Conservation of traditional agriculture as living knowledge systems, not cultural relics

Journal of Resources and Ecology 7(3), 2016, 231 – 236
Daniel Niles and Robin Roth
While traditional agricultural systems are from the past, they are for the future. This is at least according to the founder of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) project, Parviz Koohafkan. GIAHS represent agricultural systems which have been operating sustainably for a long period in a given area. Beyond preserving “just” natural or cultural heritage, these systems demonstrate longstanding relationships that sustain and benefit both.
This article furthers the objective of the GIAHS project through a critique on mainstream conservation as it exists today. The authors emphasize a case for a new “extended coevolution” framework (Laubichler and Renn 2015; Renn and Laublicher, forthcoming). This approach is designed to balance the elements (including material, immaterial, natural and cultural) that together comprise complex agricultural systems like those represented in GIAHS. With a more comprehensive framework for understanding and evaluating these systems, preservation of these systems can be improved in turn.
It seems this “extended coevolution” framework – still in early phases of its application – may be an emerging phrase for those working on preservation of traditional agricultural systems. While GIAHS offer a snapshot of sustained agricultural systems, they represent knowledge networks and ecological understanding that extend into the distant past. It is these reservoirs of knowledge that may offer incredible guidance as we confront our greatest environmental crises today.
The full paper is available HERE.

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