The conservation of cultural landscapes has gained more attention globally in recent years. As traditional agricultural landscapes have been particularly vulnerable under rapid urbanization, a number of international and local initiatives have been launched to look for long term solution to their sustainability. Here are some examples:
GIAHS: Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems
Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) is a global partnership initiative launched by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) during the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to conserve and sustainably manage agricultural heritage systems. GIAHS are defined as “Remarkable land use systems and landscapes which are rich in globally significant biological diversity evolving from the co-adaptation of a community with its environment and its needs and aspirations for sustainable development”. The initiative facilitates international recognition of the GIAHS concept and disseminates lessons learned and best practices, mainstreams the concept in national policies, and improves community-level conservation. Until 2018, there are 50 GIAHS sites in 20 countries and most of them are located in Asia and the Pacific region.
IPSI: International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative
The Satoyama Initiative was jointly initiated by the Ministry of the Environment of Japan and the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability to promote the conservation and advancement of sustainable human-influenced natural environments (Socio-Ecological Production Landscapes and Seascapes: SEPLS) for the benefit of biodiversity and human well-being. During the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 10) in 2010, IPSI was established as a global platform to facilitate implementation the Satoyama Initiative through sharing knowledge and creating synergy among member organizations and relevant bodies. IPSI currently comprises over 200 member organizations from over 60 countries and a number of intergovernmental bodies working together to support SEPLS.
World Monument Watch Programme
The World Monuments Watch is an advocacy program of a New York-based private non-profit organization World Monuments Fund (WMF) that calls for international attention to cultural heritage including cultural landscape sites around the world that are threatened by neglect, vandalism, conflict, or disaster. The Watch programme was launched in 1996 with three specific goals: to focus public concern on the survival of destroyed and/or poorly maintained heritage sites; to save threatened sites through recognition; and to attract more resources for preserving the threatened sites. Until 2018, the World Monuments Watch programme has featured 790 sites and 80% of them demonstrated preservation improvement after listing by increased external funding, wider public recognition, more significant community engagement, and enhanced public access.
Management Policy of Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras
The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras are a continuing, organically evolved living cultural landscape in the World Heritage List. The terraces were developed 2,000 years ago by the local Ifugao ethnic group and are particularly outstanding because of their high altitude and steep slopes. A complex system of dams, channels and bamboo pipes keeps the terraces irrigated. Affected by factors such as modernization pressures and the local community’s socio-economic needs, the site experienced physical and cultural deterioration and was placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2001. With proper landscape management and active local community involvement in conservation, the site was removed from the Danger List in 2012. It is also one of the designated GIAHS sites.
- https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/722 (with video)
Lai Chi Wo Rural Sustainability Programme
Policy for Sustainability Lab’s (PSL) village revitalisation programme in Lai Chi Wo launched since 2013 is an initiative to replenish and revitalise the disappearing social and natural capital of the desolate, remote traditional farming landscape at Lai Chi Wo. The Programme has rehabilitated five hectares of farmland and set up food processing teams to carry out value-added processing of some of the produce. Training programmes on the themes of sustainability, environment and culture were developed gradually making the village an experiential learning hub for students at all levels. Hydrological research and ecological monitoring programme have been conducted at Lai Chi Wo. The range of social, economic and environmental management activities attracted the early return of some emigrated villagers and also the new settlers who aspire to live a rural lifestyle.
Impressed by the revival of Lai Chi Wo, Hong Kong was ranked fifth of top ten Asian destinations in 2016 by the travel book “Lonely Planet”. The partnership and engagement model and some of the eco-farming methods employed were listed on the United Nations Development Programme’s Nature-Based Solutions Database as the recommended sustainability solutions. Building upon this solid foundation, a new phase of the programme titled “HSBC Rural Sustainability” commenced in 2017, and focuses on the incubation of socio-economic models and rural startups. Insights and lesson learnt will be consolidated and an academy will be established to offer interested individuals relevant training and learning experience. PSL has successfully obtained a membership under IPSI with the case of Lai Chi Wo’s revitalisation. The long-term vision is to be able to apply the Lai Chi Wo revitalisation model to elsewhere in Hong Kong and in the region.