GIAHS - Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems
Food Security
Agricultural Organization


  • Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS).
  • Purpose of GIAHS is to create public awareness, safeguard world agricultural heritage site.
  • It was started in 2002 by FAO (Food and Agricultural organization).


  • FAO an intergovernmental organization
  • Headquartered at Rome with 191 member nations.
  • Aims at helping world population to ensure food security, eliminate hunger, and poverty.

Objectives of GIAHS:

  • To understand and appreciate the nature friendly agricultural practices of local and tribal populations around the world.
  • To document indigenous knowledge.
  • To conserve and promote these knowledge at global scale to promote food security, sustainable development.
  • Providing incentives for local population by measures like eco-labeling, eco-tourism.

Reasons for this programme:

  • Globalization, increasing population pressure, environment degradation putting food production under
  • Loss of Biodiversity, loss of livelihood and economic returns for marginalized and poor- major
  • To overcome all these, combat climate change, move towards MDGs, eradicate poverty this initiative

GIAHS site selection:

  • The site have the knowledge, skills and provision of local food security;
  • The site has high levels of agricultural biodiversity and associated biological diversity;
  • The site has indigenous knowledge and;
  • The site has ingenuity (being clever, original, and inventive) of management.


A site with all the above characteristics, if under stress or threat of degradation is chosen.

Various sites across the world from china, srilanka, argentina, peru etc. have been recognized under GIAHs.


GIAHS Sites in India:

Two sites have been recognized in India and 6 more have been recognized as potential sites:

1. Koraput, Odisha State

  • This region has rich biodiversity, growing several varieties of paddy, millets, pulses, oilseeds,
  • Region primarily a tribal district inhabited by khonds, bonda tribes practicing poddhu (shifting) cultivation.
  • Shifting cultivation – loss of forest cover = hurting the biodiversity.
  • Soil erosion, Soil degradation, habitat loss.
  • Illiteracy, large family, small farm holding size.
  • The socio-economic indicators are very poor here at nearly 84% living in abject poverty.

2. Kashmir Valley, Pampore region

  • A Saffron Heritage Site of Kashmir in India.
  • Grains such as maize, rice, rajmah/lentils, fruit and vegetable crops and pulses.
  • A set of unique low-tillage traditional agricultural practices are carried
  • During the fallow period, growth of fruit, fodder and mulberry trees along the farm boundaries (Agro-forestry) is practiced, thereby maintaining traditional agro-biodiversity.


  1. Loss of productivity due to the lack of agricultural management practices
  2. Climate change vulnerabilities, water scarcity and weather vagaries
  3. Efforts from the younger generation to appreciate and conserve heritage systems


3. Kuttanad

  • Kuttanad is a delta region of about 900 sq. km situated in the west coast of Kerala State, India.
  • Unique feature: Below sea level rice cultivation site, only such system in India.
  • Farmers of Kuttanad have developed and mastered the spectacular technique of below sea level cultivation over 150 year ago.
  • They made this system unique as it contributes remarkably well to the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services including several livelihood services for local communities.


How will GIAHS help Indian Sites?

  • Contribute to awareness-raising;
  • promote use of modern technologies to conserve the heritage systems;
  • Documenting the traditional knwledge;
  • Provide capacity building training for farmers to increase productivity and marketing practices;
  • Modernization, commercialization strategies establishing standards, eco labeling;
  • Establishing sustainable practices amongst the tribals utilizing their knowledge, modern technologies;


Other Potential sites:

1. Ladakh:

  • Ladakh is located on the high Tibetan plateau between India and the Himalayan Mountains to the south, China and the Karakoram Mountains to the north, and Indian Kashmir to the west.
  • Four types of land are cultivated: Zhing (cultivated land), Zhing Zhang (well fertilized land), Rizhing (stony land), Thang Zhing (pasture land). Apricots, apples and walnuts are cultivated in deep valleys.
  • Organic composting is said to be an indigenous technique here.
  • Western cultural intrusion, urban consumerism are said to be threatening factors.
  • Promoting its uniqueness especially amidst harsh terrains is essential.


2. Raikas:

  • The Raikas are a pastoral caste Camel herding is their heritage. They live in groups of 4- 20 families on the outskirts of villages and combine crop production during the summer rains with pastoralism during the autumn-spring dry season.
  • The Raikas face several threats: Camel herding is no longer profitable, Droughts, Decrease in common pasture lands, disease and fodder scarcity, privatization of land.
  • Government support, help to withstand climate change, drought conditions need to be provided to preserve this heritage group.


3. Korangadu:

  • The Korangadu silvo-pastoral system exists in the semiarid tract of the Erode, Coimbatore, Karur, Dindigul districts of Tamil Nadu.
  • Innovative fencing mechanism of land by live “mullukiluvai” (Commiphora berryi), a thorny drought resistant shrub.
  • No fertilizer or nutrients, use of natural animal droppings, use of Phaseolus trilobus, a crop which provides a very nutritious feed. The leaves and pods of Albizia amara serve as a natural hair conditioner.
  • Now monocropping, horticulture, tube wells haunt the natural heritage of this area. Deficient monsoon, water scarcity have also changed the cultivation patterns.
  • The Korangadu pastureland shows people how to live with nature, while conserving it , utilizing it and this needs to be preserved and propogated.


3. Catamaran Fishing, Tamilnadu:

  • Catamaran : Two words in Tamil: Kattu - to tie, Maram - Tree;
  • The Bay of Bengal waters source of unique resources, marine biodiversity. People of coastal tamilnadu have shown a sustainable way of exploiting the marine resources which is very important as India is the world’s fourth largest fishing nation.
  • Modern fishing problems: pollution, stress over exploitation. Also problems of mechanization in this area and 2004 Tsunami effects still threatening the livelihoods of these people.
  • It thus represents a set of Agricultural Biodiversity of Global Significance (ABGS), associated knowledge systems and cultural practices which are endangered and needs international recognition.


4. Soppina bettas systems, Western Ghats:

  • Western Ghats of Karnataka - 16 varieties of rice grown.
  • Compost made from foliage and leaf litter (Soppina Bettas) used as fertilizer-local innovation.
  • Soppina Bettas provide manure, botanical pesticides, fuel wood, fodder, medicine and timber to the communities.
  • The existence of this unique self-sustaining system is threatened due to over exploitation, conversion of land and lack of awareness.
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