Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

GIAHS and Agroecology: supporting knowledge intensive systems for a sustainable food production


The overall goal of the GIAHS Programme is to identify and safeguard Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems and their associated landscapes, agricultural biodiversity, knowledge systems and culture, through pursuing “dynamic conservation” of the system.

GIAHS sites are based on five selection criteria and an action plan. The five selection criteria pay attention to Food and livelihood security, Agrobiodiversity, Traditional and adapted knowledge, Cultures Values systems and social organizations, Landscapes and seascapes features.

Common objectives with Agroecology

Given this conceptual framework, it can be induced that both GIAHS and Agroecology are knowledge intensive systems which aim to maintain or re-establish ecosystem service functions. These systems are based on adapted agricultural practices, which maintain precious agrobiodiversity, its related food culture and landscapes and oriented towards achieving economic, social and environmental sustainability.

How does it work?

A main pillar of GIAHS system is its agrobiodiversity rich of endemic and local resistant varieties (to drought, pests, etc.), species and breeds still cultivated through an in-situ conservation.

The agrobiodiversity and the remarkable production system of many GIAHS sites are managed by traditional knowledge and practices developed through centuries taking advantage of the ecosystem services and the deep know-how in managing the natural resources in harsh environments.

In addition, for both GIAHS and Agroecology systems, farmers’ cultures and social involvement are important factors for continuity of the system in view of the high capacity for local farmers’ community to maintain their traditions.

Since many traditional agricultural systems are threaten by several factors arising from changing natural, social and economic conditions, the dynamic conservation promoted by GIAHS sites aims to support all sorts of measures for adaptive management of the systems to overcome their challenges without changing the essence of the GIAHS site. The conceivable actions can include improved resource management, human resource development, encouragement of sustainable activities, sales promotion of local products, etc.

Consequently, GIAHS and Agroecology are both striving to identify and conserve agricultural systems in which family farmers have taken advantage from ecological functions and principles to optimize the use of natural resources including nutrients and biomass inside the system, diversified genetic resources together with ingenious local and traditional knowledge and innovations.

GIAHS and Agroecology have taken advantage from ecological functions and principles to consolidate interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment while considering the social aspects required for a sustainable and fair food system.

Discover GIAHS agroecological showcases