FAO wants to give new impetus to GIAHS
When James Temba was growing up on Mount Kilimanjaro, he used to see how his parents were one with nature. Kihamba. This is what they call the land they inherited from their ancestors, which provides them with local food and generates income for their families.
This is one of more than 60 sites that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recognises as a unique agricultural space, under the label of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS). These spaces have become agroecosystems thanks to the symbiosis with nature and the sustainable use of resources and are inhabited by communities that live in an intrinsic relationship with their territory, protect biodiversity and care for a land that functions as an oasis of food security in the face of the upheavals of climate change.
Many of the GIAHS have survived for centuries and, in some cases, millennia. And they have done so thanks to the agricultural practices and techniques that generations of farmers, fishermen and herders have created and maintained over the years. However, they are threatened by various issues such as the consequences of climate change, pressure on natural resources or the effects of deforestation.
We cannot allow the abandonment of the traditional agricultural practices of these sites or accept their serious consequences, such as the loss of local varieties and species. For this reason, FAO launched the GIAHS programme 20 years ago to promote the dynamic conservation of these systems, seeking to achieve a balance between conservation, sustainable adaptation and socio-economic development.
The main challenge? Preserving these practices
The way in which FAO manages to conserve the GIAHS areas is through economic incentives and initiatives that strengthen the link with the territorial identity. The year 2022 marks the twentieth anniversary of the Programme and the organisation has decided to give it a new impetus.
One of the most recent initiatives is the incorporation of a team of experts that will work together until the end of 2023 as an advisory group to FAO. Its task is to analyse and evaluate the information provided in each GIAHS site proposal, conduct field visits and provide technical documents and scientific guidance. The advisory group, therefore, plays a central role in carrying out sound and transparent evaluation processes.
The group is composed of eight experts from different areas of expertise, appointed by FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu. The group members are García Álvarez-Coque (Spain), Patricia Bustamante (Brazil); Tiziano Tempesta (Italy); Li Xiande (China); Yagi Nobuyuki (Japan); Helida Oyoeke (Kenya); Catherine Tucker (USA) and Slim Zekri (Tunisia).
Do you want to know which sites are recognised as GIAHS? Click here to learn about them in depth.