Conference Shares Best Practice for Conservation of Traditional Agriculture in East Asia

  • 2014•05•01     Xinghua City

    On 7–10 April UNU-IAS co-organized a conference bringing together experts from several East Asian countries to present scientific research and share best practice for conservation of agricultural heritage systems in the region. The First Conference of the East Asia Research Association for Agricultural Heritage Systems (ERAHS) was held in Xinghua city, Jiangsu Province, China. Some 200 participants included researchers, policymakers and local government officials from China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, as well as experts from UNU and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Participants presented experiences and lessons from sites designated as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) by the FAO, and committed to foster closer collaboration between countries in the region.

    In a keynote address Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuchi, UNU Senior Vice-Rector, emphasized that while traditional agriculture systems have survived over many centuries, proving to be highly ecologically, socially and economically resilient, they stand to be replaced by modern agriculture, which may be relatively economically lucrative in the short run but not necessarily sustainable in the long term. Observing that East Asian countries share many similarities in their agricultural systems, Prof. Takeuchi expressed his hope that ERAHS could be a platform for collaboration to address the impacts of ecological, social and economic changes on traditional agriculture and explore ways to enhance its resilience and sustainability.

    Other keynote speakers included Prof. Li Wenhua, Chairman of the FAO-GIAHS Steering Committee and Academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, who spoke on “Conservation of Agricultural Heritage in Asia”; Dr. Parviz Koohafkan, President of the World Heritage Foundation, on “GIAHS as Benchmarks of Sustainability Science in Agriculture” and Mr. Masahito Enomoto, GIAHS Global Coordinator of FAO, on “GIAHS: Advancement with ERAHS”.

    The conference was organized by ERAHS, and co-organized by the Department of Agronomy at the Chinese Academy of Engineering; the People’s Government of Fuzhou City, Fujian Province; the People’s Government of Jiaxian County, Shaanxi Province; the Japanese GIAHS Network (J-GIAHS); UNU-IAS and the Korea Rural Heritage Association (KRHA). It was supported by the FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) of the People’s Republic of China, and generously sponsored by the Agri-cultural Heritage Systems Branch of the Chinese Association of Agricultural Science Societies; the People’s Government of Xinghua City, Jiangsu Province; the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research; the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS-IGSNRR) and the FAO/GEF GIAHS China Office.

    UNU-IAS has been actively promoting cooperation and exchange of research between East Asian countries related to agricultural heritage systems and conservation of GIAHS. This has focused in particular on China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, through the UNU-IAS projects Development of Comprehensive Assessment Method for Ingenious “Agri-Cultural” Systems in Japan (ACS) and Operating Unit Ishikawa / Kanazawa (OUIK). UNU has contributed to the inception of ERAHS through these projects, and Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuchi, UNU Senior Vice-Rector, serves as one of its Honorary Chairs. Established in October 2013, ERAHS aims to contribute to the development of the FAO GIAHS Initiative and to the sustainability of agricultural heritage systems in East Asia. Its annual conference will be hosted by rotation in China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, with the second conference to be held in Sado City, Japan in June 2015.

    The findings, results and recommendations from the conference will soon be made available by the organizers in a final report. For an overview of the meeting and the topics discussed, please see the CAS-IGSNRR website (in Chinese). For further details, please contact Evonne Yiu, UNU-IAS (