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Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)
Scientific and Steering Committee Meeting, 29-30 October 2012, FAO headquarters, Rome, Italy © FAO/Natalia Acosta.

Selection Criteria and Action Plan

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This section provides an overview of the main features of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) and the Criteria for their selection.

The proposed site should be of global importance. This is a composite criterion under which the overall value of an agricultural system with historical background and contemporary relevance is recognized as a heritage of human kind.

The features of the system should be summarized in terms of their agricultural and cultural heritage value, their relevance to global concerns addressing sustainable development, biocultural diversity, including agro-biodiversity and ecosystems management.

Five criteria have been developed to represent the totality of the functionalities, goods and services provided by the system. The criteria reflect the complex relationships and linkages between the system’s elements as an integrative holistic system.

The proposed GIAHS site will be assessed based on the following five criteria and an action plan. The assessment will take into account a wide variation in the specific features of the proposed site which has been formed and developed in different geographic, climatic, and socio-economic conditions.

 These criteria are as follows:

1. Food and livelihood security

1. Food and livelihood security

The proposed agricultural system contributes to food and/or livelihood security of local communities. This includes a wide variety of agricultural types such as self-sufficient and semi-subsistence agriculture where provisioning and exchanges take place among local communities, which contributes to rural economy.

2. Agro-biodiversity

2. Agro-biodiversity

Agricultural biodiversity, as defined by FAO(*) as the variety of animals, plants and micro-organisms that are used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture, including crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries. The system should be endowed with globally significant biodiversity and genetic resources for food and agriculture (e.g. endemic, domesticated, rare, endangered species of crops and animals).

(*) FAO defines agro-biodiversity as follows: "The variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms that are used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture, including crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries. It comprises the diversity of genetic resources (varieties, breeds) and species used for food, fodder, fibre, fuel and pharmaceuticals. It also includes the diversity of non-harvested species that support production (soil micro-organisms, predators, pollinators), and those in the wider environment that support agro-ecosystems (agricultural, pastoral, forest and aquatic) as well as the diversity of the agro-ecosystems."

3. Local and Traditional Knowledge systems

3. Local and Traditional Knowledge systems

The system should maintain local and invaluable traditional knowledge and practices, ingenious adaptive technology and management systems of natural resources, including biota, land, water which have supported agricultural, forestry and/or fishery activities.

4. Cultures, Value systems and Social Organisations

4. Cultures, Value systems and Social Organisations

Cultural identity and sense of place are embedded in and belong to specific agricultural sites. Social organizations, value systems and cultural practices associated with resource management and food production may ensure conservation of and promote equity in the use and access to natural resources. Such social organizations and practices may take the form of customary laws and practices as well as ceremonial, religious and/or spiritual experiences.

1. Social organization is defined as individuals, families, groups or communities that play a key role on the agricultural systems´ organization and dynamic conservation.

2. Local social organizations may play a critical role in balancing environmental and socio-economic objectives, creating enhancing resilience and reproducing all elements and processes critical to the functioning of the agricultural systems.

5. Landscapes and Seascapes Features

5. Landscapes and Seascapes Features

GIAHS sites should represent landscapes or seascapes that have been developed over time through the interaction between humans and the environment, and appear to have stabilized or to evolve very slowly. Their form, shape and interlinkages are characterized by long historical persistence and a strong connection with the local socio-economic systems that produced them. Their stability, or slow evolution, is the evidence of integration of food production, the environment and culture in a given area or region. They may have the form of complex land use systems, such as land use mosaics, water and coastal management systems.


Action Plan for Sustainability of the System

Action Plan for Sustainability of the System

An Action Plan for a dynamic conservation of the proposed GIAHS site must be developed with the proposal.

The recommended items to be included in the Action Plan would be an analysis of threats and challenges and detailed descriptions of the policies, strategies, actions and outcomes which are already under implementation and/or will be implemented in the area by various relevant stakeholders to promote dynamic conservation of GIAHS with the following supplementary information:

  • Identify and analyze threats and challenges, including socio-economic pressures and environmental changes to the continuity of the existence, sustainability and viability of the system;
  • What are the proposed policies, strategies and actions and how will they respond to the threats as described;
  • How these policies, strategies and actions will contribute to the dynamic conservation of the proposed GIAHS site;
  • How multi-stakeholders are involved, including local communities, and support the implementation of the Action Plan at local, national and international levels;
  • How policies, strategies and actions can be used to leverage funding and/or mobilize resources at the local, national and/or international level;
  • How monitoring and evaluation of the progress and the effect of the implementation of the Action Plan will be undertaken.