Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

20th anniversary celebrations of the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) Programme

The 20th anniversary celebrations of the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GAHS) Programme of the Food and Agriculture of the United Nations (FAO) was held virtually on 27 October 2022. The celebrations aimed to highlight the programme´s role in promoting sustainable agriculture and revitalizing rural communities who are responsible for feeding a significant proportion of the earth’s population. 

Ministers from Japan, Peru, United Republic of Tanzania and Tunisia, as well as senior officials and Ambassadors from China, Italy, Spain and Algeria attended the event.

In the Technical session, GIAHS experts from 10 GIAHS member countries, Bangladesh, Peru, Iran, Brazil, China, Korea, Chile, Portugal, Philippines and Morocco exchanged experiences and innovative solutions implemented by GIAHS communities on environmental issues and sustainable rural development. 

FAO Director-General QU Dongyu opened the event by describing the GIAHS programme as a “pioneering initiative that pays tribute to unique landscapes, agro-biodiversity, traditional knowledge and culture around the world.” He stressed that the GIAHS programme looks to boost livelihoods of small-scale farmers, promote agro-tourism alongside local products and cultures, to conserve biodiversity, create green agro-jobs and empower women and youth.

Her Excellency (H.E.) Ms Leila Chikhaoui, the Minister for Environment in Tunisia, highlighted the importance of the GIAHS programme in promoting traditional agricultural practices and family farming, supporting the protecting of Tunisia´s biodiversity. She believes that GIAHS bring high value to Tunisia as it supports to protect the local agrobiodiversity. Tunisia has set the goal to designate more GIAHS by 2030. 

His Excellency (H.E.) Mr Tetsuro Nomur , Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Japan, highlighted that the GIAHS Programme´s goals are in line with Japan´s Strategy for Sustainable Food Systems, called “MeaDRI”, aiming to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and promote organic farming. Referring to the GIAHS approach, Japan has established its own national designation programme called "Japanese Nationally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (J-NIAHS), including additional evaluation criteria such as "resilience to natural disasters. Mr Nomura underlined that activities under GIAHS have produced wonderful effects, such as making local residents proud of their own region, maintaining the agricultural system, as well as adding values to the products and promoting exchanges with urban areas.

Mashimba Mashauri Ndaki (Tanzania)

H.E. Mr Mashimba Mashauri Ndaki, Minister for Livestock and Fisheries in Tanzania, highlighted that the Shimbwe Juu Kihamba Agro-forestry Heritage Site and the Engaresero Maasai Pastoralist Heritage Area have benefited from the GIAHS sustainable activities and strategies thanks to a strong collaboration and mainly through legal protection of grazing land and animal feed resources, electronic identification and registration as well as livelihood improvements and capacity buildings for local communities. 

Ambassador Jaqueline Younga/Junga (Kenya)

H.E., Ambassador Jackline Yonga, Permanent Representative of Kenya to FAO, mentioned in her intervention that the GIAHS site Oldonyonokie/Olkeri Maasai Pastoralist Heritage, as one of the first ever designated sites as GIAHS, is an outstanding example for a highly flexible and sustainable livestock keeping systems, moving herds and communities in harmony with nature´s patterns. She emphasizes the importance of protecting these agricultural heritage systems as they are models of remarkable resilience and capacity to adapt to climatic and other environmental fluctuations.  

Wilbert Gabriel Rozas Beltrán (Peru)

H.E. Mr Wilbert Gabriel Rozas Beltrán, the Minister for Environment in Peru, introduced the GIAHS Andean Agriculture, Cusco-Puno Corridor in Peru as a testament for richness of agrobiodiversity. He also put farmers and farming communities at the centre, describing them as the main contributors to food and nutrition security. He congratulated FAO and the GIAHS programme for being an example of sustainable social development. 

Ambassador GUANG Defu (China)

H.E Ambassador GUANG Defu, Permanent Representative of the People's Republic of China to FAO, opened his speech by saying that agricultural heritage is a precious treasure shared by all humankind as it entails the wisdom of ancient farming civilizations. It ensures food security; it protects biodiversity and fosters rural development. He stressed that China has always been a great contributor to the GIAHS programme and will insist on protecting agricultural heritage. So far, China has designated 18 GIAHS and is determined to continue supporting the GIAHS programme. 

Ambassador Bruno Archi (Italy)

H.E. Ambassador Bruno Archi, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Italy to FAO, stressed that traditional knowledge systems play a very important and active role in the protection of our ecosystem and the sustainable landscape management. He carried on that the GIAHS sites Olive Groves of the Slopes between Assisi and Spoleto and the Soave Traditional Vineyards are not only an outstanding example for a sustainable and healthy Mediterranean Diet, but they also embody the cultural richness in these areas by organizing dedicated festival and events by raising awareness for sustainable tourism.

