Systèmes Ingénieux du Patrimoine Agricole Mondial (SIPAM)

Reducing poverty in rural areas through agricultural tourism in GIAHS sites

01 October 2019

On 27 September FAO World Tourism Day celebrations took place and the China National Tourist Office in Rome, along with the World Tourism Alliance hosted an event at FAO Headquarters that focused on tourism opportunities that support communities and alleviate poverty.

Opening the event, Mr. René Castro-Salazar, FAO’s Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water Department Assistant-Director General described China’s Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) Programme, showing how China successfully promotes tourism through these sites, to vitalize the rural economy. Examples were given of the Rice Terrace sites in the southern part of China, the Rice-Fish culture site and the Mulberry Dyke Fishpond site, all on display at the event’s photographic exhibition.

“The multi-faceted nature of GIAHS has a high potential to establish its own style of tourism by incorporating the common elements and characteristics of those individual types of tourism,” explained Mr. Castro-Salazar.

Visitors to GIAHS sites can enjoy unique landscapes which famers have developed for agricultural production over many centuries and see local varieties of crops grown using traditional knowledge. There is also the chance to enjoy cultural events originating from agriculture, as well as cuisine based on locally harvested products.

Zhang Yuan, Director of the World Tourism Alliance (WTA) also spoke at the event and described how tourism, if boosted sustainably is key to not only enhancing economic growth, but also to empowering local farmers, reversing agricultural land abandonment, and preserving local farming and handicraft traditions.

"In some areas, tourism is the only tool for rural people to escape poverty, and it is playing a major role in China," Yaun added.

The well-known company Airbnb, offering accommodation worldwide presented an interesting angle to the event – their advances in tourism development have enabled them to respond to the rural revitalization policy advocated by the Chinese government.

Local communities from villages that were close to abandoned, have renovated traditional homes thanks to government funding. These homes provide the perfect holiday destination or weekend escape for tourists and city dwellers. At the same time, they have the chance to see traditional homes and learn about rural lifestyles, supporting communities and a way of life that has been gradually disappearing.

 Read more about FAO’s work on reducing rural poverty here.

Look at the photos from the event.

View the recorded webcast here.