Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Estahbanat Rainfed Fig Orchards Heritage System


Detailed Information



Detailed Information

Global importance

Thanks to the favourable climate conditions the figs production in Estahbanat is one of the most important of the world. The figs production system peculiarity is related to the fact that the orchards are set on steep slopes and harsh heights so that terracing and contour trenching have been essential. The agricultural system here developed results a fundamental approach in order to reduce desertification and soil erosion. Furthermore, the conservation of figs trees, thanks to their resistance to land dehydration or salinity, created a favourable situation for inhabitants’ livelihood in the area.

The model developed in Estahbanat is a good example of sustainable land use and food security; in fact the unique water management system implemented allows an adequate use of water resource and the prevention of erosion e flood phenomena. This system, locally called the Jukh and O’Giri, allows the water flowing to figs trees during rainfalls and the water storing at the foot of figs trees.

The Estahbanat gardens also play an important role in terms of carbon sequestration increasing the quality of climate. The system contributes to creation of permanent and sustainable employment, providing steady income for the inhabitants and consequently sustainability of the local communities.

Food and livelihood security

Estahbanat figs are a fundamental nutritional source; they constitute food for human, livestock and species of mammals, birds and wildlife. Figs are among the fruits of high value in human nutrition, being a high energy fruit and containing a lot of water, calories and hydrocarbons. Furthermore figs have medicinal and health properties. According to the traditional medicine figs have many therapeutic properties such as be useful to eliminate wheezing, chest pain, coughing, lung and trachea traumas.

Not only the fruit of figs trees is used but also leaves and stems. The leaves are for example used to feed livestock, mainly sheep, during autumn and winter. Even the fruit is used to feed the livestock; in fact the Angir Khari, a small and black fig without value in human nutrition, is collected and fed to donkey. The figs production in Estahbanat region is so important that the livelihood of 85% of the local population depends on the figs orchards which guarantee a good income and lifestyle for farmers.


Agriculture is one of the main occupations in the region of Estahbanat. Except figs that are the main cultivated species of the area, other agricultural products are grown scattered or in addition to some figs tree orchards such as grapes, almonds, olives, pomegranates, walnuts, apricots, apples, pears, black plums and saffron. In the past even poppy and tobacco crops were very common while nowadays are less spread. 

In addition to the flora species even the fauna species are influenced by the agricultural system developed during the centuries. The livestock in Estahbanat includes sheep, goats and cattle while the wild species are represented by wolves, jackals, foxes, Capra, rams, ewes and also some reptiles’ species. Furthermore the figs tree cultivation guarantees the maintenance of a large range of insect species that have created a symbiosis with these plants.  Each species of figs is pollinated by a specific species of figs wasp which have created a mutualism relationship with figs species.

Local and traditional knowledge systems

Most of the local tradition is related to the figs cultivation which has been carried out in Estahbanat for centuries.

According to the local knowledge in figs cultivation it is better to plant figs on northern slopes because here there is less sunlight and the soil keeps more moisture. Generally the planting period goes from early march to the first half of April. The usual way of propagating figs trees is through the cuttings, although it is used from the basal shoot. After the cuttings have been planted they are usually marked with stones for easy findings. The pruning activity is also very important, in fact generally figs trees are pruned removing the additional branches in order to allow more air to flow between the branches and to obtain enough light for them.

Regarding the pollination figs farmers provide bar dadan (or pollination) for their figs trees three times a day for five days. Pollination time depends on the year but usually it is done in the cool air and early in the morning. Furthermore even the pest control is made through traditional systems. The kerm koshi practice is a kind of worm control carried out using a tool made up of two metal sticks which are put into wooded bands to prevent physical damage to the user. This kind of tool is used for worms that penetrate deep into the stem. 

Cultures, value system and social organization

In Estahbanat figs cultivation is a deeply rooted tradition so that figs have also an important cultural and symbolic meaning. Figs are symbol of fertility, life, peace and prosperity; sometimes the fig tree means knowledge and it is the combination of male and female symbols. In Iranian tradition fig tree was planted in the corners of the orchards or in places where it was curved to give more fruit in shelter.

Estahbanat figs are not important only in the material and spiritual culture but also in the immaterial one and in the folklore of the region. They for example cover an important role during wedding ceremony, being one of the item included in the list, Mahr, given by the groom parents to the bride father before marriage.

Figs also cover a fundamental role in Estahbanat cuisine, there is in fact a wide variety of traditional dishes with figs, like XosandaFigs and Marava-ku figs.

Landscape and seascape features

Landscape structure is deeply influenced by figs cultivation and especially by the water management system which have shaped a lot Estahbanat territory. The fig tree gardens have embraced the city of Estahbanat and their spread constitutes also an important tourists attraction. These orchards are unique and change their features according to the season.

The historical buildings spread all over the area cover an important role in characterizing the local landscape such as the Daralaman Castle and the Mah Farokhan Chahartaq building both dating back to the Sassanid period.

Among all the activities the operation conducted for better water flor in figs orchards are the ones that have mostly characterized Estabahnat landscape structure. This practice, called Joxo-ov-Giri, allows the water flow to figs trees during rainfalls. The Joxo-ov-Giri requires to dig pits along the slung. It is done in an opposite direction to the earth gradient and almost perpendicular to collect rainwater. If the gradient of the earth is too steep the pit shall be   strengthen by placing stones underneath.