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FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

For centuries, farmers, herders, fishers and foresters have developed diverse and locally adapted agricultural systems managed with time tested, ingenious techniques. These practices have resulted in a vital combination of social, cultural, ecological and economic services to humankind. Unfortunately, these agricultural systems are threatened by many factors: climate change, increased competition for natural resource and migration due to low economic viability. Traditional farming practices are being abandoned and endemic species and breeds are being lost. In recognition of these global threats to family farming and traditional agricultural systems, 16 years ago FAO launched the GIAHS Programme.

“Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems” (GIAHS) are outstanding landscapes of aesthetic beauty that combine agricultural biodiversity, resilient ecosystems and a valuable cultural heritage.

Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) for Asia and the Pacific

Background
Today, a major challenge facing humanity is how to achieve a sustainable agriculture that provides enough food and ecosystem services for present and future generations in an era of climate change and accelerated environmental degradation. In continuously looking to survive and coping through centuries with extreme weather events and climatic variability, farmers living in the world have developed and/or inherited their own farming practices managed in ingenious ways, allowing smallholders to meet their subsistence needs in the midst of environmental variability without depending much on modern agricultural technologies. The stubborn persistence of millions of hectares under traditional farming is living proof of a successful indigenous agricultural strategy and constitutes a tribute to the “creativity” of small farmers throughout the developing world. Today, well into the first decade of the 21st century, there are in the world millions of smallholders, family farmers and indigenous peoples practicing resource-conserving farming which is testament to the remarkable resiliency of these agroecosystems in the face of continuous environmental and economic change, while contributing substantially to conservation of biodiversity, household food security and traditional cultural heritage. Many of these agro-ecosystems are unique in their attributes and maintain a specific landscape in rural areas.
Since 2002 FAO implements a global initiative on dynamic conservation and adaptive management of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage systems (GIAHS) aiming to identify and ensure global recognition of the importance of these unique traditional agricultural systems for food security and sustainable development. The GIAHS initiative explicitly recognises that change in "traditional"; political, social and economic processes is inevitable; GIAHS Sites
Agricultural Heritage Systems can be found all over the world. Characteristically, these systems are rich in agricultural biodiversity and associated wildlife, and are important resources of indigenous knowledge and culture.
In the selected GIAHS sites a conservation programme based on adaptive management is in place. This programme is based on the search for economic viability of the system, the identification of environmentally sustainable strategies in the face of growing climate change, and the empowerment of small holder/traditional family farming and indigenous communities.