The Second International Seminar on Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) was held from 19 to 20 February 2013 in Suzu City, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. Located on Noto Peninsula on Japan’s western coast, the venue held special significance as Noto’s Satoyama and Satoumi together with Sado’s Satoyama (Niigata Prefecture)
(PressZoom) - The Second International Seminar on Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) was held from 19 to 20 February 2013 in Suzu City, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. Located on Noto Peninsula on Japan’s western coast, the venue held special significance as Noto’s Satoyama and Satoumi together with Sado’s Satoyama (Niigata Prefecture) were designated as a GIAHS site on 11 June 2011. This designation made these areas the first GIAHS sites in Japan and an ideal setting for this seminar, which was organized by the Noto Campus Project and Noto Satoyama Satoumi Meister Training Program, and co-organized by the UNU-IAS Operating Unit Ishikawa/Kanazawa.
Agri-culture: linking bio-cultural diversity and food security
The first day of the seminar began with a keynote lecture by Dr. Parviz Koohafkan (GIAHS Global Coordinator), which was followed by presentations made by mayors of Suzu and Sado and a presentation from the Satoyama Satoumi Meister Program housed at Kanazawa University.
Dr. Koohafkan began his lecture by contextualizing some of the current challenges facing the world’s agricultural systems. He emphasized that although the past 50 years had seen a three-fold increase in food production, these gains had come with a heavy price in damage to the world’s resource base. Sinking water tables in agricultural areas dependent on irrigation systems, abandonment of traditional systems like terraced rice fields, and global shifts in meat consumption levels are just a few of the examples he cited to explain why the projected increase in population and demand for food will be even more difficult to meet. More specifically, by 2050, the world will need to increase food production by 60 per cent to feed the world, and in developing countries this figure rises to 100 per cent. But to what extent can farmers improve food production with low-cost and locally-available technologies and inputs under climate change scenarios? And what impacts do these methods have on environmental goods and services, and the livelihoods of people relying on them?
After posing these questions, Dr. Koohafkan pointed out that globalization has failed to solve them, and the answer must be to seek local solutions. Indeed, there are some encouraging statistics for local production – 70 per cent of the world’s food comes from small farmers and family farming, and there are local examples of farmers harbouring tremendous agricultural biodiversity within small areas. In Peru, for example, 230 different varieties of potato are grown, and in India a small-scale farmer was growing 400 different rice varieties on one plot of land. There is a need to move toward “intensification without simplification” to enhance biodiversity and food security.
Moreover, Dr. Koohafkan pointed out that food production is inextricably linked with local culture and traditions. It is difficult for one to exist without the other, and he used this point to introduce GIAHS, which was launched in 2002. Currently, there are 19 designated sites around the world, which fulfill the majority of the following criteria: (1) Local food and livelihood security, (2) Biodiversity and genetic resources, (3) Local knowledge of individuals and community, (4) Cultural diversity of agri-“culture” including product and service delivery, and (5) Landscape diversity and aesthetic values.
Sado and Noto’s Satoyama and Satoumi are representative of Japan’s traditional landscapes, and were designated as GIAHS sites following an intense process of verification and monitoring that will continue into the future to ensure that the characteristics that make up these landscapes are sustained or even strengthened.
In concluding his talk, Dr. Koohafkan emphasized the multi-level relevance of GIAHS site designations. At a global level, the sites gain recognition, while at the national level they can serve as a catalyst for supportive policy-making and capacity building, and at a local level they can help to empower local communities. In closing, Dr. Koohafkan emphasized that GIAHS is not about the “museumization” of the past but about how we can develop agriculture for the future. This echoes the message put forward by the former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan that “Biodiversity is the life insurance policy for life itself”.
The second day of the seminar featured an interactive dialogue between Dr. Koohafkan and former or current students of the Satoyama-Satoumi Meister Program and Noto Ikimono Meister Program, some of whom have emigrated from Tokyo and other big cities. Varying in ages from their early 30s to mid-40s, these young stakeholders introduced their activities across a range of sectors including farming, catering, charcoal production and design, and explained both challenges and opportunities of sustaining their activities.
Mr. Kazutaka Kawakami, an employee of the agricultural firm Sugiyo Farm, introduced recent activities with reclaiming abandoned land in Noto Island and processing fresh vegetables. Dr. Koohafkan was concerned about the interaction between local farmers and the agricultural firm, and expressed his expectation that the local knowledge about farming should be learned from the local farmers.
Mr. Hiroshi Arai, an organic rice farmer, talked about his own experience moving to Noto and borrowing abandoned land to plant rice. He mentioned that planting of organic vegetables will attract the attention of more urban residents. When asked by Dr. Koohafkan whether his family also feels happy to live in such a rural area, he responded that “despite many challenges, I have lived happily with my family”.
Mr. Go Tabinuki, a photographer and diver, presented his philosophy for local resource management and utilization in his 3S (special, safe and sustainable) and 3E (environment, education and evidence) strategy. Dr. Koohafkan commented that his strategy would benefit from the inclusion of the concepts of "happiness" and "biohappiness". Mr. Choitiro Ohno, a charcoal maker, introduced his satoyama management activities with planting kunuki (Quercus acutissima) forest on abandoned land to produce high quality and high value-added charcoal. Dr. Koohafkan responded by sharing two cases from his own past experience: forest planting in Haiti for the poor, and the increased usage of fire stoves in Europe among consumers who find that the fire stove smells good, and feel good about using a traditional way to live in harmony with nature.
Ms. Nao Nakatani, a cook, presented her interest in using local crop varieties in her cooking and promoting "local production for local consumption". Dr. Koohafkan pointed out that it is important to educate people, in particular the younger generation, to eat a diverse range of different foods.
Ms. Yuki Hagino, a designer, introduced the activities of “Maruyama Gumi”, which provides a platform for urban residents to learn the traditional cultures and knowledge relevant to satoyama from the local community in Noto. Dr. Koohafkan commented that FAO recently completed a study that estimated that if women were empowered around the world, then food production could be increased 30 per cent, and it is therefore important to have more women from urban areas come to contribute to family farms. In his closing remarks on the second day of the seminar, Dr. Koohafkan invited all the speakers to showcase their success stories at the second International GIAHS Forum, which will be held in Wakura in Japan’s Ishikawa Prefecture in May 2013. He commended the presenters’ activities in line with the framework of sustainable agricultural livelihood.
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