Systèmes Ingénieux du Patrimoine Agricole Mondial (SIPAM)

Heritage and innovation to face the present and build the future- International Tea Day 2020

21 May 2020


Despite COVID-19, four GIAHS tea production sites celebrate International Tea Day 2020

The pandemic has severely affected the world as we know it. Farmers have seen their routines disrupted and in many cases, their livelihoods put at risk.  

Despite this challenging global crisis, farmers have shown their capacity for resilience and, as stewards of nature, continue to guarantee our food security.

FAO’s Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) programme helps identify ways to mitigate threats faced by farmers and enhance the benefits derived from these systems.

As we celebrate International Tea Day 2020, four GIAHS tea plantations shared details about the unique features embedded in their systems and the successes of tea production in their area and the subsequent difficulties faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Pu’er Traditional Tea Agrosystem, China
Pu'er City and its surroundings are located in the southern part of China’s Yunnan Province and are home to 13 ethnic groups. The area is rich in biodiversity, with half wild-half cultivated ancient tea trees, some older than 1000 years, growing in the carefully preserved tea plantations. 

Innovation has been the secret to keeping this agroecosystem alive. The tea industry, driven by science and technology, has become a lead industry, developing the product, increasing the economy and improving farmers’ living standards..

“Pu’er tea production has increased by 44.5 percent since 2012, when it was recognized as a GIAHS site. And, also the City’s total tourism revenue increased by 707.59 percent after its designation” explained Deng Chuanchun, from the Pu’er Municipal Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

However, during the pandemic, Deng Chuanchun described how COVID-19 has been a challenge for tea production. The local tea market has temporarily shrunk and the number of merchants purchasing tea is decreasing sharply, causing a drop in the price of tea.

Traditional tea-grass integrated system in Shizuoka, Japan
Shizuoka is a prefecture on the south coast of Japan, famous for its stunning views of Mount Fuji and its abundant tea crop.

The traditional tea-grass integrated system of Shizuoka is known for its traditional agricultural techniques know as Chagusaba ‘Semi-natural grasslands’. Grasslands are maintained around tea fields to supply mulch that improves the quality of tea cultivation – an example of the interdependence of agriculture on biodiversity.

After the site’s designation in 2013, actions were taken to promote and create awareness of the importance of preserving this unique heritage.

“The council for the promotion of “Chagusaba in Shizuoka” clearly differentiates between tea grown using the traditional tea-grass integrated system and conventional teas. Through a certification system for farmers and by using labels, producers show that the tea is produced by a certified tea farmer who is contributing to the region’s biodiversity”, said Hiroshi Nishikawa, Assistant Director of the Tea Industry Development Division of Shizuoka Prefectural Government.

“In the context of COVID-19, tea farmers are concerned about a decrease in prices of tea, and in addition the volume of tea produced is expected to be lower than last year. The local government is taking the necessary measures to support the farmers” he added.

Fuzhou Jasmine and Tea Culture System, China
Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province, is located in a river basin, surrounded by mountains, on the southeast coast of China.
The Fuzhou Jasmine and Tea Culture System developed over more than 2000 years is rich in biodiversity. The tea trees are well adapted to the local micro-climate on the hillsides, and jasmine grows near waterways - a coexistence that has led to a deep knowledge of the cultivation and production of jasmine tea.

“After its designation as a GIAHS site in 2014, agri-tourism based on the Fuzhou jasmine tea system has gradually entered people's lives, and income from tourism in heritage sites has increased, as well as the local populations sense of pride for their agricultural heritage” said Wang Zhenfeng, from Fuzhou Municipal Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

Due to the current crisis, the officer highlighted that the pandemic has caused a severe drop in the tea production but explained that steps to create an online market for the tea is now underway. 

Traditional Hadong Tea Agrosystem in Hwagae-myeon, Republic of Korea
Hwagae-myeon, known as the first region in Korea to plant tea, is the main district producing hand-crafted tea, a tradition dating back 1 200 years.

“With the site’s designation in 2015, Hadong’s wild tea cultivation  was recognized once again as a product of wisdom created by ancestors and preserved by their descendants who have inherited their own tea farming environment and culture” said the Mayor of Hadong county, Sangki Yoon.

He added that  International exports have increased, as has the interest in Hadong’s tea plantations and their cultural heritage which has had a positive impact on tourism in the region.

Every year, before the Hadong Wild Tea cultural Festival in May, the tea farmers of Hadong gather where the first tea trees were planted and pray for a good tea harvest. Unfortunately, this year events were cancelled due to COVID-19 but Mr Yoon explained that this has led to an increase in the promotion and sales of tea online.

Vital to achieving food and livelihood security, almost 60 sites have now been officially recognized as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS), dynamic spaces where culture, biodiversity and sustainable agricultural techniques coexist.

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