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Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Asia-Pacific’s World Agricultural Heritage sites offer future food security solutions

Bangkok, Thailand, 23 April 2015

Today participants from more than 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific region attended an event in Bangkok on the growing importance of indigineous food systems in food security. Among those speaking at the opening of a three-day workshop on Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) for Asia and the Pacific was Hiroyuki Konuma, Assistant Director-General and regional representative for Asia and the Pacific.

He indicated that while innovation in agriculture will help feed the growing population of a hungry planet, adapting and extending proven methods and practices of indigenous agricultural systems will also play an important role in future food security, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

“For centuries, farmers, fishers and pastoralists across Asia and the Pacific have, by necessity of their own survival, developed and/or inherited their own farming practices and adapted in ingenious ways, to meet their subsistence needs in the midst of environmental variability without depending much on modern agricultural technologies.

“The GIAHS, supported by FAO, aims to help smallholder farmers, indigenous communities and rural peoples living in and around these indigenous systems establish and strengthen them in order to take advantage of changing governance and economic processes, through better access to markets for their products, while at the same time maintaining the traditional agro-ecosystems and interlinked cultures they have so proudly preserved through the centuries,” Konuma said.

There are a total of 32 designated GIAHS sites in 14 countries worldwide, including China, India, Iran, Japan, the Philippines and Republic of Korea. Meanwhile Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam are in the process of actively formulating GIAHS proposals and interest is growing in other countries.

Keynote speakers and representatives from existing GIAHS countries in Asia and the Pacific will share their experiences and lessons drawn from their agricultural heritage systems and strategies.

“Today, there are in the world millions of smallholders, family farmers and indigenous peoples practicing resource-conserving farming, which is testament to the remarkable resiliency of these agro-ecosystems,” said Konuma. “They practice their traditional agricultural systems in the face of continuous environmental and economic change, while contributing substantially to household food security, conservation of biodiversity and traditional cultural heritage. FAO supports these systems and the sharing of their knowledge across the region and the world.”

The Asia-Pacific GIAHS workshop is the second in a series, the first having been conducted in November 2013.