Agricultural Heritage Systems
There are numerous other agricultural heritage systems around the world meriting identification, assessment and dynamic conservation. One of the main tasks of the GIAHS partnership initiative is to work in collaboration with local communities, national governments and other national and international institutions.
Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) are selected on the basis of their importance for the provision of local food security, high levels of agricultural biodiversity and associated biological diversity, store of indigenous knowledge and ingenuity of management systems.
The biophysical, economic and socio-cultural resources have evolved under specific ecological and socio-cultural constraints at the same time creating remarkable landscapes. The examples of such agricultural heritage systems are in the hundreds and are home to thousands of ethnic groups, indigenous communities and local populations with a myriad of cultures, languages and social organization.
Examples of GIAHS could fall into the following categories:
- Mountain rice terrace agro-ecosystems
- These are outstanding mountain rice terrace systems with integrated forest use and/or combined agro-forestry systems, such as the agroforestry vanilla system in Pays Betsileo, Betafo; Mananara in Madagascar; Ifugao rice terraces in the Philippines; and many more. These systems also include diverse agricultural and other elements: for example, rice-fish culture or rice-fish-duck systems with numerous rice and fish varieties/genotypes; and integrated forest, land and water use systems, especially found in East Asia and the Himalayas.
- Multiple cropping/polyculture farming systems
- These are remarkable combinations and/or plantings of numerous crop varieties with or without integration of agroforestry. They are characterized by ingenious micro-climate regulation, soil and water management schemes, and adaptive use of crops to deal with climate variability. These practices are heavily dependent on their rich resources of indigenous knowledge and the associated cultural heritage e.g. maize and root crop-based agroecosystems developed by the Aztecs (Chinampas in Mexico); waru-waru systems or suka collos in and around Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia (Incas in the Andes region).
- Understory farming systems
- These are agricultural systems that use combined or integrated forestry, orchard or other crop systems with both overstory canopy and understory environments. Farmers use understory crops to provide earlier returns, diversify crops/products and/or make efficient use of land and labour. These practices are common in the tropics, e.g. in taro-based or root cropping systems, planted along with other endemic plant varieties from local genetic resources. These are common in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and other Pacific small island developing countries.
- Nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoral systems
- These are the rangeland/pastoral systems based on adaptive use of pasture, rangeland, water, salt and forest resources, through mobility and variations in herd composition in harsh non-equilibrium environments with high animal genetic diversity and outstanding cultural landscapes. They include highland, tropical and sub-tropical dryland and arctic systems such as Yak-based pastoral management in Ladakh and the high Tibetan plateau in India and China; highly extensive rangeland use in parts of Mongolia and Yemen; cattle and mixed animal based nomadic pastoral systems, such as that of the Maasai in East Africa; reindeer-based management of tundra of the Saami and Nenets in the temperate forest areas of Scandinavia and Siberia. The landscapes formed by these systems often provide habitats for wild species including endangered species.
- Ancient irrigation, soil and water management systems
- These are the ingenious and finely tuned irrigation, soil and water management systems most common in drylands, with a high diversity of crops and animals best adapted to such environments: (i) the Qanat ancient underground water distribution systems allow specialized and diverse cropping systems in Iran, Afghanistan and other central Asian countries with associated home gardens and endemic blind fish species living in underground waterways; (ii) the oases of the Maghreb in the deserts of North Africa and the Sahara; (iii) traditional valley bottom and wetland management such as the water management systems in Lake Chad, the Niger river basin and interior delta e.g. floating and flooded rice systems; and (iv) other ingenious irrigation systems of the population in the Bamileke region, Cameroon; Dogon tribescountry in Mali and Diola country in Senegal; as well as the village tank system in Sri Lanka and India.
- Complex multi-layered home gardens
- These agricultural systems feature complex multi-layered home gardens with wild and domesticated trees, shrubs and plants for multiple foods, medicines, ornamentals and other materials, possibly with integrated agro-forestry, swidden fields, hunting-gathering or livestock, such as the home garden systems in China, India, the Caribbean, the Amazon (Kayapó) and Indonesia (e.g. East Kalimantan and Butitingui).
- Below sea level systems
- These agricultural systems feature soil and water management techniques for creating arable land through draining delta swamps. The systems function in a context of rising sea and river levels while continuously raising land levels, thereby providing a multifunctional use of land (for agriculture, recreation and tourism, nature conservation, culture conservation and urbanization) e.g. polder or dyke systems in the Netherlands; Kuttanad wetlands in Kerala, India; floating gardens in Bangladesh and South Asia.
- Tribal agricultural heritage systems
- These systems feature the various tribal agriculture practices and techniques of managing soil, water and/or a combination of cropping systems and integrating indigenous knowledge systems e.g. Seethampheta in Andhra Pradesh, the Apatani rice fish culture, the Zabo system, the Darjeeling system in the Himalayas, and many other systems in India.
- High-value crop and spice systems
- These systems feature management practices of ancient fields and high value crops and spices, devoted uniquely to specific crops or with crop rotation techniques and harvesting techniques that require acquired handling skills and extraordinary finesse e.g. Saffron systems in Iran, Afghanistan and Kashmir (India).
- Hunting-gathering systems
- This features unique agriculture practices such as harvesting of wild rice in Chad and honey gathering by forest dwelling peoples in Central and East Africa.