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Green Planet

Sustainable farming systems in Spain, China and Korea receive global recognition

MD Staff



Five traditional farming systems in China, Korea and Spain have been designated by FAO as “Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems“. 

These include two sites in Spain which are the first such sites ever to be recognized in Europe– the Malaga Raisin Production System in La Axarquía and the Salt Production System in Añana. 

Two sites in China were also named – an integrated system of agriculture, animal husbandry and forestry (the Zhagana Agriculture-Forestry-Animal husbandry Composite System), and an integrated system that produces mulberry and fish (the Mulberry Dyke and Fish Pond System in Houzhou).

And in the Republic of Korea, the traditional production system for Hadong tea in Hwagae-myeon–a very ancient sustainable and eco-friendly way of producing tea – was also designated.

The new sites were officially recognized during the meeting of FAO’s Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) on Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) in Rome on November 23-25. 

“The newly recognized GIAHS sites represent a wide variety of agricultural practices and showcase how traditional knowledge, together with strong cultural identity and a harmonic relationship with nature, can create sustainable agricultural systems, while maintaining landscape features, biodiversity, natural resources, as well as providing food and livelihood security to local farmers over time,” said GIAHS Programme Coordinator, Yoshihide Endo. 

“The two Spanish sites present very unique characteristics and represent the heritage of sustainable agriculture in Spain, with very long history and strong cultural values related to the production systems,” he added noting that this is a “historical designation” since they are the first GIAHS sites recognized in Europe. 

Launched by FAO in 2002, 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.”

Such sites are different from conventional heritage sites or protected areas. They represent dynamic, human-managed agricultural ecosystems that reflect not only site-specific ecological conditions but also local farming and food traditions and culture. 

The five new designations bring the number of GIAHS systems to a total of 44 sites in 19 different countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Near East, and now Europe. 

The new sites

China: The Zhagana Agriculture-Forestry-Animal husbandry Composite System 

Stretching across the area where the Tibetan Plateau, the Loess Plateau and the Chengdu basin converge, this unique agricultural production systems consists of a tightly self-contained and self-sufficient mix of agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry that ties together both the landscapes’ diverse vertical and horizontal zones. The system not only sustains the livelihoods and food security of local residents but also serves important ecological functions, supporting soil and water conservation as well as preserving biodiversity.

China: The Huzhou Mulberry Dyke and Fish-Pond System

This wetlands-based food system originated more than 2500 years ago and is based on a harmonious and ecological cycling of nutrients and energy. Over thousands of years, locals dug up mud and converted lowland areas in this lake-, pond- and river dotted area into fish ponds. They planted mulberry trees planted on pond dykes to feed silkworms; silkworm feces is used to feed fish; fish excrement enriches the pond mud; dug-out mud in turn provides fertile soil for the mulberry trees.

Republic of Korea: Traditional Hadong Tea Agrosystem, Hwagae-myeon

Hwagae-myeon is Korea’s prominent tea-producing area. This nature-friendly agricultural system requires minimum human intervention in is in close symbiosis with nature. Instead of using artificial fertilizers, residents of Hwagae use a traditional organic compost, known as pulbibae, made of by-products from region’s oak forests, to nourish their crops. 

Spain: The Raisin Production System of La Axarquía

Vine growing- and raisin production in La Axarquía, Málaga, in southern Spain, are done by hand using traditional techniques passed down over generations. Given the very steep slopes where production occurs, mechanization is not possible, obligating farmers to use manual labor and mules in the same environmentally-friendly way they did in ancient times. 

Spain: The Salt Production System of Añana 

Salt production in this small valley in the mountains of Spain’s Basque Country is possible thanks to unique springs running up through a gigantic underground vault of the mineral, a remnant of  a sea that disappeared millions of years ago. The landscape of the Valle Salado is defined by a complex, gravity-powered brine distribution and storage system that has been used for millennia.

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Green Planet

Promoting food production that values ecosystems




Kenya is looking to develop agricultural activity that recognizes the benefits of biodiversity and climate-friendly land management.

UN Environment and the National Museums of Kenya have agreed to work together to develop policy reforms in agriculture that take into account the value of ecosystems. A scoping workshop for the three-year German-funded project entitled Supporting Biodiversity and Climate-friendly Land Management in Agricultural Landscapes will take place on 21-22 February 2018. Other collaborating countries are Colombia, Tanzania and Thailand.

Within UN Environment the project is being led by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) unit, which focuses on “making nature’s values visible”.

The project seeks to:

  • mainstream the values of biodiversity and ecosystem services into decision-making at all levels
  • help decision-makers recognize the wide range of benefits provided by ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • demonstrate their value in economic terms.

Agriculture is at the centre of human well-being and sustainable development. It has influenced our value systems, our cultural heritage, the structure and location of our communities, and the development of other sectors in the economy.

However, the ties between food systems and human health and cultural heritage are increasingly becoming invisible, as are the impacts our production systems are having on nature. This invisibility discourages stewardship of our natural resources and fosters their unsustainable use, generating negative impacts for both present and future generations.

2015 TEEB for Agriculture and Food (TEEBAgriFood) Interim Report seeks to explain the complex links between ecosystems, agriculture and the food we eat. It provides insights into the importance of ecosystems and biodiversity, and the (visible and invisible) impacts of different production systems on human and ecological well-being.

