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Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Summary

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Annexes

Managing Aso Grasslands for Sustainable Agriculture

Detailed Information

Outstanding features

The beautiful grasslands extending around the caldera were not only formed by natural disruptions such as eruptions and floods but also maintained by humans, whom have engaged in agricultural activities here for centuries; such as burning, grazing and mowing. These continuous agricultural activities have resulted in the vast “semi-natural” grasslands, and have promoted the spread of various kinds of rare grassland plants.
In utilizing the grasslands, the biodiversity and the rural landscapes of Aso have been preserved, and sustainable agriculture has been undertaken. In the current Aso region, 70,000 people live inside and outside the caldera, following the traditions of the local agriculture, farming methods, and rural culture.
These grasslands, managed by each community, are used for grazing cows and horses, and the grasses serve as their primary feed or the matting for their stables. The composted manure is then used in the fields for paddy and dry field farming. The remarkable feature of Aso region lies in this dynamic system of sustainable agriculture through cyclical grassland use and its management system.

Goods and Services Provided

Agriculture (including stockbreeding) is the major industry in the Aso region. The total annual agricultural output amounts to 29 billion yen. Among the sectors of agriculture, stockbreeding occupies eminently an important position; it constitutes almost 50% of total Aso’s agriculture outputs. 

Threats and Challenges

Although the grasslands compose the core value and are indispensible to maintain Aso’s agriculture, rare biodiversity and landscape etc. which are closely connected, the maintenance of these grasslands through ordinary agricultural activities faces several difficulties.

The most important is to promote the use of grasslands in ordinary agricultural context, such as grazing and mowing. On the other hand, the varied use of grass resource should be encouraged; composting with grasses can add market value to the vegetables grown with them for consumers. Grass use for biomass resource contributes to an eco-friendly biomass energy system and low-carbon society.

The second is to help local communities’ management itself. As a survey shows, most pasture cooperatives have difficulties to continue the management of their own grassland in the long run.

Policy and Development Relevance

The Kumamoto prefecture published the local promotion strategy through grassland restoration and its utilization, named “Kabashima initiative (2012)”. The prefecture’s agricultural policy in this initiative cooperates with tourism, environment, industry policy etc. for the promotion of Aso region. Ministries develop the policies on agriculture encouraging and conservation of biodiversity

Global Importance

The remarkable feature of the agriculture system in the Aso region is the unique circulation of grass use through effective burning, grazing and mowing, which conserves the rare biodiversity and agricultural landscapes.