Conclusions from ‘Talk with” Clelia Puzzo, UN FAO Secretariat on ‘GIAHS in Europe - 20 years later. Focus on Europe’

Conclusions from ‘Talk with” Clelia Puzzo, UN FAO Secretariat on ‘GIAHS in Europe - 20 years later. Focus on Europe’

IFLA Europe organised its second “Talk with - GIAHS in Europe: 20 years later. Focus on Europe” as a part of the series of online webinars on agricultural issues on 17 November 2023. Our guest speaker was Clelia Maria Puzzo, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation Secreatariat, GIAHS - Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems.

The event was opened by Katerina Gkoltsiou, President IFLA Europe and Francesca Neonato, Chair of IFLA Europe Agricultural Working Group.

‘TALK WITH’ provides a series of webinars on the theme of rural landscapes, including agricultural landscapes and suburban landscapes in reference to social/cultural, ecological and perceptual resilience, city-rural system dynamics ecosystem and landscape services, climate climate change mitigation, etc.,

The invited keynote speakers, specialists each in their field can be both members of IFLA Europe, as well as personalities, scholars, politicians able to offer to a wide audience visions and interpretative tools of the changes underway and the challenges that await rural landscapes in the coming years, also in view of the new CAP and relevant European union directives and socio-economical (i.e., war) and ecological (i.e. climate change) factors.

The objective of these interactive talks is to enhance the acknowledgement and the awareness of a wide audience about the focus role that Rural Landscapes play now and in the next years, facing huge challenges as the climate change, the extinction of species and loss of ecosystems.

The IFLA Europe Award for 2023 was awarded to the FAO Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems program – GIAHS and President Katerina Gkoltsiou during her introduction of IFLA Europe at the General Assembly of October 2023 in Naples emphasized on the importance of this initiative, quoting : “to promote and create awareness about the natural landscapes but also agricultural practices that create livelihoods in rural areas while combining biodiversity, resilient ecosystems and tradition and innovation in a unique way. The wealth and breadth of accumulated knowledge and experience in the management and use of resources is a globally significant treasure that needs to be promoted and conserved and, at the same time, allowed to evolve. We believe that dynamic conservation strategies and processes could transform a current weakness into
an opportunity to promote landscapes and communities through economic viability. We are recognizing the value of GIHAS for economic viability of the system, the identification of environmentally sustainable strategies in the face of growing climate change, and the empowerment of small holder/traditional family farming and indigenous communities.”

The Chair of the WG Agricultural Landscapes Francesca Neonato underlined how IFLA Europe has disseminated the GIAHS program among Landscape Architects from the beginning and collaborated with the Secretariat in various initiatives, such as the Call for Images - Rural Landscapes Photo Competition.

The panel of speakers included also a) Damiano Zanotelli, Associate Professor in Horticultural Sciences at the Free University of Bolzano-Bozen (Italy), President of the (Viticolture Valle di Cembra committee - VIVACE) promoter of Cembra Valley in Italy as a GIAHS and b) José María García Álvarez-Coque, Professor at the Universitat Politecnica de Valencia, Spain.

The discussion was moderated by Lena Athanasiadou, President of the Panhellenic Association of Landscape Architects PHALA-Greece, IFLA Europe Delegate and member of IFLA Europe WG Agricultural Landscapes, who summarized the webinar outcomes:

“GIAHS designation is given to those agricultural, forestry, pastoral and aquatic systems that meet the five (5) criteria required by the program and that have been able to face the current challenges of the market thanks to dynamic conservation; a) food and livelihood security, b) Biodiversity, c) Local and Traditional Knowledge (TK) systems, d) Cultures, Value systems and Social Organisations and e) Landscapes and Seascapes Features ( As Local and Traditional Knowledge (TK) is currently at the center of attention, the ability of a GIAHS to introduce innovation without losing the traditional characteristics that make a system unique on the global scene, the techniques developed, local varieties, production systems peculiarities are very important.”

Panelists presented their belief on the global importance of GIAHS in the sustainability of rural and agri-cultural systems via short presentations.

