Traditional agricultural systems can sustain biodiversity and conserve genetic resources for food and agriculture, building resilence to climate change while respecting and promoting rural livelihoods and knowledge systems.

It was to identify, support and safeguard these systems that FAO launched the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) programme.

An event starting today in Batumi, Georgia, aims to kick-start the discussion on this programme in Europe and Central Asia and to facilitate GIAHS applications from countries throughout the region. Participants from eight countries – Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Montenegro, Spain and Tajikistan – will learn of the advantages of GIAHS recognition.

The programme recognizes systems of human communities in intricate relationships with their territory, cultural or agricultural landscape or biophysical and wider social environment. The people and their activities in these areas have withstood climate variability for centuries, showing a remarkable ability to reduce the impacts of climate change by building resilient ecosystems that preserve agricultural biodiversity. The programme promotes the role of these GIAHS sites in increasing food security and resisting climate change in support of the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.

“These unique traditional agricultural systems can represent models for sustainable agricultural production under a changing climate,” said FAO agricultural officer Tania Santivanez, who is responsible for the Organization’s regional umbrella programme on the sustainable management of natural resources.

The dialogue expects to establish a regional network on Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems to strengthen the knowledge in these countries and, in general, enhance regional collaboration on climate change adaptation in Europe and Central Asia.

“As an outcome of the meeting, it is expected that a regional roadmap will be developed that will strengthen the integration of the GIAHS into the regional approach,” Santivanez said. “It is projected that the results of the dynamics of conservation and evolutionary adaptation to climate change from the mentioned sites will be used extensively in the region as an answer to climate change and food security for new generations.”

Six sites in Europe and Central Asia are currently designated as GIAHS – two in Italy, three in Spain and one in Portugal.

Through the GIAHS programme, FAO intends to contribute to the vision of integrating social, economic and environmental sustainability with the Sustainable Development Goals by using traditional knowledge to enhance adaptation to the changing climate.