Fostering partnerships and alliances for agricultural heritage and a sustainable future – The GIAHS International Forum
Noto Peninsula, Ishikawa (Japan) – “Our agricultural heritage represents both the past and the future,” said the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Mr José Graziano Da Silva, in his address to the International Forum on Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS).
The event, organized by the FAO, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and the Government of Ishikawa prefecture, Japan, was held in the untouched beauty of the Noto Peninsula, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, from 29 May to 1 June 2013.
The three-day Forum served as a platform for governments, international organizations, environmental experts, academes to share their views, experiences and lessons learned about agricultural heritage and its contribution to a sustainable future.
Forum participants were welcomed by Mr Hiroyasu Takenaka, the Vice-Governor of Ishikawa Prefecture, Mr Yutaka Sumita, Deputy Director-General for International Affairs and Mr Hiroyuki Konuma, Assistant Director-General for the Asia Pacific Region, FAO.
After the opening ceremony, GIAHS Candidate Sites were presented to the Steering and Scientific Committees. This was followed by keynote presentations by representatives from countries with GIAHS sites during different parallel sessions.
During the Forum six new locations were designated as GIAHS. Three in Japan (Aso Grasslands of Kumamoto Prefecture, Chagusaba of Shizuoka Prefecture, Kunisaki Peninsula in Oita Prefecture), two sites in China (Ancient Chinese Torreya of Kuaijishan, Urban agricultural heritage – Xuanhua grape gardens) and one in India, Kuttanad below sea level farming.
The main event on the second day of the Forum was the High Level session attended by a panel of distinguished experts including the Senior Vice-Minister, Yoshio Kajiya of the MAFF, Japan; the FAO Director-General, Mr José Graziano Da Silva; the Governor of Ishikawa Prefecture, Mr Masanori Tanimoto; Prof. MS Swaminathan, Deputy CEO of the Global Environment Facility (GEF); Mr André Laperrière, Director-General of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and representatives from selected GIAHS countries.
During his Opening Address, to the High Level Session, Mr Yoshito Kajiya, stated that the Forum, was “an important opportunity to exchange ideas on how we can promote effective partnerships and networks to protect, manage, and learn from traditional and indigenous agricultural systems”.
“To preserve this heritage,” said Mr Kajiya, “we must recognize the important role played by small-scale farmers, fishers, indigenous peoples, and local communities,” and how they have, “cultivated and handed down these methods, from one generation to the next”.
During his address to the High Level Session, Mr Da Silva noted the importance of traditional agriculture in providing food, promoting sustainability and combating world hunger. “By promoting and protecting Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems, and the people who rely on them,” he said, “we can take an important step towards the future we want: a more sustainable and hunger-free future”.
The main outcome of the High Level session was the adoption of the Noto Comuniqué. This declaration outlines the goals of the GIAHS Initiative and emphasizes the need to twin the GIAHS sites in developed and developing countries.
On the third day of the Forum, participants experienced the natural beauty and bounty of Noto and Sado Satoyama. Excursions to GIAHS sites featured forests, rice terraces and local food manufacturing sites promoting the conservation of GIAHS. Throughout the three-day event participants enjoyed knowledge sharing, poster and food exhibits. The food diversity and culinary skills of the Noto people were showcased together with GIAHS products from other sites.
At the closing ceremony, Governor Tanimoto stated that “Noto’s efforts to produce a new value added eco-friendly rice has now spread into and beyond GIAHS designated regions, and other towns have decided to join the GIAHS initiative”. He also added that “such geographical expansion is a good example how designated GIAHS can spread into other regions, for revitalization of agriculture and development”.
Mr Parviz Koohafkan, the ex-director of FAO land and water division, who was behind the GIAHS Initiative and in the organization of the forum, thanked all the participants for their dedication to promote the goals of GIAHS. “ It is very rewarding and gratifying to see so much enthusiasms from countries, governments, people and farmers,” he said. Finally, as Mr Koohafkan closes the forum, he expressed his continuous support to help FAO and the countries to further promote and upscale GIAHS.
The Forum gathered together around 100 international participants from Algeria, Azerbaijan, China, Chile, Colombia, Ethiopia, Italy, India, Indonesia, Iran, Morocco, Philippines, Peru, Spain, South Korea and Tanzania, USA, , and more than 400 participants from Japan.
The GIAHS Forum 2013 saw fruitful collaboration between and among pilot and participating countries, and local and national governments in the dynamic conservation of agricultural heritage and its vital contribution to food security and future sustainability.
For more information about the GIAHS Forum please click here.