UNU-IAS and the Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S) of The University of Tokyo organized the international symposium on Agri-Cultural Systems: From the Perspectives of Globally Important Agriculture Heritage Systems (GIAHS) at UNU Headquarters on 3 March 2015, drawing 150 participants.
Agri-cultural systems refer to an integrated system of traditional agriculture and farming practices, along with agrarian culture, related biodiversity and rural landscapes. Even in a modernized Japan, such systems are inherited and continue to exist today. Among them, some are designated as GIAHS by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This symposium aimed to contribute to the international discussions on the FAO GIAHS initiative, as well as strengthen academic research on agricultural heritage in east Asia. Experts from China, Japan and Korea shared their respective research findings and exchanged views on conserving agri-cultural systems from the perspectives of GIAHS.
Director of UNU-IAS Dr. Kazuhiko Takemoto opened the symposium by introducing UNU’s long history of cooperation with FAO in supporting the GIAHS sites in Japan and Korea. The importance of work on agri-cultural systems was further emphasized by Mr. Masayuki Yamashita, Director of the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) Policy Research Institute, who explained that further research would not only help the conservation and succession of agri-cultural systems, but could also contribute significantly to rural revitalization.
In the keynote presentation, Commissioner for Cultural Affairs Dr. Masanori Aoyagi stressed that agriculture is not only a production activity but also a cultural one. It is important to maintain diversity in agriculture, regardless of the scale of farming, and produce a range of crops. Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuchi, Senior Vice-Rector of UNU and Director of IR3S, presented on the research outcomes of the Developing a Comprehensive Assessment Method for Ingenious “Agri-Cultural” Systems in Japan (ACS) project, highlighting their role in assisting MAFF select and evaluate Japan’s GIAHS candidate sites.
The symposium also highlighted several case studies from east Asia. Prof. Qingwen Min from the Chinese Academy of Sciences spoke about the conservation of agri-cultural heritage systems in China. Hyupsung University’s Prof. Won-kuen Yoon discussed the development of agricultural and fisheries heritage systems in Korea, and Dr. Sangbum Kim from the Korea National Academy of Agricultural Science presented on the adoption of the Nationally Important Agricultural Heritage System for Agricultural and Rural Resources Conservation in Korea, as well as the challenges it faces. Two case studies from Japan were also showcased: Dr. Junko Morimoto of Hokkaido University introduced a case on revaluating abandoned farmlands as green infra-structure, and Prof. Kentaro Yoshida of Nagasaki University spoke on mainstreaming ecosystem services from agriculture.
Prof. Koji Nakamura of Kanazawa University, who is also the Japan Chairman of the East Asia Research Association for Agricultural Heritage Systems, closed the event by commending the symposium’s approach of looking at agri-cultural systems from the perspectives of GIAHS, and stressed the importance of continued exchange among countries in east Asia.
This international symposium was organized as part of the Developing a Comprehensive Assessment Method for Ingenious “Agri-Cultural” Systems in Japan (ACS) research project (project leader: Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuchi, University of Tokyo) sponsored by Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) Policy Research Institute from 2012-2015. This event was co-organized by the MAFF Policy Research Institute, Global Environment Outreach Centre (GEOC), Rural Development and Planning Commission, Kyushu University and Shimane University’s Center for Community-based Health Research and Education.