Traditional grape cultivation systems in Iran and Italy's Soave vineyards were formally recognised on Friday as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems for their use of traditional practices and knowledge while preserving biodiversity and ecosystems.
The sites were designated during a meeting of the GIAHS Scientific Advisory Group taking place in Rome on Wednesday to Friday, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation said in a press release.
Selection criteria include that sites be of global importance, have value as a public good in terms of supporting food and livelihood security, agro-biodiversity, knowledge systems, adapted technologies, and culture, and have outstanding landscapes.
It is the second time that sites in Italy and Iran have been added to the global agricultural heritage systems list, the UN agency said.
FAO said its global agricultural heritage network now consists of 54 remarkable landscapes in 21 countries around the globe.
The grape and grape-based production system in Jowzan in northwest Iran has a long history and farmers have made the grape cultivation possible in extreme cold conditions thanks to unique techniques, said FAO.
Traditional knowledge and tools allow the farmers to process more than 40 different grape products out of 130 different grape varieties. This, together with higher yield per hectare, unique skills of gardeners, the right sugar level - are all factors that make grapes cultivation and raisins of the Jowzan Valley different from other parts of the country and a best seller.
Over the years, the system has significantly improved local people's living standards, but has also propelled tourism development, and a provided unique opportunity to boost the rural economy, FAO said.
The hills and terraces of Soave represent one of the best-preserved agricultural systems of historical value in Italy's northeast Veneto region, and vine and wine production in the Soave area dates back to the era of the Roman Empire. Soave is one of the most famous Italian wines.
The vineyards in their current state have been maintained by more than 3,000 families for 200 years. This system has kept the traditional ways of growing the local variety of grape Garganega and succeeded in ensuring a sustainable source of income to the various stakeholders involved in the production chain: grape growers, wine producers and bottlers, even during the most difficult times.
Despite being made up of small or micro land parcels, the vineyards have made their mark in the highly competitive wine markets thanks to the strong cooperation and organization of the Soave Farmers Association, which is determined to promote their unique know-how, FAO underlined.