Tradition valued

23.07.2014

Traditional farming systems in China, Iran and South Korea receive global recognition

 

“The message is clear: traditional farming systems are very important to how the world is going to feed itself in the future”, noted Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General, NR in a ceremony designating six new Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) held in FAO headquarters on 29 April. “Worldwide recognition of GIAHs is particularly timely this year, the International Year of Family Farming. The Director-General asked me explicitly to relay these messages to you”, she said, “I can see by the presence and the interest in this room that there is strong commitment.

The six traditional farming systems or sites were awarded certificates of designation during the 28-29 April meeting of the GIAHS Steering and Scientific Committee Meeting. The new GIAHS include three in China, one in Iran and two in South Korea. Each GIAHS is unique in nature, features a sustainable approach to agriculture and is considered a model for future systems. Those awarded in the ceremony this week involve Iran’s Qanat irrigation system, an ancient network of farms that have survived for nearly three millennia; a 22-thousand-kilometer system of black stone walls built from volcanic rock in Jeju, South Korea; and the traditional Gudeuljang irrigated rice terraces in Cheongsando, South Korea. China boasts three new sites: the unique Xinghua Duotian Agrosystem, famous for its method of water-land utilization; the historic Jasmine and Tea Culture System of Fuzhou City; and the Jiaxian Traditional Chinese Date Gardens.

“GIAHS have been forged over centuries, capitalizing on the accumulated experiences of rural communities and indigenous people across the world,” said Maria Helena Semedo, DDG, NR.

Reaching across the new strategic framework, the GIAHS’ vision is for dynamic conservation of all agricultural heritage systems and their multitude of goods and services for food and livelihoods security, now and for future generations. These six new designations bring the number of GIAHS to a total of 31 sites located in 13 countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

More about the new GIAHS sites

The new GIAHS include three in China, one in Iran and two in South Korea:

China - Jasmine and Tea Culture System of Fuzhou City

The Chinese people have cultivated jasmine for over 2000 years, but Fuzhou is famous for its jasmine due to its favorable climate and its invention of the tea-scenting method. Since jasmine and tea trees grow in different environments, the people of Fuzhou have shaped vertical landscapes in which they are able to grow both tea and jasmine on separate levels and in different microclimates in a vertical landscaping system. 

China - Jiaxian Traditional Chinese Date Gardens

Jujube is a unique fruit species native to China. Located in the Jinshaan Canyon at the middle reach of the Yellow River, the Jia Count is recognized as the place with the longest history of jujube cultivation, lasting more than one thousand years and including the whole process of domestication of the wild sour jujube to the cultivated plant. Jia County is prone to frequent drought, making the jujube trees “life-saving plants” for local families.  The fruit trees also play a key environmental role, preventing sandstorms and conserving water and soil on the sparsely vegetated plateau.

China - Xinghua Duotian Agrosystem

People call Xinghua the “city with a thousand islets,” due to its stunning network of raised, cultivated fields surrounded by water. The Xinghua area was located in low-lying land for centuries and suffered frequent floods from its many lakes. The people of Xinghua built the fields with wooden supports and stacks of mud, turning the ample water supply into an irrigation system.

 

Iran -  Qanat Irrigated Agricultural Heritage Systems of Kashan, Isfahan Province

The Qanat irrigation technology and related knowledge system date back to at least 800 BC and the Kashan region has one of the oldest Persian agriculture systems irrigated by Qanats. The Qanat system has sustained food security and livelihoods by providing a reliable source of water to traditional family farmers in mostly dry areas, where farming would be impossible otherwise.

Korea – Cheongsando

In the 16th century, residents of the Cheongsando group of islands began using local stone to create a system of terraced rice fields that are irrigated by a unique, underground system. Faced with rocky, sandy soil and a scarcity of water, residents built the culverts as aqueducts that could both provide and drain away water. The Gudeuljang irrigated rice terraces are found throughout Cheongsando, a group of 14 islands covering about 43 square kilometres. Farmers from different paddies join efforts in a cooperative-style system to maintain the infrastructure and to make decisions about communal water use.

Korea – Jeju

The volcanic island of Jeju is located in the southernmost part of the Korean Peninsula with sandy, rocky soil from which water tends to drain away. People used the stones in the soil to build a more than 22 000 kilometer-long series of fences as windbreaks and to stem the loss of water and soil, preserving local biodiversity in the process.

Protected by the Jeju Batdam walls, agriculture on Jeju Island has survived natural disasters for more than one-thousand years, though it now faces newer challenges like widespread urbanization.

Read more about GIAHS and FAO here

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