Clelia Puzzo, UN FAO GIAHS Secretariat
Clelia Puzzo, UN FAO GIAHS Secretariat

Ms Puzzo explained the basics of the GIAHS program which was founded in 2002, primarily for developing countries, its basic concept and how it is a people-centered approach, a community, which includes agriculture, biodiversity, cultural identity combined with Traditional Knowledge (TK), livelihoods and landscape management, the above
being opportunities for GIAHS in Europe and its socio-economical and ecological importance. Ms Puzzo went on to emphasize on the importance of the role of the community in
the candidacy: the recognition of GIAHS takes place above all by the will of the farmers involved, it is voluntaryand therefore does not impose constraints. Continuing with operational modalities (at international, national and local level), Ms Puzzo explained briefly the recognition process and how via this recognition, there are 86 GIAHS around the world. Some examples illustrated by Ms Puzzo included the Kihambra Agroforestry System in Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, the Wasabi Traditional Cultivation in Shizuoka, Japan, the Ghout System in Algeria, the Hani Rice Terraces, China and gave special mention to the 10 GIAHS sites in Europe in Spain (5 sites), Italy (2 sites), Andorra ( 1 site), Portugal (1site) and Austria (1 site) while another sixteen (16) are being proceed for candidacy. According to Ms Puzzo, GIAHS are dynamic and interactive conservation systems which are based on knowledge transfer and exchange of experiences, tourism promotion and agro-tourism development, empowerment of GIAHS farmers, value chain development, communication and visibility. Ms Puzzo completed her presentation on the advantages offered by GIAHS; supporting small scale family farming, supporting different agro-ecological, agroforestry, fishery systems, taking into account the viability of natural resources and aspects like biodiversity, agrobiodiversity, land and water, forest, agricultural lands and the importance of the systems adaptation to climate change. Finally she commented on various cultural and social factors like identity and local governance.

Two interesting GIAHS sites were presented by the two panelists that followed.

José Maria Garcia Alvarez-Coque, Professor at PDI University of Valencia
José Maria Garcia Alvarez-Coque, Professor at PDI University of Valencia, SPAIN

José María García Alvarez-Coque, Professor at the PDI University of Valencia, who was responsible for drafting the case for the GIAHS site of the Historical Irrigation System of l‘Horta de València, Spain (,
elaborated on this example and many aspects on putting up bids for GIAHS, as he has been FAO’s technical advisor for other sites as well. L’Horta de Valencia is a system of agricultural fields irrigated traditionally by channels that were created by the Moors (the Al-Andalus period), taking water by the Turia river. This functional element covers a surface of 28 square Kilometers, including the Historical Huerta and a section of the Albufera National Park and remains intact absorbing the pressures of a densely populated
touristic coastal region. The historical structure of the L’Horta landscape consists, of except the dense network of water channels, also rural roads and traditional buildings like the alquerias and barracas. It also includes 5,000 small family agricultural holdings and 10 fisheries, reflecting a culture of adaptation to the climate conditions so that it could be considered a potential sustainable solution to modern problems.

Damiano Zanotelli, Associate Professor in Horticultural Sciences at the Free University of Bolzano-Bozen of Italy presented the alpine vineyards of the Cembra Valley as a candidate GIAHS site potential. Comunità della Valle di Cembra includes 7 municipalities grouped in one community with almost 11.000 inhabitants; a total area: 13,500 ha
of which 1,350 ha - 56% is cultivated with vines. This alpine landscape in the north borders of Italy, is historical and of cultural heritage, a terraced vineyard system with a viticultural surface of 750 ha, a total production of 9.000 tones of grapes, 680 farms involved and an economic importance of 120 million euros (2019 data). The landscape
provides spectacular views to old dry stone terraces maintaining the vines but also the training system pergola trentina, traditional rural buildings known as Baíti and a variety of
natural vegetation systems. Courses for the construction of dry-stone walls, seminars in viticulture etc, try to successfully enhance young farmers’ interest and participation. Professor Zanotelli elaborated on weakness and threats of the systems like high cost of dry wall maintenance, soil erosion, introduction of new training systems (VPS), lack of initiative for the use of the Baíti and gave some insight to programs and sources providing financial aid for the continuation of the systems.

Damiano Zanotelli, Assistant Professor in Horticultural Sciences, University of Bolzano-Bozen, ITALY
Damiano Zanotelli, Assistant Professor in Horticultural Sciences, University of Bolzano-Bozen, ITALY

The participants of the webinar included academics, students, landscape architects, members of IFLA Europe, members of the working group Agricultural Landscapes and Carlos
Jankilevich, Head of the working group Agricultural Group of IFLA World.

A discussion followed based on all three presentations and the questions below, raised by WG Chair Francesca Neonato:
1. If, at a global level, the GIAHS programme has been designed to support those agro-silvopastoral systems that are identity-based, ancestral, for communities threatened by globalization, with what main purposes is it applied in Europe?
2. What are the benefits of GIAHS recognition for designated sites in the World and in Europe
3. How can GIAHS be aligned in European policies?
4. Even in Europe, therefore, it is not a problem of nostalgically preserving a beautiful landscape, but of providing effective tools to support those agro-forestry systems that have evolved while maintaining their unique characteristics and identity. What can the designation to GIAHS do in this regard?

