Unique landscape on a slippery slope of existence

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Publish time: 23rd April, 2014      Source: China Daily
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Unique landscape on a slippery slope of existence

DATE:2014-04-23           SOURCE:China Daily
 

Updated: 2014-04-22 15:32

By He Yini in Jiangsu (chinadaily.com.cn)

 

The geographical landscape, or Duotian agrosystem that is unique in China and probably in the world, manifests itself of a primitive farming practice that has been going on for thousands of years, Xinhua city, Jiangsu province, April 9, 2014. [Photo by He Yini / chinadaily.com.cn]

 

This may sound magic, but the reality is probably more poetic and stunning. Hundreds of small pieces of land, square or round, wide or narrow, are standing separately above water, just high enough not to be drowned, with endless rapeseed flowers blossoming to your heart''s content.

 

Surrounded by deep water, boat is the only means of transportation where local farmers have been living and working for generations, day in and day out. They need to add as much mud to the stacks every year to make up for land erosions caused by water waves, human activities, etc.

 

The geographical landscape, or Duotian agrosystem that is unique in China and probably in the world, manifests itself of a primitive farming practice that has been going on for thousands of years.

 

As a special form of arable lands situated in Xinghua city, Jiangsu province, Duotian has been considered a living fossil for agricultural experts from home and abroad.

 

"Traditional farming practices are of high value, historically as well as culturally, to modern agricultural development," said Wang Siming, a professor at Nanjing Agricultural University.

 

"But they are increasingly on the wane amid industrialization and urbanization that is at the same time having a toll on our ecological environment," he added. "These lands, if left untended by the government and the people, could probably disappear before we know it."

 

China has been stepping up efforts to protect its traditional agricultural systems in the past few years. In May 2013, the country released a list of 19 sites, including Xinghua Duotian agro-system, which were listed as the Chinese Important Agricultural Heritage Systems.

 

"Agriculture is the foundation of social development. Traditional family farming practices should be repositioned at the center of agricultural, environmental and social policies," said Li Wenhua, an academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering or CAE.

 

 

A local woman rows on water surrounding the land pieces at the Duotian agricultural site, Xinhua city, Jiangsu province, April 9, 2014. [Photo by He Yini / chinadaily.com.cn]

 

As natural factors and human activities begin to take toll on the traditional agro-systems, protecting them entails worldwide cooperation, said Li, also chairman of GIAHS Steering Committee of UN Food and Agricultural Organization, in a keynote speech on April 8 during the first conference of East Asia Research Association for Agricultural Heritage Systems, or ERAHS.

 

Xinghua Duotian is now gearing up to be designated as the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems, or GIAHS, in a bid to seek international support to be better protected and conserved.

 

GIAHS was initiated in 2002 by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, or FAO, to help conserve and support world''s agro-cultural heritage systems. To date, there are altogether eight agricultural systems in China that have been designated as GIAHS, 19 in Asia and 27 worldwide.

 

"China is one of the countries that first responded to the GIAHS project. Japan and (South) Korea have also been active participants," said Min Qiangwen, a research fellow at the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research of Cheese Academy of Sciences. "Japan now has five GIAHS pilot sites, and (South) Korea two."

 

"We are looking for remarkable land use systems and landscapes which are rich in biological diversity evolving from the co-adaptation of a rural community with its environment and needs and aspirations for sustainable development," said Parviz Koohafkan, president of the World Agricultural Heritage Foundation and senior consultant of GIAHS.

 

He added that costs of human encroachment on the ecosystem should not outweigh the benefits for present and future generations. "We look forward to more dynamic conservation of all agricultural heritage systems and their multitude of goods and services for food and livelihoods security."

 

Protecting agricultural heritage systems is a complicated job, but we need to always look at the bigger picture, said Anthony Fuller, distinguished professor of the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

 

"Sustainability is at the core of the whole complexity, we''d better approach them culturally instead of economically," he added.

 

 

A farmer sells fragrant-flowered garlic at the Duotian agricultural site, Xinhua city, Jiangsu province, April 9, 2014. [Photo by He Yini / chinadaily.com.cn]

 

 

A tourist poses among rapeseed flowers at the Duotian agricultural site, Xinhua city, Jiangsu province, April 9, 2014. [Photo by He Yini / chinadaily.com.cn]