritage comprises 50 extraordinary landscapes
 
The new sites of this flagship FAO program are located in the Republic of Korea, China, Egypt, Spain, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, and Sri Lanka. Its primary production ranges from fruits, vegetables, salt and rice to silk, meat, tea and wasabi.
 
The new additions bring the total number of GIAHS sites worldwide to 50. The program highlights unique systems that rural communities have forged over generations to promote food security, viable livelihoods, resilient ecosystems and high levels of biodiversity, all while preserving landscapes of remarkable aesthetic beauty.
 

Important Global Agricultural Heritage Systems include the management of ecosystems in which the use of water, soil health and other environmental factors are intricately linked, often in ways that require specific social governance rules with regard to the tenure, the allocation of resources and manpower.
 
The idea is to draw attention to unique and ingenious ways in which sustainability has been achieved in the most basic human activity, converting natural resources into viable food systems.

Therefore, it is intended to encourage their dynamic conservation and allow the small farmers who helped to create them - and act as custodians of this legacy - to keep their heritage alive in the face of new challenges, such as urbanization and climate change.
 
The evidence indicates for now that the designation of these sites as world agricultural heritage can help to conserve biodiversity and safeguard varieties of endangered crops, which benefits food security worldwide, and allows revitalizing local cultures, creating employment and promote tourism.

The designation of world agricultural heritage can be integrated with commercial strategies to support the demand and prices of local agricultural products. Certified rice grown in a SIPAM in Sado, Japan, which is a refuge for the crested ibis - a protected bird - now reaches double the price compared to other similar rices in the region.

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