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Ecuador: two sites recognized as global agricultural heritage

FAO promotes "chakra" territories as sustainable and suitable for promoting female work

Two agricultural and agroforestry biodiversity systems in Ecuador (one in the Andes and one in the Amazon region of the country) have been recognized as Global Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Fao). The two Ecuadorian sites have thrived on the collective action of indigenous peoples, ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources and food sovereignty over the centuries. "The designation of these sites also supports the empowerment of women, as 80% of the chakras (biodiversity systems, Ed.) are managed by indigenous women known locally as Chakramamas, who use invaluable traditional knowledge in dynamic conservation, use sustainable and in the day-to-day functioning of these sites", said Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General. With the latest additions to the list of global agricultural heritage systems, FAO's Global Agricultural Heritage Network now comprises 74 systems in 24 countries around the world.

The Andean chakra of the Kichwa indigenous peoples is characterized by the integration and interconnection of climates, ecosystems, agricultural practices and biodiversity at an altitude ranging from 2500 to 3400 meters in the Cotacachi Mountains of the Andean range. "The chakras are at the center of the development of material and symbolic life for Kichwa families and communities, supported by a rich ancestral knowledge that includes gastronomy, medicine and rituals - reads a note from the Fao -. They are fundamental for the conservation of a great diversity of unique indigenous crops, with the territory considered one of the largest and best preserved agrobiodiversity zones in Ecuador and the Andean region".

The Cotacachi system has enabled in situ conservation of species and varieties including corn, beans, quinoa and potatoes. The latter are mainly intended for the self-consumption of the communities. However, small surpluses are marketed to generate income for families, becoming an important means of livelihood for communities and of economic emancipation and autonomy for women.

The Amazonian Chakra is a model of sustainable agroforestry land use in which the productive spaces located within the farm are managed by families according to a biological and biodiversity approach, offering multiple services to the populations. In this regard, FAO concludes by underlining the role that indigenous peoples play "in safeguarding biodiversity, forests, languages, traditional knowledge and in mitigation, adaptation and resilience efforts to address global climate change".

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EFA News - European Food Agency