25 May 2022, Beijing: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization recently recognized three sites in China as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said on May 24.
The three sites are an ancient tea-producing area in Anxi county in Fujian province, a nomadic livestock rearing area in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, and a rain-fed stone terrace farming system in Shexian county in Hebei province.
To date, 18 sites in China have been added to the FAO’s list of global agricultural heritage systems. The network now consists of 65 systems in 22 countries around the world, with China being the largest single contributor to the list.
The three sites were designated through an online assessment in Rome last week. They were recognized for their use of traditional practices, knowledge and maintenance of biodiversity and the ecosystem, the FAO said.
The Anxi Tieguanyin tea-producing area is located in southeast Fujian. In the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the tea produced in Anxi was exported through the Maritime Silk Road, a passage for commercial and cultural communication between ancient China and the world, the ministry said.
Tieguanyin, the most famous tea variety from Anxi, started production between 1725 and 1735. It belongs to the semi-fermented Oolong tea variety, a category between green tea and black tea.
The system has significant ecological functions such as soil and water conservation, and microclimate regulation, according to the ministry.
Local farmers know how to manage the natural environment to guarantee the best conditions for tea cultivation and produce tea leaves with high quality. These legacies have ensured long-term stability and sustainability of the ecological systems of its tea plantations and embedded the product as part of the identity of local communities, the FAO said.
Located in Chifeng of Inner Mongolia, the Ar Horchqin Grassland nomadic system is the first nomadic agricultural heritage area designated in China. It is an example for global sustainable animal husbandry and the management of fragile grazing lands, the ministry said.
The region has a variety of ecosystems including forests, grasslands, wetlands, and rivers with ecological functions. Early inhabitants hunted and lived a nomadic life in the area as far back as Neolithic times several thousand years ago. Local herders have been able to preserve its traditional nomadic production and lifestyle while adapting to a changing environment.
By constantly moving their grazing grounds, they ensured the protection of vegetation and the rational utilization of water resources, bringing a steady supply of livestock products such as meat and cheese to local communities, according to the FAO.
The Shexian Dryland Stone Terraced System is located in Handan, Hebei province. The rain-fed agricultural system dates back to the Yuan Dynasty and has an area of 14,000 hectares, the ministry said.
For hundreds of years, the system has preserved traditional crop varieties and environmentally friendly farming techniques to ensure the development of agricultural production under harsh conditions in the mountains, it added. It created a landscape for the harmonious coexistence of people and nature.
Farming provides local people with a stable livelihood and sets a model for sustainable agriculture in the mountainous area despite a lack of soil and rain, the FAO said.
The county is well-known for walnuts and Chinese peppers, as well as millet, corn, soybean, black jujube and other agricultural products cultivated on the terraces, local authorities said.