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University of Florence: First Institute to Organize Master Course in Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems

The livelihood activities of human being have shaped the landscape and the biological environment in different ways. Climate change, increased competition for natural resources and interventions into natural systems, has proved a great havoc to the biodiversity and cultural heritage. Problem of migration due to low economic viability in ancestral areas, has resulted in extinction of traditional farming practices and endemic species and breeds. These ancestral agricultural systems constitute the foundation for future agricultural innovations and technologies, thus requires urgent conservation measures.

Hitul Awasthi

The livelihood activities of human being have shaped the landscape and the biological environment in different ways. Climate change, increased competition for natural resources and interventions into natural systems, has proved a great havoc to the biodiversity and cultural heritage. Problem of migration due to low economic viability in ancestral areas, has resulted in extinction of traditional farming practices and endemic species and breeds. These ancestral agricultural systems constitute the foundation for future agricultural innovations and technologies, thus requires urgent conservation measures.  

The overall goal of the GIAHS Programme is to identify and conserve Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems, agricultural biodiversity and knowledge systems through catalyzing and establishing a long-term programme through their dynamic conservation, sustainable management and enhanced viability. 

"Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems" (GIAHS) are outstanding landscapes of aesthetic beauty that combine agricultural biodiversity, resilient ecosystems and a valuable cultural heritage. Located in specific sites around the world, they sustainably provide multiple goods and services, food and livelihood security for millions of small-scale farmers. 

First institute to offer master course in GIAHS

The University of Florence supported by the Italian Agency for Cooperation and Development is the first institution to organize a master course to identify and map potential GIAHS sites all over the world. 

“We are expecting the designated GIAHS sites to implement various activities in a well-coordinated manner to improve agricultural production. These activities based on traditional practices, can develop other income generating opportunities, provide decent jobs for youth and women, increase the welfare of family farmers while maintaining core elements of the sites such as agrobiodiversity, traditional knowledge, cultures and landscapes,” said Yoshihide Endo, Secretary of the GIAHS at FAO.  

The course aims to promote the awareness among the general public, decision makers and academics, to develop greater attention and sensitivity towards the degradation and the progressive disappearance of traditional agricultural landscapes and promote their skills for the conservation efforts. 

GIAHS in India

In Asia and the Pacific region, around 36 sites in 7 countries are designated as GIAHS. Out of these, three sites are present in India. 

Kuttanad Wetland Agriculture System, Kerala 

It is the only system in India that favors rice cultivation below sea level in the land created by draining delta swamps in brackish waters. 

Koraput Traditional Agriculture, Orissa 

From their knowledge and practices, high biodiversity has been conserved through in-situ conservation, preserving endemic species. 

Saffron Heritage, Kashmir 

Saffron is mentioned in the 5th century B.C in Kashmiri records and is still part of the agricultural economy. With respect to occupation, only 1 percent of saffron growers are dependent on any other agricultural activity. 

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