Biodiversity @ FAO

Biodiversity and Agricultural Heritage

Worldwide, specific agricultural systems and landscapes have been created, shaped and maintained by generations of farmers and herders based on diverse natural resources, using locally adapted management practices. Building on local knowledge and experience, these ingenious agricultural systems reflect the evolution of humankind, the diversity of its knowledge, and its profound relationship with nature.

These systems have resulted not only in outstanding landscapes, maintenance and adaptation of globally significant agricultural biodiversity, indigenous knowledge systems and resilient ecosystems, but, above all, in the sustained provision of multiple goods and services, food and livelihood security for millions of poor and small farmers.

GIAHS calls for dynamic conservation, emphasizing a balance between conservation, adaptation and socio-economic development.

In order to safeguard and support world’s agri-cultural heritage systems FAO launched in 2002 during the World Summit on sustainable Development (WSSD, Johannesburg, 2002), a UN Partnership Initiative on conservation and adaptive management of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS).

The initiative seeks to promote the international recognition, dynamic conservation of these agricultural heritage systems—including where necessary their revitalization—and the outstanding role these systems played in the maintenance and in-situ conservation of agricultural biodiversity of global significance.

The initiative does not intend to freeze agricultural systems in time, but rather calls for “dynamic conservation”, emphasizing a balance between conservation, adaptation and socio-economic development. It aims to empower smallholder family farming communities, indigenous peoples and minority/tribal groups to conserve their traditional agricultural systems and to create an economic stake in the conservation of (agricultural) biodiversity so that nature and people can prosper together.

©FAO/ P. Koohafkan/J. Bedel