Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Nishi-Awa Steep Slope Land Agriculture System, Japan

GIAHS since 2018
©Tokushima-Mt. Tsurugi GIAHS Promotion Association

The history of the Nishi-Awa Steep Slope Land Agriculture System is said to date back to shifting cultivation (slash-and-burn agriculture) in the latter part of the Japanese Jomon period (before 300 BC), pre-dating the introduction of rice growing to Japan. Since it is difficult to plant rice here, the Nishi-Awa area is one of Japan’s leading areas for controlled burn agriculture, and the cultivation of grains as staple foods has been widespread in the Nishi-Awa area since ancient times.

Agriculture in this area is characterized by a land management system that utilizes mountain slopes with versatility. Top soil is shallow, and in places the steepness of slopes is as much as 40 degrees. On steep mountainsides deemed unsuitable for cultivation, a unique method of land use is employed, allocating land for cropping, grassland, and residential land in accordance with the conditions of the steep slope land, and sustainable agriculture is carried out leaving the mountain slopes intact, without creating rice terraces or terraced fields.

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Steep Slope Land Agriculture System in Nishi-Awa

Nishi-Awa is the mountainous area located in the west of Tokushima in the center of Shikoku. In some places in Nishi-Awa, extremely steep slopes (up to 40 degrees) are used to cultivate a variety of crops such as buckwheat and tubers. Instead of converting into terraced fields, these slopes are used as they are by inserting Kaya (grass to lay) collected from grass land to prevent soil from sliding.

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JAPAN- Nishi-Awa Steep Slope Land Agriculture System