Juan Prieto Gomez (Spain)

Mr Juan Prieto Gomez, Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Spain to FAO, started his speech by saying that the GIAHS concept is worth remembering as it is a legacy of and for the humanity, because of their immense agronomic, agri-food, landscape, genetic, cultural and anthropological value for the international community as a whole. He added, that, at the same time, we must not overlook the existing threats to the different food systems, such as urbanisation and the reduced decision-making power of local communities with respect to urban ones, or the undeniable consequences of climate change. He continued that this is precisely why it is useful and convenient to have a global figure such as GIAHS and to advocate for its growth and recognition at a global scale.

Ms Naima Ouferhat (Algeria)

Ms Naima Ouferhat, Researcher-Head of the Research Results Valorization Department and National GIAHS Focal Point, Institute of Agronomic Research (INRAA) in Algeria, mentioned that Algeria is recognizing the importance to safeguard agricultural heritage for future generations. She presented the impact that had been observed since the Ghout oases have been designated as GIAHS in 2011 including the adaptation of public policies, promotion youth employment and biodiversity conservation and preservation.

Ms Helida Oyieke (GIAHS SAG)

At last, Ms Helida Oyieke, GIAHS Scientific Advisory Group Member, delivered a video message in which she summarized the progress made towards the inclusion of new territories and where she provided future perspectives of the GIAHS programme. She highlighted the tremendous growth of number and diversity of GIAHS sites, since the establishment of the programme. She was calling upon national Governments to support and identify potential GIAHS sites in their countries, without the government´s support, GIAHS has a hard time become a fully sustainable programme. Moreover, she appealed to developing partners to consider expanding the financial support systems to support communities in submitting proposals for potential GIAHS sites. 

Technical sessions

The high-level opening segment was followed by a technical session where experts exchanged experiences and innovative solutions implemented by GIAHS communities on environmental issues and sustainable rural development. 

Accumulated experiences and innovative solutions from GIAHS

Ms Ferdousi Islam, Director, Training & Communication Wing from the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) made the first ground by holding a presentation on how the Floating Garden Agricultural Practices in Bangladesh are an outstanding example for adaptation to extreme weather conditions. See full presentation here. 


The first presentation was followed by an intervention from Ms Rosario Valer, Member of the National Coordination Team of the GEF-GIAHS Agrobiodiversity Project from the Ministry of Environment in Peru. She explained the audience how the GIAHS approach can be used for the conservation and sustainable use of Genetic Resources. See full presentation in here (ES only).

Ms Shohreh Soltani the Director of Agricultural and Rural Development Research Department, Agricultural Planning, Economic and Rural Development Research Institute (APERDRI) in Iran focused her presentation on the sustainable management of natural resources using the historical water channels that can be found in the Qanat Irrigated Agricultural Heritage Systems, Kashan. See full presentation here. 

Ms Fernanda Monteiro, Researcher working at the Department of Geography in the University of São Paulo in Brazil shared valuable experience on how specific methods to prevent wildfires is critical to support local biodiversity. See recording for full presentation here. 


The first technical segment was concluded by Mr Liu Moucheng, a researcher working at the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in China who explained in detail how GIAHS is connected and contributes to ecosystem restoration. 

GIAHS and Sustainable Rural Development 

The second part of the technical segment was opened by Mr Seung-cheol Ha, the Mayor of Hadong County in the Republic of Korea. He gave a thorough presentation on how the Traditional Hadong Tea Agrosystem in Hwagae-myeon in the Republic of Korea is managing the market development and commercial promotion of the GIAHS product Hadong Tea.


His presentation was followed by an intervention from Ms Teresa Agüero from the Office of Rural Development Policies, Ministry of Agriculture, in Chile who shared the experience on how the GIAHS site Chiloé Agriculture, Chile has managed to drive a brand awareness for GIAHS products, hailing from that region. Follow the presentation in the recording.  


Ms Susan Luzio from ADRAT in Portugal shared with attendees a presentation, looking into the promotion of territories through gastrotourism and ecomuseum based on the example of Barroso Agro-sylvo-pastoral System in Portugal. Find the full presentation here. 


Mr Judy C. Baggo, the Director for Research and Development Center for the Ifugao Rice Terraces GIAHS at the Ifugao State University in the Philippines hold a presentation on “Slow” tourism, labelling and marketing strategies from the GIAHS site Ifugao Rice Terraces. Please follow the recording to watch the full presentation.  


To conclude the technical sessions, Ms Imane Thami Alami, the Research Director at INRA in Morocco explained how gender empowerment and income diversification affects the Argan oil production in the Argan-based agro-sylvo-pastoral system within the area of Ait Souab - Ait Mansour. To follow the full presentation, watch the recording. 


Closing remarks 

Ms Ismahane Elouafi, FAO Chief Scientist delivered the overall closing remarks by highlighting GIAHS strength in its capacity to engage a diverse audience and create an expanding network. In recent years, the visibility of the programme has also expanded tremendously, and has led to new collaborations, partnerships and joint activities with UN sister agencies, international organizations, academia and research institutions, as well as with governments and supranational institutions. Moreover, she stressed that agricultural heritage systems embed valuable lessons, are role models of sustainable farming practices and deserve more recognition and more support. 


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