Much of the project’s work will focus on building national, regional and local government capacity to produce tailored economic assessments of ecosystems. The ecosystems and agricultural landscapes that are critical to policy will be chosen at the workshop.

The project will consolidate guidance and training for TEEB national implementation; provide technical support on valuation and accounting for specific national-level TEEB projects; and enhance the communication and dissemination of TEEB results.

UN Environment

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Green Planet

5 ways the United Kingdom is leading the fight against plastic pollution




We’re only two months into 2018, but this year has already seen a number of concrete steps to combat plastic pollution in the United Kingdom. Changing public opinion, along with new restrictions on sending plastics to China (which previously took in 66 per cent of the UK’s plastic waste), have forced businesses and government bodies to reconsider traditional strategies for dealing with discarded plastic.

1. Queen Elizabeth bans disposable plastic

Buckingham Palace has implemented a plan to phase out the use of disposable plastics at royal estates. The new waste plan calls for ending the use of plastic straws and bottles in public and private dining areas. Additionally, biodegradable takeaway containers will be introduced. The Queen was reportedly inspired after working on a wildlife film with Sir David Attenborough, whose recent involvement in the BBC series Blue Planet 2 has been praised for bringing greater attention to the issue of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

2. Restaurants ditch plastic straws

An increasing number of UK restaurants and pubs are joining the global movement to end the use of plastic straws. Chains such as Costa Coffee, Pizza Express, Wagamama restaurants, and Wetherspoons have all put plans into place to phase out the use of non-biodegradable drinking straws in 2018. A number of independent establishments have also followed suit, encouraging customers to forego the straw or use a biodegradable one.

3. Scotland announces nationwide bans

While many companies and individuals have made great progress by phasing out plastic straws, the British nation of Scotland took it a step further by announcing plans for a countrywide ban on straws, which will be developed this year. This came on the heels of a previous announcement in January to ban the sale and manufacture of plastic cotton buds, which will be phased out over the course of 2018.

4. The UK says no to microbeads

In January, a government ban on plastic microbeads officially went into effect. The miniature plastic particles are widely used in cosmetics, soaps, and toothpastes, and due to their small size, can slip through treatment plants and pollute rivers and lakes. The first phase of the ban prevents the plastics from being used in the making of cosmetics and cleaning products, followed by a complete sales ban in July. This law follows similar ones passed by the United States, Canada, and Ireland, as well as moves by global cosmetics companies to phase out the use of such products.

5. Supermarkets go plastic free

In January the UK supermarket chain Iceland made headlines when it announced plans to eliminate plastic packaging for all Iceland branded products. The company released a five-year strategy that calls for introducing paper and pulp food containers, as well as paper bags, all of which can be returned to in-store recycling facilities. The company has already banned plastic straws and is beginning to introduce the new packaging over the next couple of months. Other companies such as Tesco and Aldi UK have announced similar plans, a response to increased demands from shoppers for environmental responsibility.

This article was originally published by UN Environment

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Green Planet

India to host World Environment Day 2018

MD Staff



Today, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and Erik Solheim, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Head of UN Environment, jointly announced that India will be hosting the global World Environment Day celebrations on 5 June 2018.

“Beat Plastic Pollution”, the theme for World Environment 2018, urges governments, industry, communities, and individuals to come together and explore sustainable alternatives and urgently reduce the production and excessive use of single-use plastic polluting our oceans, damaging marine life and threatening human health.

“India is excited to host the World Environment Day this year on June 5. Indian philosophy and lifestyle has long been rooted in the concept of co-existence with nature. We are committed to making Planet Earth a cleaner and greener place”, said Dr. Harsh Vardhan.

He added: “If each and every one of us does at least one green good deed daily towards our Green Social Responsibility, there will be billions of green good deeds daily on the planet.”

The Government of India has committed to organizing and promoting the World Environment Day celebrations through a series of engaging activities and events generating strong public interest and participation. From pan-Indian plastic clean-up drives in public areas, national reserves and forests to simultaneous beach clean-up activities – India will lead the initiative by setting an example.

“India will be a great global host of 2018’s World Environment Day celebrations,” said Erik Solheim at the announcement on Monday.

He added: “The country has demonstrated tremendous global leadership on climate change and the need to shift to a low carbon economy, and India will now help galvanize greater action on plastics pollution. It’s a global emergency affecting every aspect of our lives. It’s in the water we drink and the food we eat. It’s destroying our beaches and oceans. India will now be leading the push to save our oceans and planet.”

India is emerging as a leader, given it has one of the highest recycling rates in the world. It can be instrumental in combating plastic pollution. By hosting World Environment Day 2018, the Indian government is accelerating its leadership on an issue of tremendous magnitude.

World Environment Day is a UN Environment-led global event, the single largest celebration of our environment each year, which takes place on June 5 and is celebrated by thousands of communities worldwide.

Since it began in 1972, it has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated across the globe.

Most of all, World Environment Day is a day of everyone around the world to take ownership of their environment and to actively engage in the protection of our earth.

Plastic Pollution facts:

  • Every year the world uses 500 billion plastic bags
  • Each year, at least 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans, the equivalent of a full garbage truck every minute.
  • In the last decade, we produced more plastic than in the whole last century
  • 50 percent of the plastic we use is single-use or disposable
  • We buy 1 million plastic bottles every minute
  • Plastic makes up 10% of all of the waste we generate

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