The discussion that followed focused on ways of sustaining these very important agricultural systems and methods to introduce them into the present and future plans of agriculture. Professor García Alvarez-Coque emphasized on the importance of action plans for the GIAHS systems that are applied by strong entrepreneurship and make the program effective in Spain.

Furthermore, farmers and their families whose businesses have the GIAHS designation experience a sense of pride, that was not there before as in many cases no one has ever noticed the importance of their profession; this non-visibility of them, as not important actors of society did not make them feeling happy, the improvement on this field, being a more intangible effect of the GIAHS designation. Encouraging is the fact that young people nowadays start new agricultural activities with pride and GIAHS contributes to, as Professor García Alvarez-Coque said, a ‘transmission to society’ yet, promoting GIAHS via national level and politicians is not always so easy.

Stepping in the conversation, Ms Puzzo, Professor Zanotelli but also Mr Jankilevich discussed on one very important criterion of GIAH, agro-biodiversity and the challenge of biodiversity loss ie. via changing from old traditional to more contemporary productive varieties. Ms Puzzo emphasized on GIAHS’s important component of dynamic
biodiversity and both with Mr Jankilevich suggested that if changing of varieties is not the strong element of the proposal for designation, then it should be considered. Afterall, what needs to remain intact after the designation and concentrate efforts of dynamic preservation is the main element(s) the proposal was based on structural elements like terraces, old traditional varieties, system of production, processing or distribution. Concluding on the above, Ms Jankilevich said that it is important to ‘maintain through time
or even to learn from experiences of the past so we could have a better present situation’ . The question of boundaries was set by WG member Manuel Sanchez, and the discussion among participants concluded that we are looking to a ‘new ruralism’ where boundaries are flexible.

Moderator’s question to Puzzo on how GIAHS is evolving in Europe resulted on Ms Puzzo stating that Europe’s examples are the good examples of dynamic conservation; still alive and being maintained for social and cultural reasons, GIAHS of Europe could be the ‘sites for the future’. Francesca Neonato concluded that the resulting advantages of being a GIAHS are above all the knowledge transfer and exchange of experiences, tourism promotion and agro-tourism development, communication and visibility, empowerment of GIAHS farmers and value chain development. Yet, although i.e. a European country like Italy is quite advanced in identifying its agricultural heritage and has a natural register on historical rural landscapes, different agri-cultural examples are sharing more or less the same problems as Professor Zanotelli explained as aging of population, lack of economic viability, loss of biodiversity, risks of abandonment of land, and he concluded that we must fight for lobbying and to lobby to increase attention on the above problems to politicians and authorities at local, national and European level.

Overall, the webinar proved very beneficial for increasing the visibility of GIAHS to landscape architects and to a wider audience.

Recording of the event available on IFLA Europe YouTube channel:

Please see more on our panelists:

Clelia Puzo GIAHS FAO Secretariat is an expert in management of international cooperation projects and programs, with extensive experience in multilateral relations. She is working as the Program Specialist of the Secretariat of the FAO Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) Program. Over the last decade, she has been promoting the dissemination of the GIAHS approach in member countries and has worked with rural communities around the world, leading training activities, multi-stakeholder participatory processes, providing technical assistance for the governance of rural areas, as well as organizing high-level meetings. Clelia has a degree in Political Science, and a master’s degree in international relations with a particular focus on Economic Policy and Rural Development. She is currently developing her doctoral thesis on Agri-Food Economics at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain

Damiano Zanotelli is an Associate Professor in Horticultural Sciences at the Free University of Bolzano-Bozen (Italy), President of the VIVACE Viticolture Valle di Cembra committee, promoter of Cembra Valley (Italy) as GIAHS.

José María García Álvarez-Coque was born in Mexico City in 1958. He is an Agronomist Engineer. Since 1984, he has been a professor of Agrarian Economics and Policy at the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV). He has directed research projects and graduate courses related to trade, development and agriculture-related policies. In 1991, visiting researcher at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI, Washington, D.C.). In 1993-94, he was President of the OECD Paris Fruits and Vegetables Working Group. He is an advisor to European institutions and other international organizations such as FAO, CIHEAM, Andean Community and RUTA. He has participated in research and cooperation projects in the Andean countries, Central America, the Middle East, North Africa and East Asia. Between 2001 and 2007, he was President of the Spanish Association of Agrarian Economy. Since 2000, he has been Vice President of the Institut Valenciá de Investigació i Formació Agroambiental Foundation (IVIFA). He is currently coordinator of the Research Group on International Economics (GEI) of the Polytechnic University of Valencia.

Special thanks to WG member Manuel Sanchez for searching and introducing Professor José María García Álvarez-Coque as potential webinar panelist and WG Chair Francesca Neonato for Associate Professor Damiano Zanotelli respectively.

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