1st Edition

Forgotten Agricultural Heritage Reconnecting food systems and sustainable development

By Parviz Koohafkan, Miguel A. Altieri Copyright 2017
    296 Pages 45 Color & 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    296 Pages 45 Color & 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    296 Pages 45 Color & 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Contemporary agriculture is often criticized for its industrial scale, adverse effects on nutrition, rural employment and the environment, and its disconnectedness from nature and culture. Yet there are many examples of traditional smaller scale systems that have survived the test of time and provide more sustainable solutions while still maintaining food security in an era of climate change. This book provides a unique compilation of this forgotten agricultural heritage and is based on objective scientific evaluation and evidence of the value of these systems for present and future generations.

    The authors refer to many of these systems as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) and show how they are related to the concepts of heritage and the World Heritage Convention. They demonstrate how GIAHS based on family farms, traditional indigenous knowledge and agroecological principles can contribute to food and nutrition security and the maintenance of agro-biodiversity and environmental resilience, as well as sustain local cultures, economies and societies.

    Two substantial chapters are devoted to descriptions and assessments of some 50 examples of designated and potential GIAHS from around the world, including rice-fish culture in China, mountain terrace systems in Asia, coffee agroforestry in Latin America, irrigation systems and land and water management in Iran and India, pastoralism in East Africa, and the dehesa agrosilvopastoral system of Spain and Portugal. The book concludes by providing policy and technical solutions for sustainable agriculture and rural development through the enhancement of these systems.


    José Graziano da Silva


    M.S. Swaminathan

    1. Past, Present and the Future of Agriculture

    2. Agricultural Heritage and Sustainable Food Systems

    3. A View to Protecting and Safeguarding our Heritage

    4. Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems: Concept and the Initiative

    5. Dynamic Conservation of GIAHS

    6. Lessons Learned, Experiences and Impacts

    7. GIAHS are Around Us: Sites and Systems of Interest

    8. Final Reflection and Key Messages


    Parviz Koohafkan is Chairman of the World Agricultural Heritage Foundation (WAHF) and Senior Honorary Research Fellow at Bioversity International, Rome, Italy. He retired as Director of the Land and Water Division at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Rome, Italy, in 2012, where he conceptualized and spearheaded the GIAHS concept and Partnership Initiative. 

    Miguel Altieri is Professor of Agroecology in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at the University of California, Berkeley, USA.

    "This publication is unique both in its scope and coverage. It is a stock-take of the work carried out so far, in cooperation with several governments, donor institutions, FAO and other UN agencies, international organizations, non-governmental institutions, civil society organizations, academic and research institutions and many individuals. This informed source should serve as a new reference tool for all who share the common goal of contributing to solutions for sustainable agriculture and rural development." – from the foreword by José Graziano da Silva, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Italy. 

    "I must congratulate the authors for writing a book that does not mince words when conveying the urgency inherent in solving the world’s current crises and fully articulates how reclaiming our agricultural heritage – neglected or forgotten in many parts of the world but not beyond recovery – can usher in a new era of sustainable development." – from the foreword by M.S. Swaminathan, Founder, Chairman and Chief Mentor, UNESCO Chair in Ecotechnology, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, India.

    "This book contains a valuable and unique synthesis of traditional agricultural systems. It should be an important text for undergraduate and postgraduate courses in agriculture, development and international politics." - A M Mannion in British Ecological Society Bulletin (December 2017).